Syracuse rallies to stun Virginia
CHICAGO — Malachi Richardson and Syracuse scrapped and fought their way from the bubble to the Final Four.
Richardson scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half, and Syracuse extended its improbable run with a 68-62 victory over top-seeded Virginia on Sunday.
The Orange were among the last teams to get into the NCAA Tournament after a rough closing stretch, but slipped in as a 10 seed before storming to its first Final Four since 2013 and No. 6 overall. It comes at the end of a challenging season for coach Jim Boeheim, who was suspended for nine games after an NCAA investigation.
“It was a whole team effort, and these guys really deserve it,” Boeheim said. “We beat a great basketball team. I’ve never been prouder in all my 40 years as coach of a basketball team as I am of this team tonight.”
Syracuse (23-13), which trailed by 16 at the start of the second half, becomes the first 10 seed to make it to the Final Four and just the fourth double-digit seed to accomplish the feat. It’s the lowest-seeded team to reach the national semifinals since VCU in 2011.
Michael Gbinije and freshman Tyler Lydon each scored 11 points for the Orange. Tyler Roberson finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
“We worked so hard,” Gbinije said. “We’ve been through a lot.”
London Perrantes scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half for Virginia (29-8). Malcolm Brogdon, the ACC Player of the Year, had 12 points on 2-of-14 shooting.
Syracuse trailed 54-39 before it ripped off 25 of the next 29 points, including 15 in a row. Richardson led the way, often taking the ball right at Brogdon.
Richardson’s driving layup made it 59-58 Orange with 5:47 remaining for their first lead since early in the first half. After Perrantes missed a long 3, Richardson connected from deep and smiled as he ran up the court while making circles around his eyes with his hands.
“I started slow, I had a couple of bad turnovers and Coach got on me at halftime,” Richardson said. “I knew I had to pick it up for my teammates. We were down, and I just wanted to come back and we did it.”
The confident freshman added another layup for his seventh straight point before Anthony Gill stopped Virginia’s drought.