ST. LOUIS (cuse.com) – Syracuse will make its 19th appearance in the "Sweet 16" after defeating Middle Tennessee State, 75-50, in the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in St. Louis. The Orange held the Raiders scoreless for more than seven minutes in the second half to pull away for the victory in the 100th NCAA Tournament game in program history.
The Orange, the No. 10 seed in the Midwest Region, will take on No. 11 seed Gonzaga on Friday, March 25 in Chicago, Ill.
Graduate student Michael Gbinije led all scorers with 23 points, marking the 34th consecutive game this season that he has reached double figures in scoring. Freshman Tyler Lydon came off the bench to add 14 points and a season-high six blocks. Graduate student Trevor Cooney and junior Tyler Roberson contributed 12 points each. Roberson also led the Orange on the boards with nine rebounds.
Roberson scored the first four points of the game to give Syracuse the early lead, but Middle Tennessee fought back to tie the game at 7-7. Gbinije and Cooney sparked the Orange on a 15-3 scoring run that gave Syracuse a 17-10 lead at the 12:44 mark. Gbinije started the offensive outburst with a layup before back-to-back 3-pointers from Cooney. Gbinije followed with a dunk, forcing a Blue Raiders' timeout.
Lydon recorded his first basket before Cooney capped the run with another 3-pointer to give Syracuse a 22-10 advantage with 10:44 remaining in the first half. But Middle Tennessee State fought back again and cut the deficit to six, but a fall-away jumper by Gbinije put the Orange back up by 10, 28-18, with 4:43 remaining.
The Raiders wouldn't go away and Darnell Harris' 3-pointer with 44 seconds on the clock brought Middle Tennessee State within three at 30-27. On Syracuse's next possession, Lydon was fouled and awarded three foul shots. He hit 1-of-3 to give the Orange a 31-27 halftime advantage.
Middle Tennessee State scored the first four points of the second half to take its first lead of the game at 33-31. With the score tied at 35-35, freshman Malachi Richardson hit a 3-pointer and Roberson converted two free throws to put the Orange back up by five, 40-35, with 16:46 on the clock. The Raiders again cut the lead to one, but Syracuse responded with a 10-2 run to go back up by nine, 50-41, with 11:23 remaining. Gbinije had the last seven points during the run.
Syracuse's offense continued to roll after the 12-minute media timeout. Senior DaJuan Coleman scored in the paint and freshman Franklin Howard hit a jumper from the top of the key with the shot clock winding down, pushing Syracuse's advantage to 13, 54-41, forcing a Raiders' timeout.
The Orange continued to pull away as it held Middle Tennessee State scoreless for more than seven minutes. Overall, Syracuse outscored the Raiders, 30-9, in the final 13 minutes. The Orange defense limited Middle Tennessee State to just eight field goals on 32 attempts (25.0 percent) from the field in the second half.