WASHINGTON — It took winning a national title for Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim to get over a late-shot loss to Indiana the last time the schools faced off in the NCAA tournament.
This meeting, 26 years later, was never close enough to come down to the final seconds, thanks mostly to Boeheim’s trademark 2-3 zone defense. Now he has the Orange one victory from getting back to the Final Four.
Limiting Indiana to its lowest output of the season while forcing 19 turnovers and compiling 10 blocks, fourth-seeded Syracuse used Michael Carter-Williams’ 24 points to upset the No. 1 seed Hoosiers 61-50 Thursday night to reach the East Regional final.
After getting past preseason No. 1 Indiana, Syracuse (29-9) will face No. 3 seed Marquette on Saturday night in an all-Big East matchup for a berth in the Final Four. Boeheim and the Orange haven’t been to the national semifinals since Carmelo Anthony led them to the 2003 title.
Marquette beat No. 2 seed Miami 71-61 in Thursday’s first game in Washington.
Syracuse, which is leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference this summer, lost at Marquette 74-71 during the Big East regular season on Feb. 25.
Less than a half-minute into Thursday’s game, as Indiana star Victor Oladipo headed to the free-throw line, the arena’s overhead scoreboard showed a replay of “The Shot,” as it’s come to be known — Keith Smart’s baseline jumper in the final seconds that lifted Bob Knight’s Hoosiers past Boeheim’s Orange in the 1987 national title game.
Boeheim said he wasn’t able to put that behind him until 16 years later, when he got his title. Boeheim entered Thursday with 50 wins in the tournament, fourth-most in history, and more than 900 victories overall, and so much of that success has been built thanks to his unusual zone defense, 40 minutes of a puzzle for opponents to try and solve.
Indiana, like most teams outside the Big East, isn’t used to seeing that sort of thing, and it showed right from the outset. Didn’t matter that Indiana ranked third in the country this season in scoring, putting up 79.5 points per game — and never fewer than 56 — while making 48.6 percent of its shots.
But the Orange held Indiana to 33 percent shooting and frustrated the Hoosiers — from the players down to the coach, Tom Crean. Cody Zeller was held to 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting. Victor Oladipo scored 16 for Indiana, none easily.
At one point early on, Crean scanned a sheet of notes, then shoved it into his navy blue suit jacket’s inside pocket.
No help there.
Then, more than 5½ minutes in and his team still without a field goal, Crean called a timeout while trailing 11-3. By then, the Hoosiers had four turnovers and were in the process of missing their first five shots.
Always moving, Crean called over freshman forward Jeremy Hollowell to give him a talking-to and a slap on the backside. Later, Crean got down on a knee and used a white towel to help dry a wet spot on the floor in front of his team’s sideline. Crean barked “Are you sure?!” at an official after one non-call when Indiana let yet another possession go astray.
Boeheim, in contrast, looked on calmly, taking it all in with his arms crossed over his midsection or with his chin resting on his right fist. He seemed something like an interested observer rather than active participant in the proceedings.
Sure must have liked what he saw, though.