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WVU plays Syracuse for spot in Sweet Sixteen

After defeating Morehead State 84-67 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the No. 3 seeded West Virginia Mountaineers will play No. 11 seed Syracuse on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Syracuse (17-9, 9-7 ACC) comes into this game after defeating San Diego State in the first round 78-62. Syracuse is a team that is coached by Jim Boeheim who is known for his zone defense and perimeter shooting. His son, Buddy Boeheim was the leading scorer for the Orange on Friday, scoring 30 points in their win over San Diego State. 

West Virginia (19-9, 11-5 Big 12) knows they will have to make shots in order to beat this Syracuse team, as that is the way you beat a zone defense is by being able to shoot. 

“Well, he [Jim Boeheim] does a great job of making adjustments,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said on Saturday. “They [Syracuse] just don’t stand in your typical two-three zone. They raise the wings; they sink the wings. They change how they’re going to play the middle guy.”

The Mountaineers know facing a team like this in the tournament can pose lots of challenges and are embracing the challenge ahead.

“They’re a really versatile team, they can do a lot of different things,” WVU forward Jalen Bridges said. “They have a lot of guys who can space the floor, a lot of guys who can bring the ball up, initiate their offense. I’m really looking forward to the matchup that they present for us and for me.”

This will be the 51st all time meeting between these two schools, Syracuse leading the series 34-16 and the last meeting being in 2012, with Syracuse winning 63-61. 

The Mountaineers are not focused on those past games, but rather only focused on the game at hand. 

Bridges said, “I was really young, so I really don’t [remember]. I really can’t think of anything off the top of my head,” Bridges said. “So, I’ll say I really don’t have any memories of those games.”

The Mountaineers believe that if they make enough shots they will be able to counteract the zone and be able to keep pace and probably win this game. 

“We won’t have a problem with that [splitting the zone],” Huggins said. “We obviously have to make shots and I can’t guarantee we’re going to make shots, but we’ve played them a lot of times. I think that coach [Boeheim] has done a great job of changing things up. They’re not like they used to be. They throw a lot more at you now than what they did back in the Big East days.”

The game is scheduled to start at 5:15 p.m. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. The game will be televised on CBS.

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