In a season with so many offensive hardships, Syracuse found its One Shining Marek. Forward Marek Dolezaj came out of nowhere with his best offensive outburst in a 57-52 win over TCU in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament.
Dolezaj finished the game with 17 points, despite fouling out with 6:11 remaining in the game. That makes the Slovak 2-for-2 in notching double figures against his countrymen. It must be all the extra juice he gets from people actually understanding his trash talk. He got anything and everything he wanted. The first bucket of the game? Yup. A desperation three with the shot clock winding down? Sure, why not. A thunderous alley-oop slam? You bet. Everything else in between? Uh huh.
The Orange seemed like it could go on cruise control during the first half. But a poor finish to the stanza showed a one point lead at the half for TCU. After a superb first 19 minutes, Syracuse returned to earth. The Horned Frogs closed out on an 8-0 run thanks to SU‚Äôs sloppy turnovers and poor game management.
But just when you thought Syracuse was out of it, the Orange did exactly what it‚Äôs done all season long: rope everyone back in. It looked like the three pointer was going to be SU‚Äôs Achilles heel in this one. But after TCU started the game 2-for-3 from three, the Horned Frogs went ice cold finishing 1-for-14.
However, Dolezaj wasn‚Äôt the only freshman that shined. Oshae Brissett continued his torrid tournament with 13 points, including some big, physical buckets down the stretch.
And how about that. I just typed nearly 300 words about this Syracuse basketball season without mentioning Frank Howard and Tyus Battle. Both were held to just seven points a piece. But that doesn‚Äôt mean they didn‚Äôt contribute, albeit not in the scoring fashion Orange fans have become accustomed to. Both players hit clutch floaters down the stretch to power SU to a win.
So history continues. A First Four winner has gone on to pick up a victory in every single NCAA Tournament. Up next for Syracuse is third seeded Michigan State, who topped Bucknell in a close contest. The matchup that should have been two years ago finally comes to fruition. The Otto vs. Sparty dance off will be epic.
In case you want to see a dance off between two of the most ridiculous mascots in college sports, here you are: pic.twitter.com/HErZwMoKbz
— Orange Fizz (@OrangeFizz) March 17, 2018