CHICAGO, Illinois -- The No. 10 Syracuse Orange put together a 29-8 run across the final 9:30 of play to defeat the No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers, 68-62. The improbable run launched the Orange to the Final Four in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
The Orange (23-13) have become the first No. 10 seed and just the fourth double digit team to make it to the Final Four. It will be the first Final Four appearance for the Orange since 2013 as a No. 6 seed. The 13 losses by Syracuse are the most by a Final Four team in NCAA Tournament history.
"It was a whole team effort and these guys really deserve it," Syracuse coach Jim 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."
Down 35-21 at halftime, Syracuse needed someone to step up offensively to get some momentum. The Orange started the game on an 8-2 run, but the Cavaliers took control with a 19-2 run. A freshman guard stepped up and shined to bring the Syracuse all the way back to defeat the Virginia.
Malachi Richardson got hot in the second half and scored 21 of his game-high 23 points. Along with the scoring outburst, the guard added seven rebounds and two steals. Freshman Tyler Roberson logged 10 points, eight rebounds and two steals. Michael Gbinije, a senior forward, chipped in 11 points, four rebounds, six assists and two steals to help the victorious effort. Tyler Lydon, another freshman, scored 11 points.
"We worked so hard," Gbinije said. "We've been through a lot."
Syracuse, with Richardson, were down 54-39 and needed to figure something out on the offensive and defensive end. The team scored 15 points in a row and the Orange took the lead as Richardson scored a layup for a 59-58 edge with 5:47 remaining. During the 25-4 run, Syracuse shot 9-for-10 from the field.
"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 freshman continued to pour in shot after shot, but the drought of Virginia was snapped by a slam dunk from Anthony Gill.
With a few seconds left on the clock, the Cavaliers got the break they needed as Gbinije only made one-of-two free throws. Devon Hall missed a triple and late free throws sealed the deal for the Orange.
"This is a dream come true for me," Richardson said.
Virginia gave up 43 second half points to Syracuse, which is the second most they have allowed in a half this season. The most was 46 points to the Villanova Wildcats in the second half on December 19, 2015.
Leading the way for the Cavaliers (29-8) was London Perrantes, who scored 18 points, while adding three rebounds and an assist. Malcolm Brogdon added 12 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, a steal and a block. Gill tossed in 10 points.
The Orange were on the NCAA Tournament bubble after struggling down the stretch, but the team slightly made the tournament. Syracuse has proved to the committee that they were worth the selection. The Monday after Selection Sunday, Syracuse was 300-1 to win the national championship and 30-1 to win the Midwest Regional.
Believe it or not, Syracuse is sending two teams to the Final Four. Earlier in the afternoon on Sunday, the Lady Orange defeated the Tennessee Volunteers to advance in the tournament.
Syracuse will head to Houston, Texas for the Final Four. The Orange will play the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels or the No. 6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Virginia will wait until next season to make the tournament and try for another March Madness run.