SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Last March, Syracuse shut down Indiana in the NCAA tournament with coach Jim Boeheim’s signature 2-3 zone defense.
Different season, same result for the Hoosiers.
The Orange backcourt of Trevor Cooney and Tyler Ennis combined for 38 points, nine assists and eight steals, and No. 4 Syracuse beat Indiana 69-52 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Tuesday night.
“Because it’s Indiana, it’s kind of like a rivalry, and they’re a really good team,” said Cooney, who scored 21 points. “We wanted to come out and prove to everyone that we’re a good team.”
Syracuse, fresh from winning the Maui Invitational, registered seven blocked shots, 10 steals and matched the nation’s top team on the glass with 29 rebounds with just a 12-11 deficit on the offensive glass. Indiana shot 15 of 41 (36.6 percent) and was 6 of 13 from the field in the second half in getting outscored 36-23.
“We finally got our offense going a little bit, made a couple of baskets, but our defense was really the difference for the first time this year,” Boeheim said. “Coming back from Hawaii, I thought the way everybody held their legs was pretty good. Our energy level was pretty good.”
So, too, was that of the crowd of 26,414, whose deafening roars in the second half rocked the Carrier Dome as the Orange assumed control.
“We just get up for these games,” Ennis said.
Syracuse (8-0) has won 46 straight nonconference games at home, and there was no love lost in this rematch from last season’s East Regional semifinal won handily by the Orange. Indiana was called for two flagrant fouls Tuesday, the second coming in the second half as the game was slipping away.
Syracuse used a 25-4 run to break open a tie game after holding just a 33-29 halftime lead despite scoring the game’s first 10 points.
“The first three, four possessions. I’m not a big believer in the first 5 minutes, but this one was,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “This is one of those games where the first few possessions were going to be absolutely crucial in the second half, and they were. And it totally went the other way. I’m unbelievably disappointed in the lack of fight in the second half.”
The youthful Hoosiers (6-2) had only lost, 59-58, to No. 12 Connecticut at Madison Square Garden in the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Wounded Warrior Project.
After Indiana’s Noah Vonleh tied it at 33-all early in the second half, Syracuse went on a 12-0 run.
Dajuan Coleman started the run with a putback and Cooney followed with a steal and 3-pointer, then went 3 of 3 from the free throw line after being fouled on another 3-point attempt.
C.J. Fair’s driving layup with 13:18 gave the Orange a 45-33 lead. Ennis had three steals during the spurt and the Orange forced the Hoosiers into a shot-clock violation as they could muster nothing offensively.
“We had a stretch where we had a lot of turnovers,” said Indiana guard Yogi Farrell. “We were very quiet. Maybe some guys didn’t believe the game was winnable.”
Fair finished with 15 points but had to sit 5 minutes in the second half after picking up his fourth foul, one of four Syracuse players who finished the game with four.
Vonleh had 17 points for the Hoosiers, 13 from the free throw line, and Ferrell added 12 points, only three in the second half — a 3-pointer with 1:59 remaining.
The first-ever meeting between Indiana and Syracuse was for the 1987 national championship, and Indiana won 74-73 on a baseline jumper by Keith Smart with 4 seconds left. Boeheim said he never got over that loss until he won the 2003 national championship with Carmelo Anthony, and he’s been perfect against Indiana since, winning five straight.
In March the Hoosiers were like most of the nonconference teams on the Syracuse schedule, not used to seeing Boeheim’s trademark 2-3 zone, and it showed right from the outset. The team that finished third in the country last season in scoring at 79.5 points per game while shooting 48.6 percent had no answer for the zone and lost 61-50 as Syracuse limited the top-seeded Hoosiers to their lowest output of the season while forcing 19 turnovers and blocking 10 shots.