West Virginia must prepare for Buddy Boeheim's shooting, Syracuse's zone defense in 2nd-round game

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Mar. 21—MORGANTOWN, W.. Va. — It's March 2009, maybe the height of the power that was once held by the old Big East Conference.

Somewhere back inside a Madison Square Garden locker room sat Bob Huggins eating carrots and watching the TV, as Connecticut and Syracuse were in the midst of a six-overtime thriller that is still considered one of the best basketball games ever played.

WVU STATS SYRACUSE STATS Sitting near him was then 9-year old Buddy Boeheim, the son of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim.

"I was nine, so by the end of the second overtime, I was crying and I was a mess, so my mother took us back to the locker room, " Buddy said. "Coach Huggins was sitting in there eating carrots and was waiting to see who the winner was. When it was over, he told us, 'We'll see you guys tomorrow.' Ever since then, I really liked him."

Huggins and the third-seeded Mountaineers (19-9) now have another date with Syracuse, and this time Buddy Boeheim won't be just a little kid in the locker room.

"He's got to be one of the best, if not the best, shooters in college basketball, " Huggins said. "I think he got it all from (his mother) Juli, though. I don't think he got a bit of it from Bo."

As a No. 11 seed, Syracuse (17-9) will be looking to pull its second-straight upset at 5:15 p.m. Sunday, inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The Orange took down sixth-seeded San Diego State on Friday, 78-62, behind Boeheim's 30 points and seven 3-pointers.

"He's a phenomenal player, so you have to look past the coach's kid part, " WVU forward Jalen Bridges said. "He's obviously more than that or he wouldn't be scoring 30 in the NCAA tournament. He can shoot it from anywhere. We have to be on him and ready to go."

Syracuse went 15 of 27 from 3-point range against the Aztecs, a stat untraditional of the old Big East days, which were built on defense and toughness.

What hasn't changed since the Orange defected to the ACC in 2013 is Syracuse's 2-3 zone.

"I've known about Syracuse's 2-3 zone forever, basically, " Bridges said. "When I first started playing AAU basketball, whenever we put in a zone defense, we called it, 'Syracuse.' That's just what they're known for."

Syracuse's zone has held opponents to just 31.5 % from 3-point range this season, which may be the true test for the Mountaineers today.

"They just don't stand in it like your typical 2-3 zone, " Huggins said. "It's got a lot of man-to-man principles when the ball goes to the middle."

WVU's outside game saw it's three-guard combination of Deuce McBride, Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman combine for 52 points during in the Mountaineers' 84-67 win against Morehead State on Friday.

Bridges, who plays mainly on the perimeter on offense, added 15 more points on 6 of 8 shooting.

"I think it would be a lot harder if we couldn't surround the zone with four guys that are capable of making shots, " Huggins said. "I think because we play four guys that can make shots for the majority of the game, it helps isolate Derek (Culver) in there.

"It's kind of pick your poison. Are you going to extend (the zone) and try to keep those guys from making shots or are you going to sag back in there and try to keep Derek from scoring in the low post ?"

TWEET @bigjax3211 (3) WVU vs. (11) SYRACUSE WHEN: 5:15 p.m. Sunday WHERE: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis TV: CBS (Comcast 2, 802HD ; DirecTV 2 ; DISH 2)

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