SAN JOSE, Calif. - Syracuse is headed to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16 for the fourth time in the past five years, but the Orange have some work to do after holding on to beat California 66-60 Saturday night at HP Pavilion.
Next stop, Washington, D.C., and an East Regional semifinal Thursday, where Syracuse will meet the winner of Sunday's game between No. 1 seed Indiana and No. 9 Temple.
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Syracuse will need a better effort -- especially on offense and at the free throw line -- if they hope to reach the Elite Eight for the second straight year.
The Orange made just 26 of 41 free throws, which, in large part, was the reason why Cal was able to hang around down the stretch.
"But when you get in this tournament and you get a tough environment you just want to get a win. I thought our team really dug down deep in a tough, tough environment and won the game."
After upsetting UNLV on Thursday, Cal had to cram for a test against Syracuse's confounding zone defense, a staple for the Orange under Boeheim. Syracuse entered Saturday's game holding opponents to 36.3 shooting, second best in the nation. In their NCAA 81-34 rout of Montana on Thursday night, the Orange did even better than that. Montana shot just 20.4 percent from the field and 12.9 percent from long range.
The Bears had little luck from outside against Syracuse, but they found some openings against the zone inside, where Solomon and Thurman did their work.
"That zone hurt us, there's no question," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "We had a difficult time solving the zone. They did a great job of getting to Crabbe, for example, and locating him and had us pretty well spread out. We had moments where we were able to attack the middle."
Fair, the Orange's leading scorer at 14.4 points per game, scored 14 points in the first half, helping Syracuse build a 32-24 lead.
"We're a good road team," Fair said. "I think this was a road game. The thing we did well was we started the game out good, and we didn't let them get into an offensive rhythm where the crowd could get into. The crowd didn't really get into it until it was too late. I think we used that to our advantage."
Syracuse led by as many as 12 points in the half and appeared ready to decide matters early, but Cal battled back, despite getting just three-first-half points from Crabbe and zero from Cobbs.
The Bears got most of their offense in the first half from unusual sources. Solomon scored seven of his first-half points in the 2:03. He converted back-to-back three-point plays and added another free throw as the Bears stayed close.
Thurman and Wallace each scored six points in the first half.
The Bears cut Syracuse's lead to six points early in the second half, but the Orange built their lead to 13 points at 44-30 with just over 11 minutes left to play.
Cal, though, refused to go away. The Bears went on a 14-8 run, cutting Syracuse's lead to 52-44 with 4:29 still left to play. Then after Fair missed two free throws, Crabbe and Wallace hit back-to-back 3-point baskets as the Bears pulled to within 58-51 with 1:50 left.
"We had like a 12 point lead, and we kind of relaxed, hoping the time would run down," Fair said. "When you got a team like that you got to keep scoring and getting stops. You can't try to hold the ball and stuff like that. That's when you make it easier for them to play defense. We got to keep doing what was working for us to get the lead.
"We got to just close the game out better. I think overall we're picking up as a whole great. Our offense is better, our defense has been solid all year. When your offense gets going, your defense gets better."