BOSTON — Syracuse will be playing for a spot in the Final Four because of numbers.
C.J. Fair put up some like he hadn’t in a while, and the Orange finished with offensive statistics that Wisconsin just doesn’t allow in a 64-63 victory in the East Regional semifinals Thursday night that wasn’t secure until the final buzzer.
“Offensively we played very, very well and we had to play very, very well,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.
Fair finished with 15 points – five fewer than he had in the past six games combined – on 7 of 9 shooting. The Orange scored 11 more than the Badgers allowed on average in leading Division I.
Syracuse shot 55 percent from the field, well above the 38.5 percent Wisconsin (26-10) gave up this season, and the Orange were
5 of 9 from 3-point range, much better than the 28.8 percent the Badgers allowed.
All those numbers mean the Orange (34-2) will play second-seeded Ohio State (30-7) in the regional final Saturday with a trip to New Orleans at stake.
OHIO STATE 81, CINCINNATI 66
In Boston, Deshaun Thomas scored 26 points and Jared Sullinger had 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead second-seeded Ohio State over No. 6 seed Cincinnati, putting the Buckeyes in the East Regional finals.
Aaron Craft added 11 points with five assists and six steals, taking charge during a 17-1 second-half run that turned a four-point deficit into a double-digit lead.
Cashmere Wright scored 18 and Sean Kilpatrick had 15 for the Bearcats, who were attempting to match Big East rival Syracuse by beating a Big Ten opponent to advance to the round of eight.
FLORIDA 68, MARQUETTE 58
In Phoenix, Bradley Beal scored 21 points to lift Florida over Marquette and set up Gators coach Billy Donovan with a meeting against his old boss, Rick Pitino, in the West Regional final.
The seventh-seeded Gators (26-10) expanded a six-point halftime lead to double digits, then held off third-seeded Marquette (27-8) to take their second consecutive trip to the regional final. Last year, they lost to Butler. This time, they meet Louisville and Pitino.
Beal shot 8 for 10 and had six rebounds and four assists.
Marquette got 15 points from Jae Crowder and 14 from fellow senior Darius Johnson-Odom, but the Golden Eagles exited the tournament in the round of 16 for the second consecutive year.