- Associated Press - Saturday, March 26, 2016

CHICAGO (AP) - Gonzaga knew the pressure was coming. The Bulldogs just didn’t handle it very well.

Kyle Wiltjer scored 23 points, but Gonzaga blew a nine-point lead when it committed five of its 17 turnovers in the final 6 1/2 minutes of a 63-60 loss to Syracuse in the Midwest Regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.

When the Orange went to their full-court press, the Bulldogs coughed it up, and paid the price, too.

“There was a couple offensive rebounds we gave up down the stretch and we had a couple costly turnovers against the press,” coach Mark Few said, “but probably just more than that, we needed one or two more baskets there just to kind of keep them at bay, and they did a great job.”

Michael Gbinije grabbed his own rebound and made a go-ahead layup with 22 seconds left, helping Syracuse advance to its 10th Elite Eight under coach Jim Boeheim.

Tyler Lydon sealed the win with a block on Josh Perkins’ runner in the final seconds. Lydon then grabbed the ball and made two foul shots before Domantas Sabonis’ desperate fling was well off at the buzzer.

“These guys have fought all year, and every game we’ve been behind, we’ve been in some tough situations, and they’ve battled through them all year,” Boeheim said.

Next up is an all-ACC matchup with Virginia on Sunday for a spot in the Final Four. The Orange lost 73-65 to the Cavaliers on Jan. 24, but that was a long time ago.

Syracuse’s rocky season included a nine-game suspension for Boeheim as part of an NCAA investigation that found a history of improper benefits and academic misconduct stretching back years. Then the Orange dropped five of six down the stretch, putting their spot in the NCAA Tournament in jeopardy.

So when 10th-seeded Syracuse trailed Gonzaga 57-48 late in the second half, the Orange were just fine. They turned to their aggressive full-court pressure to shut down the Bulldogs and storm into their first regional final since 2013.

“We knew it was coming, and again, at least two of the instances we were stuck in a spot where the inbounder can’t run,” Few said. “That was tough.”

Gbinije scored 20 points and Trevor Cooney had 15 for Syracuse (22-13), which shot 36.1 percent from the field. Tyler Roberson added nine points and 12 rebounds.

“We knew we deserved to be here and we’re showing it,” Roberson said, “so we just wanna keep it going.”

Wiltjer was 9 for 17 from the field and Sabonis finished with 19 points, 17 rebounds and five blocked shots. The rest of the 11th-seeded Bulldogs (28-8) accounted for just 18 points.

Sabonis’ rebound basket gave the Bulldogs a nine-point lead with 6:24 to play, but it was their last field goal of the night. Roberson’s foul shot got Syracuse within one before Gonzaga gave it right back with a 10-second violation. Lydon also had a key block on Sabonis to help keep it a one-point game.

After Gbinije’s layup and a steal by Cooney that turned into a Syracuse turnover, Gonzaga had one last chance.

With the crowd standing, Perkins drove into the lane and Lydon stepped up for the block before grabbing the ball and getting fouled with 1.6 seconds left. The freshman forward swatted six shots in all.

“I thought I had a good look at it. But he blocked it,” Perkins said. “Taller, longer arms. If the opportunity comes, I’m shooting again. Just credit to him.”

WILTJER’S DAY

Wiltjer made his first four shots, including three 3-pointers, as Gonzaga led by as many as 11 in the first half at 21-10 with 10:16 left. The senior forward also had five rebounds and four assists.

“We put our heart and soul in it, so it’s really tough,” he said.

TIP-INS

Gonzaga: Sabonis is the son of former Portland Trail Blazers center Arvydas Sabonis. … Perkins had eight points and six assists.

Syracuse: The Orange went 14 of 16 at the line, compared to 4 of 5 for the Bulldogs.

UP NEXT

Syracuse takes on Virginia on Sunday.

___

Jay Cohen can be reached at https://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

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