No. 3 West Virginia was sent home from the NCAA Tournament after falling to No. 11 Syracuse in a second round shootout, 75-72.

The Mountaineers struggled to adjust to the Orange’s trademark 2-3 zone, taking a double-digit deficit in the opening minutes. It quickly turned into a shootout in the second half, however, as Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim and WVU’s Sean McNeil started trading three-pointers — but the Orange pulled out the win in the final minute.

“Syracuse’s zone, I think, bothered us a little more than we expected,” McNeil said. “We kind of struggled in the first half, didn’t get a lot of good looks, turning the ball over, things like that, and it ended up hurting us.”

Offensively, West Virginia’s first four minutes were made up of five misses and three turnovers as they tried to find the soft spots in Syracuse’s zone. That allowed Boeheim and Joseph Girard III to give the Orange a head start with a pair of three-pointers.

“I think we ran what we needed to run,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “We just didn’t score it.”

That just tipped off a hot streak for Syracuse, as it made six of its first eight three-pointers.

Syracuse’s lead got as high as 14 in the half before they hit a cold streak, allowing WVU to find an offensive rhythm to cut into the lead. The Mountaineers ended the half on a 13-5 run to whittle the deficit down to two possessions at halftime.

West Virginia took control in the first minutes of the second half and went on an 18-6 run capped off by a trio of three-pointers from McNeil to get the Mountaineers up a point. Within five minutes, though, Syracuse was back up by double digits.

“We wanted size on Buddy, and we switched size off of him, and he shot it over the top of us and made three threes,” Huggins said.

West Virginia never quit, though. They turned on the full-court press and was able to fight back in the final minute. They were able to foul and steal the ball all the way back to a three-point deficit, and were able to get a missed free throw with two seconds to go — but Miles McBride got called for a travel after an outlet pass to effectively end the game.

Boeheim continued his hot run in the tournament in this one, finishing with 25 points and six three-pointers. As a team, the Orange made 14 shots from deep, as Girard III, Quincey Guerrier, Alan Griffin and Robert Braswell all chipped in to that total.

Along with Boeheim, Girard, Guerrier and Marek Dolezaj scored in double figures with 12 points each.

McNeil nearly matched Boeheim’s total with 23 points, 21 of which came from beyond the arc. Emmitt Matthews Jr. (14 points), McBride and Taz Sherman (both 11) were the other Mountaineers in double digits, but as a team, WVU made just 37 percent of their field goals in a struggling offensive showing.

West Virginia dominated the glass, 41-29. They were especially strong on the offensive glass, grabbing 19 boards — but they couldn’t capitalize, adding just 14 second-chance points.

The bulk of those came from Jalen Bridges and Gabe Osabuohien, who each grabbed nine. Derek Culver, on the other hand, was kept quiet and played a limited time as he struggled against Syracuse’s defense, adding seven points and three boards in 21 minutes.

“We were struggling to guard, and they gave us their best inside defender. They were double-teaming Derek. We just didn’t — our timing of getting the ball inside to him wasn’t very good, and so Gabe does a much better job defensively, and Gabe rebounds it pretty much as well as Derek has. So if you go by minutes played anyway,” Huggins said. “We’re trying to win, man. Just trying to win.”

The Mountaineers are officially eliminated from the NCAA Tournament after making their first appearance in the contest since 2018. The Orange move on to the Sweet Sixteen and will face the winner of Houston and Rutgers.

“[My players are] as good a people as I’ve had the privilege of being around in all of my years of coaching. They’re really good guys,” Huggins said. “They’re good guys. They care about each other. They really are a team. I think I’ll remember just how good a people they were and will continue to be, I’m sure.”

West Virginia finishes the 2020-21 season with a 19-10 overall record and the No. 13 spot in the AP Top 25.