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Malachi Richardson shines in NCAA Tournament debut

Malachi Richardson saved his best performance for SU's biggest stage of the season.

Malachi Richardson saved his best performance for the biggest stage of the season for the Orange. And what a performance it was.

"It was a lot of fun," he said after the game. "Hopefully I can keep it going. We want to keep winning and keep advancing."

The freshman small forward scored a game-high 21 points, which was just two shy of his career-high at Syracuse. He went 5-of-12 from the field, 3-of-8 from 3-point range; but most importantly, 8-of-9 from the charity stripe. 

Malachi had everything working for him on Friday. 

He hit two 3-pointers in the first half, which was in the middle of eight straight points for the 6-foot-6 scorer. He was a main reason the Orange led at halftime, 30-28. 

In the second half, Richardson took what the defense gave him. Whether that meant pulling up from behind the 3-point arc, or getting to the basket and drawing a foul, he couldn't be stopped.

Midway through the second half, Dayton was forced to put its best defender, Charles Cooke, on Richardson. Not only did the frosh still get his way, but it put a 6-foot guard, Kyle Davis, on a 6-foot-7 Michael Gbinije.

Advantage Syracuse.

Despite his big performance, Richardson admitted to some nerves before the game, which is a side we haven't seen from him all season. "I was a little nervous, just because it was my first NCAA game for March Madness," he explained. "I just wanted to go out and play well and perform. I'm glad we won."

Most of Malachi's success came on the offensive end of the floor, but that didn't take away from the overall message the coaching staff drilled into the SU players' heads this week.

"We watched a lot of film on Dayton. We just wanted to do a good job defensively and definietly rebound the ball. We wanted to make sure we did a good job getting out on their shooters and take away that baseline pass when they had the two-guard front," he told reporters. "I think we did a great job of that."

Syracuse will take on the 15th-seeded Middle Tennessee State on Sunday at 6:10 p.m. ET on TNT. The winner will advance to the Sweet 16 in Chicago.

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