Orange breathe sigh of relief after UConn scare
Thu, 11 Feb 2010 15:58:35 GMT —
Jim Boeheim wiped his brow, tired but happy that his Syracuse Orange won another close game against Connecticut.
The struggling Huskies rallied from a 16-point, second-half deficit to tie the game at 65 with 2:33 left Wednesday night, only to watch Wes Johnson and Kris Joseph sink six straight free throws in the final 34 seconds to send No. 2 Syracuse to a 72-67 victory.
"These are the kind of games that can easily get away from you when you have that big a lead," Boeheim said. "To make those shots coming down the stretch was a real good sign. You miss, it's a different ending."
Syracuse (24-1, 12-1 Big East) hasn't had many close calls during its magical run this season, and when the Orange have been challenged they've survived. They beat West Virginia 72-71 and DePaul 59-57, both on the road, and held off Marquette 76-71 at home.
Syracuse still has to face Louisville twice, No. 7 Georgetown on the road, and No. 4 Villanova at home among its seven remaining regular-season games.
"You can lose four games in this league just like that," Boeheim said. "At the end of the year, there's going to be a lot of good teams that have nine or 10 losses. We've been fortunate. We got away a couple of times. That's what it takes."
It was the Orange's first meeting against Connecticut since their epic 127-117 six-overtime win in the Big East tournament last March. Overtime became a possibility again when Jerome Dyson's 3-pointer tied the score at 65, but Johnson put the Orange back in front by hitting two foul shots with 33.5 seconds to go.
"We dealt with six overtimes. That's history," Joseph said, smiling. "We did it once. We don't want to do it again. We just wanted to win the game in regulation and we did a great job of closing it out."
Rick Jackson led Syracuse with 15 points. Joseph had 14 and Johnson 13.
Dyson paced Connecticut with 19 points and eight rebounds, and Stanley Robinson had 16 points, but only two in the second half. Kemba Walker added 14 and Gavin Edwards 12.
It was the 11th straight victory for Syracuse and snapped a six-game skid against the Huskies in the regular season.
Syracuse opened the season with 13 wins before losing to Pittsburgh. It's the first time in school history the Orange have had two 10-game winning streaks in one season.
Connecticut (14-10, 4-7) dropped to 0-6 on the road this season and 1-5 against ranked teams. That lone victory was over Texas when the Longhorns were No. 1, and the Huskies are still looking for another signature win.
George Blaney fell to 3-4 in place of coach Jim Calhoun, who took a medical leave of absence last month.
The Orange seemed in command after Jackson's shot in the lane over Edwards gave Syracuse a 50-34 lead with 13:50 left. But Andy Rautins, the Orange's vocal leader, had just been called for his fourth foul and the Huskies roared back with a 14-2 run.
Dyson scored six points in the spurt, drawing a key foul on Scoop Jardine to set up a dunk by Edwards. Dyson's follow, on the third try, moved Connecticut within 52-48 with 8:36 to go.
"We continue to show fight and heart and get to the point of being able to win the game," Blaney said. "But we just can't close it out."
Syracuse held the lead, but never by more than six, and Dyson's 3 from the top of the key brought the Huskies to 61-60 with 4:06 remaining.
"Those kids played great, but missing a coach of the caliber of Jim Calhoun is a tremendous loss for them," Boeheim said. "For them to play this well without him being there is a great credit to George and the kids themselves. When they were 14 down, it would have been easy to give up."
Johnson's soaring dunk along the baseline over Ater Majok put the Orange back up 65-62.
After Dyson's tying shot, Walker missed a 3, Dyson snared the long rebound from Joseph but missed a runner in the lane as the shot clock was about to expire.
After a timeout, Rautins missed a 3 off the inbounds pass, Jackson rebounded the ball and passed in the lane to Jardine. As he drove to the basket and had his shot blocked, Boeheim screamed for a timeout.
It was unclear if Boeheim signaled for the timeout before Jardine tried to shoot the ball, but the referees allowed it with 36.6 seconds left and 32 on the shot clock.
Johnson was fouled by Robinson as soon as play resumed and sank both free throws to give Syracuse a 67-65 lead.
After a Connecticut timeout, Dyson missed a 3 from the left wing, Joseph snared the rebound, was fouled, and sank two more free throws with 11.5 seconds to go.
Walker hit a driving layup to cut the lead back to a basket, but Joseph sealed it with two more free throws after he was intentionally fouled by Majok on a breakaway with 5.8 seconds left.
The Huskies dominated the glass during their second-half rally, outrebounding Syracuse 26-14 and 12-5 on the offensive end.
"We knew they were going to be physical," said Rautins, who had eight points and five assists. "Coach said they were going to be the most physical team we've faced. Things worked out. We got to the foul line."