Connecticut loses 58-55 to No. 2 Syracuse
Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said he didn’t think any team
would ever do what his did last year – win five games in five days
to earn a conference tournament title.
The Huskies had plenty of people thinking they could be
repeating history just one season later and it took another
memorable Big East tournament matchup with Syracuse to end their
13-game postseason winning streak.
Dion Waiters had 18 points and James Southerland scored all 10
of his points over the final 8 minutes to lead No. 2 Syracuse to a
58-55 victory Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Big East
The top-seeded Orange (31-1) won their 11th straight game
overall and advanced to face fourth-seeded Cincinnati in the
semifinals on Friday night at Madison Square Garden. The Bearcats
beat No. 13 Georgetown 72-70 in double-overtime.
The Huskies head home to wait to see their name called on
”The anguish I feel is disappointment for them,” Calhoun said.
”They were primed mentally today to do something very special and
almost pulled it off.”
Last year’s run included an overtime semifinal win against
Syracuse and that came two years after the Orange won the memorable
six-overtime quarterfinal, 127-117 over the Huskies.
This Connecticut team was very different from last season’s as
all-everything guard Kemba Walker is in the NBA. The Huskies were
again seeded ninth and they started this tournament off with wins
over DePaul and West Virginia.
Then came the Orange, who were playing their first game of the
tournament after receiving a double bye.
”I told you last year during the five-game win streak or other
times during win streaks, fatigue is the most overwritten-about
thing in sports,” Calhoun said. ”Mental fatigue, though, I felt
we had a little bit at the end. … Saturday’s game against
Pittsburgh was very emotional and traveling Monday and playing
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and they stood up to it all. We came
up a little bit short. Once again, I love them and I’m proud of
Shabazz Napier had 15 points and Andre Drummond added 14 for the
ninth-seeded Huskies (20-13), who were trying to duplicate last
year’s first-ever five-game run to the Big East tournament title
that was followed by a six-game streak that brought the school its
third national championship.
”No one can tell you that it wasn’t a good team who was wearing
blue today,” Calhoun said. ”Did we shoot great? No. Did we make
great decisions? No. Did we play with great heart and great
intensity and did we play for us and each other? Without a doubt,
and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
In the semifinals last year, Connecticut beat the Orange 76-71
in overtime. In the previous meeting in the tournament in 2009,
Syracuse won 127-117 in a six-overtime quarterfinal.
This one ended in 40 minutes, but there once again was the
chance at playing past the regulation buzzer.
The Huskies, who beat DePaul and West Virginia in the first two
rounds, went 7 minutes without a field goal. During that span,
Syracuse was able to take the lead for good on a fallaway jumper by
Waiters that made it 48-47 with 5:41 to play.
Southerland, who came into the game averaging 6.6 points, hit
his second 3-pointer 16 seconds later to make it 51-47. Drummond
converted an alley-oop pass from Napier with 2:32 left, the first
time the Huskies were within three points.
The last time they were that close was 58-55 with 4.6 seconds
left on a reverse by Drummond. After a timeout, the Orange were
able to inbound the ball and run out the clock.
Neither team shot well – Connecticut 34.4 percent, Syracuse 38.5
percent. The Huskies controlled the boards with a 46-34 advantage,
18-8 on the offensive end, with Drummond grabbing 10, seven
”Both teams struggled shooting the ball, and both teams are
very good defensively,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. ” We
couldn’t really get anything going offensively, and then we changed
something just a little bit. Got a little bit more space.”
Syracuse had a big advantage at the free throw line, finishing
15 of 23 compared to the Huskies’ 5 of 10.
The Orange swept the two regular season meetings, the second
71-69 at Connecticut. Syracuse has an 8-6 advantage in the teams’
Big East tournament meetings and have won six of the last seven,
the only loss was in last year’s game. The Orange are 4-0 against
Connecticut in the quarterfinals.
Napier was seen as the player who could have provided what
Walker did last season – poise under pressure and the ability to be
the leader on and off the court – two things he can bring the
Huskies in the NCAA tournament.
”I just think the guys, like coach said, the last few weeks
he’s seen a change in me. I just seen a change in the guys.
Everybody is really into each other. The chemistry is there. I
think we got that edge that we was missing,” he said. ”We’re just
starting to have a lot of fun. A lot of basketball teams, they
lose, and the reason why they lose is because they’re not having a
lot of fun out there. We win, we have fun, and it’s hard to have
fun when you lose. But if you see out there, we’re smiling, we’re
enjoying the time out there because we all know we’re blessed to be
in the situation we’re in, and I just think that my leadership may
have rised, but at the same time, our team just became more into
each other, more chemistry, and we turned the corner, and we’re
just a happy team now.”