No. 2 Syracuse 58, UConn 55

Syracuse and Connecticut had another memorable meeting in the

Big East tournament.

The latest game kept Syracuse’s strong season moving toward a

No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and ended Connecticut’s memorable

postseason 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

tournament.

The top-seeded Orange (31-1) won their 11th straight game

overall and advanced to face the winner of the

Georgetown-Cincinnati game in the semifinals on Friday night at

Madison Square Garden.

This was their first game after earning a double-bye into the

quarterfinals.

”I hate sitting around all week, and it’s very difficult,”

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. ”I’m glad that we were able to

get a win. We haven’t played that many games and we need to play

again. Tomorrow’s game will help us, but this was a tremendous

comeback. This team has been very good down the stretch all year,

and that was the case today.”

The Huskies had their 13-game postseason winning streak snapped

and ended a chance at making history for a second straight

year.

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.

”The anguish I feel is disappointment for them,” Connecticut

coach Jim Calhoun said of his team. ”They were primed mentally

today to do something very special and almost pulled it off. … No

one can tell you that it wasn’t a good team who was wearing blue

today. 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 and 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.

”We got James open a couple times. He’s a tremendous shooter,”

Boeheim said. ”He can make those shots, and he made them early in

the year. He struggled a little bit during the week, but he’s been

making them in practice. He looked good the last game, made a big

one, and we think he can make those shots and be a factor for us, a

big factor for us the rest of the way. So it was good for him to

get those looks.

”Our guys are very unselfish. They found him in there and got

him the ball.”

And Southerland, a 6-foot-8 junior from New York, knew what to

do when they did.

”It felt really great out there, especially being at home and

all,” he said of playing in front of a sellout crowd of 20,057.

”I missed my first two shots. The first one I felt was good, the

second one was kind of rushed. It’s good my teammates are here for

me, they’re not giving up on me just because I missed two shots,

and it feels good. It was a great atmosphere.”

Neither team shot well – Connecticut 34.4 percent, Syracuse 38.5

percent – and the Huskies controlled the boards with a 46-34

advantage, 18-8 on the offensive end, with Drummond grabbing 10,

seven offensive.

”Both teams struggled shooting the ball, and both teams are

very good defensively,” 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 the six-overtime game. The Orange are 4-0 against

Connecticut in the quarterfinals.

The game pitted two coaches who have had their share of

struggles this season.

Boeheim, who went through the child-abuse charges and firing of

longtime assistant Bernie Fine and recent allegations of former

players in the program failing drug tests, won his 887th game,

second on the all-time list.

”This was reported five years ago, and we’re waiting for them

to finish the process,” Boeheim said when asked about the drug

tests. ”If things were bothering us we wouldn’t be 31-1. Nothing

bothers us. We come ready to play. That’s what you should do in

life. Everybody gets bothered. Everybody has problems. I’m much

more concerned about my wife being mad at me than I am anything

else, to tell you the truth.”

Calhoun was suspended for the first three conference games for

failure to maintain control of his program when it was charged with

NCAA violations and he missed eight games with back problems,

returning four games ago following spinal surgery. The Huskies won

his first three games back, bringing him to 873 wins, sixth on the

all-time list.

”I love Jim Boeheim like a brother, and through everything

else, and I’ve told people this through the whole year, including

other things that have gone on, he’s done an incredible job

coaching his team and being unselfish and giving to each other, and

they’re just a terrific basketball team, capable in my opinion of

winning a national championship,” Calhoun said.

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