No. 2 Syracuse beats Connecticut 58-55
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
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.
This was their first game after earning a double-bye into the
”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
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
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,
”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 in last year’s 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.”
About 3 hours after Boeheim spoke at the news conference the
NCAA released a statement clarifying the time frame.
”The NCAA enforcement staff received a self-report from
Syracuse University on October 27, 2010,” the organization
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
”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.