No. 5 Syracuse beats Stanford 69-63

Stanford’s trip to New York City was looking pretty good.

The Cardinal were up six points on No. 5 Syracuse with about 4

1/2 minutes to play in the championship game of the NIT Season

Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden on Friday night. It looked as if

their third trip to the tournament final was going to end with

their first Tip-Off title.

Then came the Orange’s 15-3 run to close the game and Stanford

had its first loss of the season, 69-63.

”It was a great game, a hard-fought game,” Stanford coach

Johnny Dawkins said, ”Give Syracuse a lot of credit down the

stretch. They made big plays. Kris Joseph stepped up and made big

shots and they defended well out of the zone. It was a great effort

down the stretch and they were able to close the game.”

The Cardinal looked impressive in an easy win over Oklahoma

State in the semifinals. What was a young team last season looked

like a much more experienced squad against the Cowboys and for

almost all of Friday’s game.

”Before we arrived it was so early in the season. You don’t

really know the makeup of your team and how good you can be,”

Dawkins said. ”We found out a lot. We can be pretty good. The way

we competed against good teams, this will help us improve things we

have to work on and that will help us continue on the path to

improving.”

Dawkins was disappointed with the loss but not with his

team.

”There’s a process to it and those kids have been in that

situation before and have learned from it,” he said, referring to

Syracuse. ”We’re still a developing team and that’s what excites

me tonight. I’m looking forward to working with my group.”

Turnovers will be one of the main topics when coach and team get

together again on the West Coast.

”Twenty-four turnovers makes it difficult to beat them,” he

said. ”They forced a lot of them. You have to be sharp and crisp

with your passes. You have to value the basketball. They’re one of

the best teams in the nation.”

Syracuse couldn’t get in front of Stanford until the Orange

started to put on full-court pressure and closed the game on the

15-3 run.

”We played 40 minutes of good defense, 35 minutes of horrendous

offense and 3 to 4 minutes of full-court pressure to get back in

the game,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. ”They outplayed us

the whole game.”

Joseph had 18 points and eight rebounds and grabbed MVP honors

with 38 points and 19 rebounds in the two games.

”First of all he’s a senior and great leader and a terrific

player,” Dawkins said of Joseph. ”He stepped up and made big

plays and he’s done that before. We tried to limit his touches, but

I’ll tell you what, he hit some tough shots. We defended him well,

but he finishes around the basket as well as any young man I’ve

seen.”

The Orange (6-0) were never able to make a run against Stanford

until the game’s final 4 minutes, when they made all five of their

shots from the field and five of seven free throws. They forced the

Cardinal (5-1) into 24 turnovers, including three in the closing

stretch against the pressure.

”We just went back to what was working down the stretch,”

Joseph said. ”We played well. We played hard and came out with the

win.”

Aaron Bright had 13 points for Stanford, which led 60-54 with

4:27 to go on two free throws by Chasson Randle.

Brandon Triche, who finished with 11 points, started the

Orange’s big run with a drive. C.J. Fair followed with a

three-point play after a turnover and Joseph gave Syracuse the lead

for good, 61-60, with a banked jumper with 2:54 to go.

Joseph was asked if he called ”glass” before the shot.

”If your friends ask you, you say `Definitely,’ ” he said

sheepishly, ”but I didn’t call it.”

He said he was chosen MVP because ”my teammates were able to

get me the ball. We all should have shared it. We all played

outstanding, not just me.”

Scoop Jardine added 14 points for the Orange, and Fair and Dion

Waiters, the two reserves who led the semifinal win over Virginia

Tech, both had 10 points. Syracuse shot 46.7 percent for the game

from the field (28 of 60), including 17 of 28 (60.7 percent) in the

second half.

”In the second half we went back with the two guards who played

so well the other night,” Boeheim said of Fair and Waiters, who

are both sophomores.

Randle had 12 points for the Cardinal, while John Gage added a

career-high 10, six more than he scored all season.

Stanford struggled against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, but it was

controlling the ball rather than making shots that did in the

Cardinal. They shot 42.9 percent from the field (24 of 56), but

their 24 turnovers were converted into 25 points by Syracuse. The

Cardinal outrebounded the Orange 36-34 and that led to a 16-11

advantage in second-chance points.

”It’s awful. It’s never good when you lose, especially when you

were up the whole game,” Bright said. ”Syracuse played great down

the stretch and we weren’t able to make the same plays.”

The crowd of 8,477 seemed to be waiting for a Syracuse run that

would keep Stanford at bay, but it didn’t happen until the final

minutes when the Orange’s speed and size suddenly became a problem

for the Cardinal.