Le Moyne stuns Orange in exhibition on road
Christopher Johnson and Laurence Ekperigin hooted and hollered as they skipped off Jim Boeheim Court, huge smiles creasing their faces and seemingly as stunned as the Syracuse Orange at what had just transpired.
Johnson scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half, including a 3-pointer with 8.3 seconds remaining, and Division II Le Moyne stunned Syracuse 82-79 in an exhibition game Tuesday night.
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"We've got an experienced group," Le Moyne head coach Steve Evans said. "Did we ever think that a day like this would happen? Probably not. But we put together a game plan. We didn't want to play Syracuse's way. We wanted to play our way. It was just one of those days for Le Moyne basketball. The kids will remember this forever."
Wes Johnson, who led Syracuse with 34 points, hit a 3 from the left corner to put Syracuse ahead 79-78 with 22 seconds left.
Then Christopher Johnson responded with his sixth 3-pointer of the game, which came from the left side after Syracuse's Kris Joseph backed off defensively.
"We were sort of out of whack a little bit," Christopher Johnson said. "Everyone was rushing. But as soon as I caught the ball, I saw an opening and I just let it fly. Luckily, it went in."
After Wes Johnson missed a 3, Can Ozkaner added a free throw with 1.3 seconds left for Le Moyne and Syracuse had its first preseason exhibition loss since a setback against the Harlem Globetrotters six years ago.
"Le Moyne really outplayed us from the beginning of the game to the end," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "They (the Orange) are very, very young mentally. They really have got to grow up. We couldn't stop them on the dribble. That's something we've been looking at in practice."
Ekperigin had 20 points and 11 rebounds, Damani Corbin had 11 points and five assists, and Kevin Roth added 10 points for Le Moyne, which outscored Syracuse 42-30 in the paint.
Andy Rautins had 13 points and Rick Jackson finished with 10 points and eight rebounds for the Orange, who led 47-37 early in the second half.
But the Dolphins, who play across town, never let down. Three 3s by Christopher Johnson helped narrow the gap and a three-point play by Ekperigin gave Le Moyne a 56-55 lead with 8:41 remaining.
The Dolphins, who repeatedly took advantage of Syracuse's man-to-man defense with drives and back-door cuts, went up 76-71 after Ekperigin converted a lob from Corbin with 57.9 seconds left and held on.
"It's very disappointing," said Wes Johnson, in his first season after transferring from Iowa State. "Hopefully, we can learn from this and move in the right direction."
"It's just embarrassing the way we played," said Rautins, born and raised in Syracuse. "It's embarrassing to ourselves and our fans. It wasn't luck that they won. They came out and beat us fair and square."
Evans said he wasn't really looking forward to reading and watching the news on Wednesday.
"I feel bad that the story tomorrow will be, 'What's wrong with Syracuse basketball?' I don't think there's anything wrong," he said. "They've got tremendous players. It's an exhibition game. They're young. They're going to be terrific."