Rapid Reaction: Syracuse 58, UConn 55
March, 8, 2012
By Kieran Darcy | ESPNNewYork.com
Overview: There will be no miraculous five-wins-in-five-days run this time around.
Connecticut, which pulled off that feat a year ago here in New York, en route to a national championship, had its 2012 Big East tournament run end in the quarterfinals, losing 58-55 to top-seeded Syracuse.
The Huskies almost pulled off the upset in a game more worthy of a semi or championship final. But Syracuse advances to the actual semifinals.
UConn (20-13, 8-10 Big East) can at least go home feeling confident it will hear its name called on Selection Sunday. Two wins here the past two days, plus such a strong showing against the Orange, should be enough to put the Huskies in the field of 68.
Turning point: Syracuse opened up an eight-point lead, 20-12 with 7:49 left to go in the first half, on the backs of its talented second unit. But UConn withstood the surge and closed to within 27-24 at halftime.
UConn jumped out on top early in the second half and actually held the lead for several minutes, by as many as eight points. But Syracuse stormed back -- and the key sequence actually began with a great play by UConn. With the Huskies leading 47-43 and just under eight minutes remaining, Andre Drummond had a tremendous blocked shot -- only problem is, the ball wound up in the hands of Syracuse's James Southerland, who drained a trey to make it 47-46.
Dion Waiters -- another reserve -- nailed a jumper to give Syracuse back the lead 48-47. And on the Orange's next position, Southerland connected again from deep to make it 51-47. Syracuse had the momentum back, and never relinquished the lead again.
Key player: Waiters had a team-high 18 points for Syracuse, but it was Southerland who hit the biggest shots, scoring all 10 of his points in the second half. He hit another important jumper later on, pushing the Syracuse lead to 55-49 with 1:14 remaining. No other coach in the country can bring as many talented players off the bench as Jim Boeheim can.
Shabazz Napier had 15 points to lead UConn. Jeremy Lamb was held to 10 points.
Key stat: Syracuse had just four turnovers in this game. You read that correctly -- four turnovers. That's outstanding. UConn had 10.
UConn shot 5-for-10 from the foul line -- a couple of more made free throws would have made a big difference.
Miscellaneous Syracuse is now 31-1 -- but the Orange have played several close games, and have always found a way to win. The Orange are 5-0 in games decided by three points or fewer -- and all five of those have been within Syracuse's past 10 games. The previous one? A 71-69 win at UConn on Feb. 25.
What's next: Syracuse will face the winner of our next game, No. 4 seed Cincinnati versus No. 5 seed Georgetown, in the first Big East semifinal, at 7 p.m. ET Friday.
UConn heads home and prepares to find out its NCAA tournament opponent and destination.