The Thursday afternoon matchup between the Syracuse Orange and the Connecticut Huskies lived up to the billing, with the Orange beating the Huskies 58-55.
It was a very tight first half, with Syracuse leading by three, at 27-24.
In the second half, UConn turned it up, with center Andre Drummond having success inside, including a dunk off of a rebound, helping them take a 40-33 lead.
Around the 12-minute mark, UConn’s Tyler Olander drove the lane and was sandwiched by Syracuse big men Fab Melo and James Southerland. No foul was called, and Syracuse raced to the other end, where UConn’s Alex Oriakhi was called for a reach-in on Brnadon Triche.
They got a basket from Kris Joseph, and then Dion Waiters got a layup on their next possession to turn the momentum and cut UConn’s lead to 40-37.
Oriakhi took his fourth foul at the 11:22 mark, and was removed from the game. He did not return for some reason, and UConn did not have a presence in the lane for the rest of the game.
Syracuse used this new momentum and Oriakhi’s benching to rally and take the lead with six minutes left on a jumper by Dion Waiters.
Syracuse held a six-point lead with 1:14 left when James Southerland hit a jumper. It appeared to be over for UConn, but Andre Drummond got a tip-in with 15 seconds left to make it 56-53 Syracuse.
Southerland was fouled, and hit the two free throws to make iot a five-point game, and Drummond hit a layup with four seconds left to make it 58-55 Syracuse.
Syracuse had to just inbound to win the game, and they did, with C.J. Fair running in for a dunk, which was just after the buzzer.
Syracuse was led by Dion Walters, who had 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting. James Shoutherland had 10 points on 3-for-6 shooting. Kris Joseph had ten points, but only one basket and knocked in eight foul shots.
UConn was led again by Shabazz Napier, who had 15 points, but shot a disappointing 5-for-17 from the field. The other main scorer for UConn, Jeremy Lamb, was held to 10 points, and Andre Drummond had 14 points.
Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim said after the game, “Both teams struggled shooting the ball, and both teams are very good defensively. We couldn’t really get anything going offensively, and then we changed something just a little bit. Got a little bit more space. Kris (Joseph) got a couple penetrations and got to the foul line, and then we made a couple good — we got James (Southerland) open a couple times.”
UConn Head Coach Jim Calhoun said of the game, “What Jim has done this year, you can make an argument between them and Kentucky as the best teams in the country. They certainly have a great many answers, terrific athletes. In the end – and the end could have been any end, minute to go, two minutes to go. It’s not really important. The key thing is they had guys that could make plays on their own and get to the rim and do some pretty good things.”
Calhoun said of his relationship with Boeheim and of Syracuse, “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.”
UConn’s bid to win five in five days is over, but they will most likely make the NCAA Tournament, where they will defend their championship.
Syracuse will move on to face Cincinnati in the semifinal on Friday night at 7:00 pm.
Cincinnati won the second game of the afternoon session on Thursday, beating Georgetown in double overtime, 72-70.