No. 14 Syracuse 81, Rutgers 80
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) _ With the chance to steal an unexpected Big East Conference win against No. 14 Syracuse, Rutgers instead was foiled by the inadvertent steal of a teammate’s pass.
Rutgers’ Johnny McCrimmon drove for a layup with .4 seconds remaining when a 3-point shot would have tied the scoree. Rutgers (4-8, 1-3) ran out of time and lost 81-80.
John Wallace scored 25 points as Syracuse (13-2, 4-1) built a big early lead and held on for the second straight game.
McCrimmon intercepted a pass intended for teammate Damon Santiago, who was behind the 3-point line, on the final play. He said he cut to the basket when he saw his teammates were having trouble finding an open 3-point shot.
``I thought the clock would run out if I passed it back out, so I went to the basket to try and get the foul,″ McCrimmon said.
Rutgers coach Bob Wenzel and guard Geoff Billet didn’t fault McCrimmon, saying he followed his instincts when Syracuse defended the 3-point shot well on the final play.
Wallace, who like coach Jim Boeheim criticized his team’s play, said it was a fortunate ending.
``I thought they would go for a three,″ he said. ``Obviously, we weren’t going to let them go for a three. Maybe the player forgot, I don’t know. I’m glad he did that.″
Syracuse led by as many as 13 points in the first half, behind Wallace’s 16 points.
But Billet led a Rutgers comeback in the second half. His 3-point shot with 3:29 remaining gave the Scarlet Knights their only lead, 70-69.
Wallace had three free throws, a dunk and scored off a rebound in the game’s final 3:05. When Jason Cipolla’s 3-pointer put Syracuse ahead 78-73 with 1:13 remaining, the lead appeared to be safe.
But after a McCrimmon dunk and a missed free throw by Wallace, the Orangemen fouled Albert Karner on a drive and he completed a 3-point play, making it 80-78 with 10.1 seconds left. Lazarus Sims of Syracuse was fouled and made one of two free throws.
The game marked the Syracuse basketball debut for Donovan McNabb, the freshman quarterback who was the MVP two weeks ago in Syracuse’s 41-0 win over Clemson in the Gator Bowl. McNabb played four minutes, all in the first half, and missed his only two shots.
Boeheim said his team’s failure to rebound let Rutgers back into the game. Rutgers outrebounded Syracuse 35-29, and had 17 offensive boards.
``We’ve either got to pick it up in terms of our defense and our rebounding, or every game we have we’re going to be in trouble,″ Boeheim said. ``Not some games, every game.″
Wenzel said his team was hurt by inexperience, but he was pleased by the effort.
``Beating them would have been a tremendous accomplishment,″ he said. ``The next best thing happened. We played them as close as we could.″
Billet scored 17 for Rutgers. Andrew Kolbasovsky and Karner scored 14 each.
Otis Hill had 11 points for Syracuse and Todd Burgan 10.
It was the 100th Big East win in the Carrier Dome for Syracuse in its first conference game against Rutgers. The teams last played in 1990, with Syracuse winning 95-79.