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Wichita State Holds Back Syracuse Surge

December 3, 2006

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) _ The Shockers were shocking again, though they almost got shocked themselves. Kyle Wilson scored 17 points, Sean Ogirri added 16, and No. 17 Wichita State survived a big Syracuse rally, holding off the 15th-ranked Orange 64-61 Saturday night for its third big win in four games.

After putting together an amazing 27-1 run in the first half and leading by 19 midway through the second, Wichita State (6-0) was fortunate to survive in the end.

Syracuse (7-1) held the Shockers to just one field goal in the final 9:24 and went on a 21-2 run to tie it at 61 with 1:48 left before a stunning miss by Demetris Nichols on a breakaway layup foiled the comeback.

``I told our kids that we won despite coaching,″ Wichita State coach Mark Turgeon said. ``I thought I did a bad job toward the end, and they did whatever they had to do.″

Nichols seemingly had the game in his hands after stealing a cross-court pass by Matt Braeuer and heading all alone down court. But instead of adding another dunk to an array of slams by his teammates that had the Carrier Dome crowd of 23,857 rocking, the 6-foot -8 Nichols chose to try to lay the ball in the cylinder with 21 seconds left. It rolled around the rim and out.

``It’s on me. I’m a senior captain,″ said Nichols, who had just six points on 2-of-14 shooting after scoring 20 points or more in each of the previous three games. ``I’ve just got to get over it and just be ready for the next game. It was a play that could have changed the game.″

The Orange still trailed 62-61 at that point, but two free throws by Wilson made it a three-point game, and Ryan Martin blocked a 3-pointer by Eric Devendorf in the final second to seal the victory.

``They picked up the intensity, and we had to weather the storm,″ Wilson said. ``We started getting a little soft offensively, just not attacking them the same as we were in the first half.″

Ah, that first half.

The teams played to a standstill in the first 5 minutes before the Shockers went on their stunning run. After Josh Wright’s fastbreak layup at 16:48, Syracuse did not score another basket until Nichols drained a 3 from right wing at 5:34.

Wichita State had 13 assists on its first 14 baskets and used a hot shooting touch from outside, hitting seven of 17 3-pointers against the frazzled Orange defense.

Wilson and Ogirri each hit a pair of 3s and Karon Bradley had another to key the surge. Ogirri also scored off the glass, Bradley fed Gal Mekel for a layup, both off fastbreaks, and Philip Thomasson, who finished 11 points and eight rebounds, added another basket off an inbounds pass as Wichita State built a 35-12 lead with 5:50 left.

It’s been a familar pattern for the Orange this year. They’ve trailed by double digits in the first half four times already in the young season.

``We are not coming out ready to play,″ Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. ``We haven’t all year. You can’t put yourself in holes like that against good teams.″

The Orange, which shot just 31 percent in the first half and committed nine turnovers, finally got its offense in gear and went on an 11-0 run before the break. Terrence Roberts slammed down a two-handed dunk off a steal by Wright and Nichols hit another 3 to key the surge as Syracuse pulled within 39-25 at halftime.

Still, Wichita State had already posted road victories over two teams that made last April’s Final Four _ 72-66 over George Mason and 57-53 over then-No. 6 LSU _ so this one seemed safe at that point.

It wasn’t.

After Ogirri hit a 3-pointer to give Wichita State a 59-40 lead with 9:24 left, the Orange held the Shockers to only one field goal the remainder of the game _ by Wilson on a goaltending call against Roberts with 6:18 left.

A three-point play by freshman Paul Harris and two free throws by Roberts pulled Syracuse to 61-59 with 2:50 left and Watkins’ follow after three misses under the basket tied it at 61. Harris scored all 14 of his points in the second half.

``We had the game won after playing so bad,″ said Wright, who finished with 10 points, four assists and five turnovers. ``We played horrible and we had a chance to win. We’re just going to move on. Things like that happen. We should never have been in the situation we were in.″

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