West Virginia 90, No. 12 Syracuse 78
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) _ After blowing big leads over ranked opponents twice this season, West Virginia couldn’t help but feel anxious after going ahead by 14 late in a game.
``We kept waiting for that clock to go off. It kept ticking slowly, slowly,″ West Virginia guard Cyrus Jones said. ``We knew we wouldn’t get the win until it stopped ticking.″
Syracuse managed to cut the advantage to five with 1:38 remaining, but could get no closer as West Virginia held on for a 90-78 victory Tuesday night. It was the first league victory for West Virginia (6-7, 1-5) in its inaugural Big East season.
The Mountaineers had a 13-point lead over No. 8 Georgetown in their first league game Dec. 2, only to lose in overtime, and led at the half of Saturday’s game against No. 7 Villanova before losing 69-67.
``I wasn’t very comfortable,″ West Virginia coach Gale Catlett said. ``The turning point was when we threw over their press and got a couple of easy baskets.″
The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Mountaineers, including three at home. It also was the team’s first victory over a ranked opponent in nearly two years, making the Big East victory especially sweet.
``Lots of people will remember this one,″ Catlett said. ``I told the kids they were a part of history tonight.″
``We knew we were bound to get one,″ forward Damian Owens said. ``We fought so hard in all of these games. Our momentum never declined. We kept our hopes up, never gave up and we finally got one.″
West Virginia, trailing 9-8, went on a 13-3 run to build a 21-12 lead with 13:40 left in the first half and never trailed again, building its biggest lead at 74-60 with 5:21 remaining.
``We’ve seen in close games (where) they’ve missed foul shots, maybe lost their poise, lost their concentration,″ Syracuse center J.B. Reafsnyder said. ``But they shot the ball really well from 3-point range. ... We put them at the foul line and they made their shots. They deserved to win.″
West Virginia, which came into the game shooting 47 percent from the field, connected on 54 percent of its shots for the game.
It was West Virginia’s press that caused Syracuse the most trouble, forcing 25 turnovers, while holding the Orangemen to just 37.8 percent shooting from the field in the second half, including 2-for-11 from 3-point range.
Syracuse (13-3, 4-2) outrebounded West Virginia 43-30 but often was unable to convert on second- and third-chance shots.
It was Syracuse’s third loss in five games after starting the season 11-0.
``We just did not handle the ball well,″ Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. ``We were trying to get it inside and they disrupted us enough. We just didn’t convert inside when we had to.″
Forward John Wallace had a season-high 33 points for Syracuse, while Todd Burgan added 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Otis Hill had 12 rebounds.
Gordon Malone scored 22 points, while Owens added 17 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds for West Virginia. Greg Simpson came off the bench to add 17 points.