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Pittsburgh 65, Syracuse 63

March 2, 1997

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) _ Vonteego Cummings scored 22 points, including a crucial drive down the lane in the closing minutes, as Pittsburgh held off Syracuse 65-63 Sunday in the Big East finale for both teams.

The loss spoiled a strong finish by Syracuse (18-11, 9-9 Big East), which won 10 of its final 15 games. The Orangemen play Notre Dame in the first round of the Big East tournament. Pittsburgh (16-13, 10-8) will play Connecticut.

It was a sweet victory for the Panthers, who had lost 10 straight to the Orangemen, but it was a struggle all the way. Every time the Panthers seemed set to take control, the Orangemen came back.

Cummings’ drive with 2:22 left gave Pitt a 64-57 lead, but Ramel Lloyd converted a three-point play and Elvir Ovcina hit a 3-pointer with 1:20 left to pull Syracuse within a point.

Syracuse seemed poise to win it after Jason Maile missed a 3-pointer with 47 seconds left and Marius Janulis got the rebound for Syracuse. But Todd Burgan missed two foul shots with 28.5 seconds left and Pitt managed to kill 20 seconds before Syracuse fouled. Cipolla missed a 3-pointer from the left corner at the buzzer.

Gerald Jordan had 13 points and a game-high 16 rebounds for Pitt, Chad Varga had 11 points and Kellii Taylor 10. Maile, Pitt’s second-leading scorer with a 13-point average, had just one point. Burgan led Syracuse with 16 points and 10 rebounds and Cipolla had only seven points.

Otis Hill, who played just nine minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, keyed the Orangemen at the start of the second half. He scored eight of his 12 points and set up a 3-pointer by Janulis as Syracuse fought back from an 11-point deficit.

A baseline drive and layup by Lloyd brought Syracuse within 48-46 with 10:42 left, but then the Orangemen went cold. Syracuse did not score a basket for 6:32, managing to convert only five of nine free throws.

Cipolla ended the drought with a 3-pointer with 4:14 left and a three-point play by Burgan narrowed the Pitt lead to 61-57 with 3:32 left.

Neither team was able to generate much offensively in the mistake-filled first half. Pitt committed 12 turnovers and the Orangemen had 10 as each team struggled to find a rhythm. Syracuse shot just 26.5 percent from the floor in the period, 3-for-12 from 3-point range. For the game, Syracuse converted 33.9 percent of its shots and hit just 6 of 23 3-pointers.

Hill collected his third personal midway through the first half, and eventually the Panthers took advantage, finally putting together a 13-0 run to take a 29-16 lead. Cummings had eight points in the spurt.

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