Sunday, February 2, 2003

Syracuse stuns No. 2 Pitt

Who's number one?

By John Kekis
The Associated Press

Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony looks to pass over Pittsburgh's Julius Page.
(AP photo)
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Jim Boeheim said the crowd won it. Jeremy McNeil's shooting touch in the final minute didn't hurt.

McNeil, who rides the bench more than he plays, hit two free throws to tie the game with 46.9 seconds left, then converted his only field-goal attempt of the game with three seconds to go as No. 24 Syracuse stunned second-ranked Pittsburgh 67-65 Saturday night.

McNeil, the backup to Craig Forth at center, had to know it was his night when he converted the free throws - he had been 4-for-14 on the season (28.6 percent).

"I was feeling pressure, oh yeah," said McNeil, who began the season with a heavy heart after the death of his mother in October. "I was scared to death. I'm just glad we won. This game was a team effort. My four points at the end wouldn't have mattered if not for them."

Maybe he just needed a big crowd, such as the 30,303 who showed up for the game. It was the largest in the nation this season.

"The fans were unbelievable," Boeheim said. "It might take the No. 2 team in the nation to get them here."

After McNeil's shot, many in the stands began to storm the court in wild celebration. But the referees, after Boeheim pleaded for order, ruled that eight-tenths of a second remained.

That gave the Panthers (15-2, 5-1 Big East) one final prayer, and it almost was answered when Brandin Knight hit a 40-foot shot off an inbounds pass from Jaron Brown. After a couple of tense moments with the crowd pouring onto the court again, however, the shot was ruled too late.

"The clock on the replay probably showed I didn't make it, but I think we should have had more time," said Knight, who had seven points and seven assists and played all 40 minutes despite spraining his left ankle in practice Wednesday. "But when you're on the road, that's the type of thing you deal with."

The Panthers had won 12 straight in the conference and seemed set to move to No. 1 for the first time in school history after Stanford upset top-ranked Arizona on Thursday night. But for the second time in just over a month they squandered the opportunity.

Pittsburgh's Julius Page sits alone late in the second half against Syracuse. Page sat out most of the second half with an injury.
(AP photo)
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Pittsburgh, ranked second, also lost at Georgia on Dec. 31, one day after then-No. 1 Alabama lost to Utah.

"It was a tough loss," Pitt coach Ben Howland said. "McNeil stepping up and making those foul shots from a guy that's not know for his foul shooting - that was big for them."

Syracuse (14-3, 5-2 Big East), which trailed by as many as 13 points, won its 14th straight in the Carrier Dome and avenged a 73-60 loss at Pittsburgh two weeks ago. And the Orangemen did it by using a tough man-to-man defense in the second half instead of their vaunted 2-3 zone.

"That changed the pace of the game," said Hakim Warrick, who led Syracuse with 20 points. "We mixed things up with our defense and that might have confused them a little bit."

Carmelo Anthony had 14 points and 13 rebounds, his 11th double-double of the season, and Kueth Duany added 15 points for the Orangemen.

Chevy Troutman led the Panthers with 16 points, Ontario Lett had 12 points and nine rebounds, and Brown scored 12 points.

Syracuse outrebounded Pitt 41-37 and stepped up the defensive intensity in the closing minutes with both teams fighting foul trouble. Troutman fouled out with 7:16 left, and Brown played the last 12 minutes with four.

Pitt was just 3-for-22 from 3-point range, and Julius Page scored only five points after burning the Orangemen for 25 in the previous meeting. The Panthers also made just 14 of 29 free throws.

Pitt, on the strength of a 13-0 run, led 43-31 at halftime, getting 28 points in the paint. But after Lett's steal and layup gave the Panthers a 49-36 lead early in the second, the Orangemen rallied back. Warrick scored five points to key the nine-point run that put them back in the game.

"We had a 13-point lead, but we stubbed our toe and allowed them back in the game," Howland said. "It should never have come to that."

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