Saturday, March 29, 2003

Syracuse 79, Auburn 78

Freshman Anthony takes over in second half

The Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. - Syracuse got a taste of what it feels like to be on the other end of a comeback.

The Orangemen, who had 14 come-from-behind victories this season, had to hang on until the final seconds Friday night before beating Auburn 79-78 in the East Regional semifinals.

Third-seeded Syracuse, which rallied from 17 points down in a second-round win over Oklahoma State, will play top-seeded Oklahoma on Sunday for the right to go to the Final Four.

"We tried not to lose the lead and match the intensity of the other team and we hung on and did a pretty good job of that," said Syracuse's Kueth Duany, who made four free throws in the final 27 seconds.

Orangemen coach Jim Boeheim explained it easily.

"We got off to a great start and we're not used to being in that situation," he said.

Freshman Carmelo Anthony scored all 18 of his points in the second half for Syracuse (27-5), which moved on to the round of eight for the seventh time overall and fourth under Boeheim.

The Sooners (27-6) advanced to the regional final by beating 12th-seeded Butler 65-54.

Syracuse is the only Big East school still going.

The four teams from the Big East in the field of 65 went 8-0 in the first two rounds, but Syracuse was the only one to win on the second weekend of the tournament. Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Connecticut all lost in the round of 16, leaving the Orangemen as the league's only remaining representative.

Auburn (22-12) hit four 3-pointers over the final 1:18, making Big East fans nervous about a third-round shutout.

The last of those was by Nathan Watson at what most of the crowd thought was at the buzzer. While Boeheim and Auburn coach Cliff Ellis shook hands, the officials checked the replay and put three-tenths of a seconds back on the clock.

Anthony inbounded the ball to Duany and the Orangemen officially had the win.

"We did a good job on their shooters until the end and then they drilled their 3s," Boeheim said. "It's fortunate they didn't start out like that or we'd be going home."

Ellis knew the long-range barrage started just a little too late.

"We gave it a run and instead of 0.3 (seconds) we needed about 30 seconds," he said.

Hakim Warrick had 15 points for Syracuse, Josh Pace added 14 and Duany had 12, including the four free throws in the final 27 seconds.

"If Kueth didn't hit those four we might be on our way home," Anthony said.

Duany, a 68 percent free throw shooter, downplayed what he did in the last half-minute.

"Every player wants to be in the position to ice the game," he said. "I was the next guy they fouled and I was there to knock them down."

Marquis Daniels had 27 points for Auburn, but he had only two in the final 7:35 as Syracuse stopped his inside scoring against the 2-3 zone.

With a good portion of the sellout crowd of 15,093 at the Pepsi Arena solidly behind the school located just 21/2 hours away, Syracuse took control early without getting anything from Anthony, at 22.2 points the second-leading freshman scorer in the country, as he struggled against the Tigers' triangle-and-2 defense.

The Orangemen led by as much as 33-16 on the way to a 37-27 halftime lead.

"In the first half I didn't score and we were winning," Anthony said "I got everybody shots and everybody knows I don't have to score for us to be successful."

The Tigers, the team many thought didn't even deserve an at-large bid to the tournament, opened the second half looking more like the team that beat Saint Joseph's and second-seeded Wake Forest in the first two rounds.

"I thought some of our younger guys were timid early but they weren't timid in the second half," Ellis said.

The Tigers got within three points for the first time on a 3-pointer by Derrick Bird with 6:51 left.

Anthony scored Syracuse's next seven points as the lead went to 68-60 with 4:31 left.

But Auburn took advantage of three straight missed front ends of 1-and-1s to stay within striking distance and Watson had three of the four 3-pointers in the final 78 seconds.

After Duany made the free throws to make it 77-72 with 13 seconds left, Watson hit a 3 with 7.9 left. Pace dunked a long pass to make it 79-75 with 6 seconds left and Watson hit the last of the 3s.

Watson finished with 16 points and was 4-for-7 from 3-point range. The Tigers went 10-for-22 from beyond the arc, 7-for-15 in the second half.

While Oklahoma will be trying to return to the Final Four for a second straight year, the Orangemen haven't been there since losing to Kentucky in the championship game in 1996.

AUBURN (22-12): Daniels 12-21 3-5 27, Killingsworth 0-3 2-2 2, Davis 1-6 0-0 2, Bird 3-10 2-2 11, Monroe 4-7 1-2 12, Gaines 0-0 0-0 0, Robinson 2-8 4-4 8, Watson 5-8 2-2 16, Tucker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-63 14-17 78.

SYRACUSE (27-5): Warrick 6-12 3-4 15, Anthony 7-17 2-3 18, Forth 0-1 0-0 0, Duany 3-9 4-4 12, McNamara 2-6 4-5 9, Edelin 1-2 3-4 5, McNeil 3-6 0-0 6, Pace 7-13 0-1 14. Totals 29-66 16-21 79.

Halftime-Syracuse 37-27. 3-Point Goals-Auburn 10-22 (Watson 4-7, Monroe 3-5, Bird 3-9, Daniels 0-1), Syracuse 5-14 (Anthony 2-4, Duany 2-6, McNamara 1-4). Fouled out-Warrick. Rebounds-Auburn 40 (Daniels, Robinson 9), Syracuse 36 (Anthony 8). Assists-Auburn 15 (Bird 5), Syracuse 14 (Edelin 4). Total fouls-Auburn 19, Syracuse 17. A-15,093

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