Missouri, Purdue doggedly march on Syr. rallies, falls in OT, 98-88 NCAA FINAL FOUR 1994 CHARLOTTE

March 25, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES -- If the scriptwriters here had their way, Adrian Autry would be playing in the NCAA West Regional final tomorrow.

Autry, the Syracuse point guard, had zero points, three fouls and five turnovers in the first half of the Orangemen's Sweet 16 encounter with top-seeded Missouri last night. He scored 26 points in the second half to bring Syracuse back from a 12-point deficit with eight minutes to play, but Missouri regrouped for a 98-88, overtime victory that brought Autry and the Orangemen back to reality.

Missouri (28-3) can earn its first Final Four berth tomorrow by beating Arizona in tomorrow's West Region final at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

The Tigers probably were looking ahead to that game when they had a 67-55 lead with 7:15 to play, but then Autry took off and the fourth-seeded Orangemen began playing some nasty pressure defense.

Autry scored 15 in the last 7:10 of regulation, forcing the overtime with a short bank shot from the left side with 36 seconds left. Missouri ran off and hid in the anticlimactic overtime, but Autry, who finished his career with 1,538 points and 631 assists, finally breathed some life in what had been a routine regional.

"That's as good a second half as we could ask of Adrian," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "This team has been battling back all year long, and he's got a lot to do with that."

Autry had a game-high 31 points, and the Orangemen (23-7) also relied heavily on junior guard Lawrence Moten, who had 29. Better-balanced Missouri got 24 points each from Big Eight Player of the Year Melvin Booker and freshman forward Kelly Thames. Perimeter players Lamont Frazier and Paul O'Liney had 17 and 14 for the Tigers, respectively.

The first half ended with Autry on the bench with three fouls and O'Liney making three free throws that created a 36-36 tie.

At times in the first half, Missouri looked like the team that lost by 52 to Arkansas in December and struggled in the first round of the NCAA tournament against Navy. In the 11 minutes after halftime, however, the Tigers more resembled the unit that became the first to go unbeaten in the Big Eight since 1971.

Missouri, which shot one of 11 from three-point range in the first half, began getting the ball inside, and the lead was 66-55 on Frazier's jumper from the left baseline with 9:51 to go.

The Tigers went nearly eight minutes without a basket, however, as Boeheim ditched his zone in favor of full-court traps. Autry and Moten were at the core of a turnaround in which Missouri committed eight turnovers after losing the ball only once in the first half.

It added up to a 14-3 Syracuse run, but Missouri pulled away again and took a 77-71 lead with 1:18 left in regulation. Autry made a three-pointer from way out on the left wing with 1:09 left, stole the inbounds pass and made three free throws in the next seven seconds for the tie.

Thames' free throws with 45.6 seconds left were equaled by Autry's basket with 36.3 remaining, and Booker missed a short runner in the lane with five seconds left that would have won it.

Booker made amends in overtime, hitting a three-pointer from the top of the key with 30 seconds gone, and the Orangemen were done coming back. His transition basket made it 87-81 with 2:52 left in OT, and the spread never got smaller than four points.

Missouri is 3-0 in overtime.

"We had the nine-point lead [12 actually] in the second half, and we did not handle that well," said Missouri coach Norm Stewart. "The main thing is that our ballclub has a lot of grit, and they figured out a way to win."

Stewart, who has won 543 games in 27 years at Missouri, is one victory away from his first working trip to the Final Four. It really is a Sweet 16 for Stewart, who was facing colon cancer when the Tigers were eliminated at that level by Syracuse in 1989.

Autry and Syracuse go home, but not before they made fans here sit up and notice.

"The first half was terrible," Autry said. "I was missing some easy shots,but I got myself together for the second half and forgot about everything that happened in the first. We were still in the game and had a chance to win, and that's all that matters."

NCAA TOURNAMENT

Yesterday's results

* Duke 59, Marquette 49

* Missouri 98, Syracuse 88, OT

* Purdue 83, Kansas 78

* Arizona 82, Louisville 70

Today's games

* Boston College vs. Indiana, 7:38 p.m. chs. 11, 9, joined in progress at 8 p.m.

* Arkansas vs. Tulsa, 8:02 p.m.

* Florida vs. Connecticut, 10 p.m. (approx.)

* Michigan vs. Maryland, 10:30 p.m. (approx.), chs. 11, 9

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