Syracuse's great escapes oust Georgia Leaning 3 by Wallace at end of OT follows tying shot in regulation

83-81 loss bitter for Ga.

Bulldogs' Robinson is near-hero twice

March 23, 1996|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

DENVER - There is magic in the mountain air for the Syracuse Orangemen. First the Sandias in Albuquerque, N.M., now the Rockies. Are there any mountains in the Meadowlands?

The fourth-seeded Orangemen climbed another peak last night, reaching the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament for the first time in seven years with a breathtaking 83-81 overtime victory over eighth-seeded Georgia here at McNichols Arena.

A leaning three-point shot by All-American John Wallace gave Syracuse (27-8) the victory. It came with 2.8 seconds left in overtime, 4.3 seconds after senior guard Pertha Robinson's three-pointer had given Georgia (21-10) an 81-80 lead. Robinson was a near-hero twice, only to be outdone by the Orangemen.

"I felt I had a good look at the basket," said Wallace, a 6-foot-8, 225-pound senior who's known more for his power inside than his touch outside. "The guy who was guarding just had his hands up. He didn't jump."

It was a 14-footer by Robinson with 3.5 seconds to go in regulation that gave the Bulldogs the lead, and seemingly the victory. But junior guard Jason Cipolla, taking a long crosscourt pass from Wallace, calmly buried a 15-foot baseline shot for Syracuse at the buzzer to tie the score at 70 and send the game into overtime.

Wallace scored the last nine points for the Orangemen to finish with 30 points and 15 rebounds. Junior center Otis Hill added 19 points and 11 rebounds for Syracuse. Robinson scored 21 for the Bulldogs, and Shandon Anderson led Georgia with 25.

"This tournament has been kind of tough to us," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, whose team will play the winner of last night's other West Regional semifinal between second-seeded Kansas and third-seeded Arizona. "We lost to some great teams in overtime. It's good to get one back."

Asked if he had ever suffered a more wrenching defeat as a coach, Georgia's Tubby Smith recalled one at Great Mills High School in Scotland, Md.

"We lost one in seven overtimes," Smith said with a sad smile. "But this was tougher. I thought we did all we could, but they

made a great shot."

The Orangemen nearly didn't get the chance to win. After leading by as many as 13 in the first half and by eight, 38-30, early in the second half, Syracuse watched as Wallace picked up his fourth personal foul and the Bulldogs went on a 20-2 run.

Georgia overcame a horrendous start offensively (making only 10 of its first 32 from the field) and stormed back behind the hot shooting of Robinson, senior guard Katu Davis (16 points) and Anderson. Leading 65-56 with 3: 28 to go in regulation, victory seemed imminent for the Bulldogs.

It wasn't. Syracuse went on a 10-0 run fueled by back-to-back threes by point guard Lazarus Sims to take a 66-65 lead on a post-up power move by Hill with 1: 13 to go. "If Z [Sims] doesn't make those threes, we lose by 10 and go home," said Boeheim.

But the Bulldogs regained the lead on a three-point shot by Robinson with 43.8 seconds left. Wallace tied the game at 68 on a layup with 30.8 seconds to go.

Georgia forward Carlos Strong missed inside with about 10 seconds to go. The Bulldogs were relentless on the boards, as Anderson got the ball and missed in the lane. The ball was slapped out to Robinson, whose shot hit all net.

"After I made the first shot [to take a late lead in regulation], I think we messed up defensively," said Robinson. "After the second shot [to give the Bulldogs the lead in overtime], I just wanted to get back on defense. They made a great shot both times."

The ending was reminiscent of the 1992 NCAA tournament game between Duke and Kentucky, won on a last-second 17-footer by Christian Laettner. Though Wallace's shot didn't send the Orangemen to the Final Four, it got them as close as they've been since losing to Illinois in the 1989 Midwest Regional final.

It was a difficult defeat for the Bulldogs, who were trying to return to the Elite Eight for the first time since they made the Final Four in 1983. This was a team that had underachieved before Smith arrived from Tulsa this season, and they knew how close they came to pulling off another upset.

"It was a very intense game," said Anderson, a senior forward and one of the heroes of last week's stunning victory over top-seeded Purdue. "Both teams made some big shots. It's a bad way to go out. But we're going to go out with our heads held high."

Said Smith, whose team's chances were hurt when its two biggest players, 6-foot-10 Terrell Bell and the 6-9 Strong fouled out, "It probably hasn't hit me yet."

It certainly hit Wallace. As he sat on the bench for more than six minutes nursing his fourth foul, Wallace thought about the possibility of this being his final game. And Boeheim knew it was a gamble putting his star back in with more than 12 minutes left.

"He didn't come come close to committing another foul," said Boeheim.

And what about the last shot? The Syracuse coach smiled. "To be honest, I didn't think he'd make that shot," said Boeheim. "But he never does what I expect."

Just call it a little magic in the mountains.

Pub Date: 3/23/96

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