Syracuse cleans up its act, Okla. State

Orangemen fall behind by 17 in sloppy first half, then roll to 68-56 victory

East Regional

Ncaa Tournament

March 24, 2003|By Tom Yantz | Tom Yantz,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

BOSTON -- Syracuse staggered through the initial 13 1/2 minutes with turnovers, poor shot selection and lax defense. Name the shortcoming, and you'd find an Orangeman.

Syracuse wasn't supposed to be down by 17 points to Oklahoma State in the second round of the East Regional yesterday at the Fleet Center. "Not with the East semis being right there home in Albany," forward Carmelo Anthony said.

But it looked as if the closest Syracuse would get down the New York Thruway to the Pepsi Arena in Albany was the first rest stop. "I thought we were going to close," said Anthony (Towson Catholic).

But the third-seeded Orangemen registered one of the best comebacks in their basketball history to defeat Oklahoma State, 68-56. Reserve Billy Edelin scored 20 points, and Gerry McNamara weathered a forehead gash that required six stitches after the game to add 14. Ivan McFarlin's 14 led Oklahoma State.

"Mac's tough. He made a three with a bloody face," center Jeremy McNeil said. "Heck, everybody's on this team is tough."

McNeil's four blocks, full-court pressure that disrupted the Cowboys' offense and Anthony's second-half revival helped propel Syracuse (26-5) into a semifinal game against Auburn on Friday.

"Down 17 in the NCAA tournament -- no, I can't ever remember us doing that," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "We've come back 14 or 15 times this season when we've been down in the second half, I think. Usually a good team can do that five times."

This Syracuse team has been different and special, with three of its top players being freshmen: Anthony, Edelin and McNamara.

"They're very talented," Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton said. "At this point in the season, you can't consider them youngsters anymore."

But in the first half, Anthony and McNamara performed like jittery players. They were a combined 0-for-12. Anthony's two free throws were their only points. He didn't resemble an underclassman who likely could be a top-five pick if he chose to enter the NBA draft. He forced shots, dribbled into traffic and reached in on two lazy fouls.

The Cowboys took advantage of Syracuse's shooting 4-for-18 to lead 27-10 with 6:39 left in the first half by dissecting the 2-3 zone.

Anthony sat for the final 3:55 with three fouls. Two Victor Williams free throws put Oklahoma State ahead 31-18. But then Syracuse started its real comeback. Edelin, penetrating and scoring, had 12 points and reserve Josh Pace six. Full-court pressure helped reduce Oklahoma State's lead to 31-25 at halftime.

"We were hyped at halftime," McNeil said. "We knew we could do it."

A bloodied McNamara symbolized this. He and Williams bumped heads as McNamara came off a double screen in the right corner.

"I was a little wobbly," he said. "I could feel the blood, but I had to shoot it because Coach called the play."

His three gave Syracuse its first lead, 40-39. He had to go to the trainer's room with 14:24 to go. With just over 12 minutes left, Boeheim said to assistant coach Mike Hopkins, "I need him back out here." Hopkins went to the locker room. And McNamara was back in the game with 8:36 left and Syracuse ahead 47-43.

Oklahoma State (22-10) never got any closer. Twenty-two turnovers in the game, which Syracuse converted into 17 points, led to its exit.

"We played a great 15 minutes, and the last 25 were probably the worst we played in a long, long time," said forward Melvin Sanders, who did a solid defensive job on Anthony in the first half.

Tom Yantz is a reporter for The Hartford Courant, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

OKLAHOMA STATE--McFarlin 6-11 2-4 14, Sanders 2-10 0-0 4, A.Williams 3-6 1-5 7, V.Williams 4-12 2-2 13, Allen 3-12 4-7 10, Miller 2-2 0-0 4, Weatherspoon 0-0 0-0 0, Gadson 2-9 0-1 4, Steyn 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-63 9-19 56. SYRACUSE--Duany 0-0 0-0 0, Anthony 5-16 2-6 13, Forth 0-1 0-0 0, Warrick 3-8 5-6 11, McNamara 5-13 0-0 14, Edelin 8-12 4-6 20, McNeil 2-3 0-0 4, Pace 3-4 0-0 6. Totals 26-57 11-18 68. Half--Oklahoma St., 31-25. 3-point goals--Oklahoma St. 3-19 (V.Williams 3-10, Gadson 0-1, McFarlin 0-1, Allen 0-3, Sanders 0-4), Syracuse 5-12 (McNamara 4-10, Anthony 1-2). Fouled out--Sanders. Rebounds--Oklahoma St. 47 (McFarlin 12), Syracuse 42 (Anthony, Pace 8). Assists--Oklahoma St. 16 (Allen, V.Williams 4), Syracuse 16 (McNamara 6). Total fouls--Oklahoma St. 19, Syracuse 19. A--18,389.

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