Kansas, Syracuse ousted

No. 13 seed Vermont prevails against Orange in overtime, 60-57

Ncaa Tournament

March 19, 2005|By Ken Davis | Ken Davis,THE HARTFORD COURANT

WORCESTER, Mass. - As T.J. Sorrentine's three-point shot fell through the net in overtime last night, it's quite possible the roar emanating from the DCU Center could be heard all the way to Burlington, Vt.

Retiring Vermont coach Tom Brennan, who went into the evening contemplating the end of his career, wasn't sure he would survive the excitement of the Catamounts' 60-57 upset of fourth-seeded Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA tournament's Austin Regional.

"When that went in, I thought I may burst," Brennan said. "I thought you might find me in pieces around the arena. There's nothing in the world that is that feeling. There's nothing that can make you feel like that except competition."

Sorrentine's three-pointer from 28 feet came as the shot clock was about to expire, with 1:10 left. It gave Vermont, the No. 13 seed, a 59-55 lead that proved insurmountable for Syracuse, the 2003 NCAA champion and one of the favorites to reach this year's Final Four.

Vermont (25-6), playing in the NCAAs for the third straight year, will play Michigan State tomorrow.

Syracuse (27-7), led by Hakim Warrick's 21 points, was held to a season-low scoring output. Guard Gerry McNamara had 11 points on 4-for-18 shooting. He was 1-for-7 from three-point range, including a miss at the end of regulation.

Vermont, from the America East Conference, became the first No. 13 seed to win a first-round game since Tulsa beat Dayton in 2003.

"T.J.'s bomb was like a desperation shot and he knocked it right in," Brennan said. "It's a wonderful win for our program and the biggest win in the history of our school without a doubt."

Germain Mopa Njila scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds and Taylor Coppenrath contributed 16 points as the Catamounts won for the first time in 12 attempts against a Big East opponent.

Mopa Njila gave Vermont a 56-55 lead on a three-pointer with 1:58 left. He followed that with a steal on Syracuse's next possession and Sorrentine worked the shot clock down as he dribbled well beyond the NBA three-point line.

Brennan, who announced Nov. 4 that he would retire after this, his 19th season at Vermont, got the most out of all his players. Forward Martin Klimes drew the tough defensive assignment on Warrick, who also had 12 rebounds but never took over the game. He committed 10 of Syracuse's 24 turnovers.

"Just a lot of disappointment," Warrick said when asked to describe his emotions at the end of the game. "I just didn't want to end my career the way it ended today."

Syracuse led 23-19 at halftime but trailed 41-36 when Sorrentine hit a three-pointer with 5:53 left in regulation. That prompted Orange coach Jim Boeheim to switch to a full-court press, and eight consecutive points by Warrick gave Syracuse a 51-49 lead with 1:13 to go.

An offensive foul by Warrick with the score tied at 51 gave Vermont a chance to win it. But Mopa Njila stepped out of bounds as he drove the left baseline with 3.7 seconds left. His layup didn't count.

"Every player dreams of taking the last shot," Mopa Njila said. "When I stepped on the line, I was kind of mad at myself. When it went into overtime, I was just thinking that I had to step up."

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune publishing newspaper.

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