'Cuse's comeback kids have to hang on to beat AuburnPosted: Friday March 28, 2003 11:59 PM
Updated: Saturday March 29, 2003 1:51 AM
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Syracuse hung on instead of coming back and the Orangemen are suddenly the only Big East team still around.
Freshman Carmelo Anthony scored all 18 of his points in the second half and the third-seeded Orangemen beat 10th-seeded Auburn 79-78 Friday night in the East Regional semifinals.
There was no need for another comeback this time as the Orangemen (27-5) moved on to the round of eight for the seventh time overall and fourth under coach Jim Boeheim.
"We got off to a great start and we're not used to being in that situation," Boeheim said.
Syracuse will play top-seeded Oklahoma on Sunday with the winner advancing to the Final Four. The Sooners (27-6) beat 12th-seeded Butler 65-54 Friday night.
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.
Syracuse rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat Oklahoma State in the second round, marking the 14th time this season the Orangemen came back to win.
There was no need for that this time, although this victory wasn't a sure thing until the final ticks as the Tigers (22-12) hit four 3-pointers over the final 1:18.
The last of those was by Nathan Watson at what most of the crowd thought was 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 Kueth 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."
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, who struggled against the Tigers' triangle-and-2 defense.
Duany, scoreless in seven minutes in the win over Oklahoma State, had eight points in the opening 2:25 against Auburn as the Orangemen took a 10-2 lead.
Freshman Gerry McNamara then took over for Syracuse, scoring seven points in less than three minutes as Syracuse went up 19-7.
Pace, one of the big pluses Syracuse had off the bench last Sunday, scored six points -- almost double his average -- as the Orangemen led by as much as 33-16 on the way to a 37-27 halftime lead.
Auburn shot 30 percent (9-for-30) against the 2-3 zone in the first half and the Tigers hurt themselves with 13 turnovers, only two off what they average for a game.
"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.
Anthony said he hadn't seen a triangle-and-2 this season.
"The defense they threw at me got me out of synch. I kind of got impatient," he said.
Bird was the main defender on Anthony in the man-to-man and triangle-and-2.
"I just tried to limit his touches and front him a little bit and make it frustrating for him," he said.
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.