NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- Carmelo Anthony started his career at Syracuse with a fine performance in the first game of the college basketball season. He turned in another that ensured he will play in the last game of the season.
Anthony poured in a career-high 33 points and fellow freshman Gerry McNamara added 19 as Syracuse advanced to its third national championship game with a 95-84 victory over Texas.
Syracuse (29-5) will make its first appearance in the national title game since 1996. The Orangemen improved to 4-0 against Big 12 Conference foes this season and face another in Kansas on Monday.
As he has been for much of the season, Anthony was the catalyst. The freshmen sensation had a spectacular debut to his career with 27 points and 11 rebounds in a loss to Memphis that kicked off the college basketball season on November 14, and he's only gotten better.
"We lost the first game of the season," said Anthony, who also grabbed 14 rebounds. "To be able to play the last game of the season on a stage like this is unbelievable."
The Orangemen took control with a 19-5 tear that opened a 78-66 advantage with just under seven minutes too go. Anthony capped the run with a long jumper and a reverse dunk.
Texas (26-7) pulled within 89-84 on Brian Boddicker's 3-pointer with 67 seconds left and called a timeout.
With Anthony inbounding, Syracuse seemed headed for a five-second violation when he finally found an open Hakim Warrick. Noticing his defender had turned his head, Anthony cut to the basket, took a return feed and gently laid it in for a 91-84 edge with 40 seconds left.
"I mean every point they score, you can almost attribute to Carmelo when he's in the game, because he makes you help, he makes you rotate," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "Tonight, every time they needed to make a big play, he made it."
Now Anthony has a chance to become the first freshman to be named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player since Louisville's Pervis Ellison in 1986.
"Our confidence is pretty high right now," Anthony said. "We made it to the championship."
Syracuse gets a chance to redeem itself from the memories of its 1987 national championship loss at the Superdome to Indiana on Keith Smart's famous jumper. It would also give coach Jim Boeheim his first crown.
"I've had a great career," Boeheim said. "If I never coached another game after tonight, I'd be very happy. People won't believe that. I don't really care, you know."
Brandon Mouton scored 25 points to lead the Longhorns but was limited to five in the second half. T.J. Ford handed out 13 assists, the highest total in this NCAA tournament.
Texas never has won the national title, also falling in the semifinals in 1947 and the title game in 1943. Those appearances came in eight-team NCAA Tournaments.
"We did a lot of things that never have been done in Texas basketball history," Ford said. "We went out, played the best we could. Didn't turn out the way we wanted it to."
The Orangemen never trailed in the first half, leading by as many as nine points. The Longhorns made a strong push at the end of the half and Royal Ivey's basket cut the deficit to 48-45 at intermission.
Ford was limited to five points in the first half and came out with the first six for Texas in the second. Ford found an open Mouton for a 3-pointer and a 61-59 edge with 12:12 remaining.
Syracuse regained the advantage with a pair of free throws each from Warrick and Josh Pace. McNamara took a feed from Pace, drilled a 3-pointer and let out a scream as the Orangemen claimed a 66-61 advantage with 10:46 to go.
"I'm an emotional person," McNamara said. "I was trying to get a little bit of the crowd going and myself."
A 3-pointer by Boddicker cut the deficit to 80-75 with 3:47 left. After Anthony and McNamara were each bottled up the Longhorns' defense, Pace came though with a floater that beat the shot clock.
"They were pretty much keying on me the whole game," Anthony said. "They didn't respect Hakim or Gerry or the other guys."
Warrick collected 18 points and seven rebounds and Pace netted 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting off the bench. The Orangemen also had a big night at the foul line, shooting 77 percent (24-of-31).
Syracuse shot 57 percent (32-of-56) overall, including a 7-of-13 showing from beyond the arc. Anthony made 3-of-4 3-pointers.
"I knew that it would be an offensive game," Boeheim said. "Texas can score points against any defense."
Mouton slowed down in the second half and made just 2-of-8 shots. Freshman Brad Buckman made all six shots and fouled out with 14 points and fellow starting forward James Thomas added 13.
"They executed their game plan and we didn't really," Thomas said. "They just came out and played."
Ford and Boddicker scored 12 points apiece for Texas, which shot 35.5 percent (11-of-31) in the second half.
Boeheim became only the fourth coach to lead a team to the title game in three different decades. He joins Duke's Mike Kryzewski, Kentucky's Adolph Rupp and North Carolina's Dean Smith, who did it in four different decades.