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Updated: Tuesday, April 8, 2003 1:48 AM EDT
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(3) Syracuse 81, (2) Kansas 78
SYRACUSE ORANGEMEN
Syracuse Orangemen
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KANSAS JAYHAWKS
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NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- This time, Jim Boeheim survived a wild finish at the Superdome.

Hakim Warrick blocked a potential tying 3-pointer with less than a second left and Syracuse captured the first national title in school history by holding on for an 81-78 victory over Kansas.

Syracuse (30-5) erased the memories of its last championship game in the Superdome, a 74-73 loss to Indiana on Keith Smart's late jumper in 1987. That defeat had haunted Boeheim, who said he refused to watch replays of the finish, but finally earned his first national title in 27 years as Syracuse coach.

A dramatic ending seemed unlikely after Josh Pace's basket gave the Orangemen a 76-64 lead with just over five minutes left. But Syracuse got sloppy and missed some free throws, the downfall of so many of its past teams, and Kansas made a late charge.

"We just kind of hung on," Boeheim said. "I was getting some flashbacks about some missed free throws. Maybe this building owed us one game."

Kueth Duany's free throw with 24 seconds to go gave Syracuse an 81-78 lead and Kirk Hinrich misfired on a 3-pointer for Kansas eight seconds later. But Warrick missed a pair at the line, giving the Jayhawks a final chance.

Kansas (30-8) got the ball to Hinrich, who found a wide-open Michael Lee in the left corner. But Lee's attempt was swatted out of bounds by Warrick with seven-tenths of a second to go. Hinrich airballed an off-balance 3-pointer as time expired.

"I saw someone wide open in the corner and I just tried to go out and make a play," Warrick said.

"He just ran out, out of nowhere," Syracuse freshman Carmelo Anthony added. "(He) blocked the ball like he had Twizzler arms."

Anthony led the way with 20 points and a season-high seven assists despite being held scoreless over the final 13 minutes. He became the third freshman in NCAA Tournament history and the first since Louisville's Pervis Ellison in 1986 to earn Most Outstanding Player honors.

"Winning the national championship, it hasn't sunk in right now," Anthony said. "I haven't felt it now. Probably tonight."

Kansas failed in a quest for its third national title and coach Roy Williams fell to 0-2 in title games. The Jayhawks could be headed for a bigger loss if Williams leaves to coach his alma mater, North Carolina.

"I've never been one to like moral victories and I don't like this one," Williams said. "But I love the competitiveness of my kids. I love the way they fought until the very end. And things didn't look good a lot of times during that game, but they never quit playing."

While Anthony again led the team in scoring, fellow freshman Gerry McNamara turned in a sensational first half with six 3-pointers for all of his 18 points. McNamara drained one of his shots from well beyond NBA range over a leaping Hinrich.

"Last game, I shot the ball pretty well," McNamara said. "Coming in, I tried to look for the shot early."

Another freshman, Billy Edelin, was key with strong minutes in the second half. He scored eight of his 12 points over the final 12 minutes - a stretch in which Anthony failed to score.

"Just tried to keep attacking the basket," Edelin said. "Me and Josh got in there and made some plays."

Nick Collison fouled out with 19 points and 21 rebounds, the second-highest total in a title game, in his final appearance for Kansas. But Collison was 1-of-7 at the line in a second half in which the Jayhawks shot a dismal 23.5 percent (4-of-17). They finished at 40 percent (12-of-30).

"Missed too many free throws, 12-for-30," Collison said. "If we shoot 50 percent, we tie. Just wasn't our night."

Syracuse turned in some sizzling shooting in the first half, making 10-of-13 from beyond the arc. A 3-pointer by Duany gave the Orangemen their largest lead at 47-29 with just over five minutes left and Anthony waved a towel in front of the scorer's table, where he was getting ready to re-enter.

The lead was trimmed to 53-42 at halftime - the 53 points was the most scored in the first half of a title game.

"I thought Kansas showed just how great a program they have," Boeheim said. "I think anyone else would have been done the way we shot the ball in the first half."

The Jayhawks closed within 57-54 on Jeff Graves' basket with 15:37 remaining. But a turnover by Graves led to a 3-pointer by Anthony - his final points of the game - that gave Syracuse a 64-58 lead with 13:17 to go.

The Orangemen pushed the lead back out to double digits but finally showed some signs of youth against full-court pressure by the Jayhawks. Edelin was whistled for a five-second violation and Hinrich dunked to cut the deficit to 78-73 with 2:38 remaining.

"It was just that they switched from man-to-man to a half-court trap," Edelin said. "That's part of the game."

Edelin answered with a floater before Lee's layup with a minute to go made it 80-77. Anthony missed a 1-and-1 opportunity and Aaron Miles' tying 3-point attempt was rebounded by Graves, who split a pair at the line.

After Duany's free throw, Warrick turned in the game's biggest play with his block on Lee.

"Michael Lee was wide open," Williams said. "But they closed so quickly because they're so athletic that they blocked the shot."

Keith Langford, fouled out after guarding Anthony, finished with 19 points. Graves collected 16 and 16 rebounds and Hinrich made just 6-of-20 shots for 16 points in his final game.

"I still don't even know how to explain it," Hinrich said. "I knew going in that this was going to be the case, when this game was over. You just hope for a better outcome."

Williams fell to 34-14 in NCAA Tournament games and became the winningest coach in the event without a title. That distinction previously belonged to Boeheim, who improved to 38-21.


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