PISCATAWAY, New Jersey (Ticker) -- A little-used reserve and a fortuitous roll allowed Syracuse to become the first team in Division I to reach 20 wins.
Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara scored 21 points apiece as No. 4 Syracuse overcame an 18-point halftime deficit in an 86-84 victory over Rutgers in a Big East Conference squeaker.
Syracuse trailed by 20 in the first half and was down, 54-36, at the half before rallying for its 13th straight victory.
Terence Roberts, who played just 12 minutes in the contest, followed a miss by Josh Pace en route to converting a three-point play that gave the Orange an 86-84 lead with 7.2 seconds remaining.
But Syracuse committed a defensive blunder that almost cost it the game.
After Roberts' foul shot, Rutgers got the ball past midcourt and called a timeout with 3.8 seconds to play. The Scarlet Knights inbounded the ball to center Dave Waterstradt near the top of the key. McNamara left his man to double-team and Waterstradt passed to a wide-open Quincy Douby in the left corner.
Douby had a clean look at a 3-pointer but his shot rolled around the rim and fell out as time expired.
"We were lucky on that last play," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "We wanted to stay with Douby. I don't know how you let the best shooter on the team open. We were lucky there. Sometimes I guess you need a little bit of luck."
The Orange (20-1, 7-0 Big East) came out after the break in a full-court press and used a 17-4 run in the first 2 1/2 minutes to cut the deficit to five.
"A tremendous comeback," Boeheim said. "This is a tough place to play. We lost here two times in a row. ... These guys just wanted it in the second half. They went after it. Rutgers played great.
"Second half, our press won the game. We got seven points in about 45 seconds, and started taking the ball to the hoop. We started moving the ball on offense and found the open man when they double-teamed."
Warrick, who scored seven points in the run, picked up his fourth foul with 9:23 to play and Rutgers leading, 72-69, but that couldn't slow down Syracuse.
"I was just more aggressive in the second half," Warrick said. "I attacked and took it to the rim. I settled for a lot of fadeaways earlier."
Pace gave the Orange a 75-74 edge with a jump hook from the left baseline with 7:42 to go and Syracuse remained ahead until Ricky Shields knocked down a 3-pointer to give Rutgers (7-9, 1-5) an 82-81 lead with 1:40 remaining.
A runner by Billy Edelin with just under a minute left gave Syracuse an 83-82 lead, but Rutgers seemed poised to pull out its biggest win against a ranked opponent ever when Waterstradt converted two free throws with 27 seconds left after being fouled on a defensive rebound.
Rutgers beat sixth-ranked West Virginia, 74-64, on February 27, 1982.
McNamara shot 8-of-18 and knocked down five 3-pointers for the third straight game. Warrick scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the second half.
Edelin, who scored 12 points against West Virginia on Saturday, had a season-high 14 in this one. Pace added 14 and tied a career high with seven assists for the Orange, who shot 56 percent (20-of-36) after halftime.
"(Edelin) is a key guy," Warrick said. " He's really going to help us, just a veteran guy - old school. He does the little things that help us win."
Shields scored 20 points and tied his career high with 11 rebounds and freshman Ollie Bailey added 18 points for the Scarlet Knights, who shot just 28 percent (7-of-25) in the second half.
Rutgers took control in the last seven minutes of the first half with a 26-6 run. Shields knocked down three 3-pointers and scored 11 points during the run as the Scarlet Knights took a 54-36 lead into the locker room.
Syracuse, which came into the game second in the conference in field-goal defense at 38 percent, allowed Rutgers to shoot 56 percent (18-of-32) in the half.