Extra MustardSI On CampusFantasyPhoto GalleriesSwimsuitVideoFanNationSI KidsTNT
NCAA Basketball Scores Schedules Bracket Teams Stats Women's Tournament News
Updated: Friday, March 18, 2005 11:44 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
Recap | Box Score | Today's Scoreboard
(13) Vermont 60, (4) Syracuse 57 (ot)

WORCESTER, Massachusetts (Ticker) -- Germain Mopa Njila made sure that this would not be Tom Brennan's final game on the sideline.

Mopa Njila hit a clutch 3-pointer and collected a key steal as 13th-seeded Vermont answered some of its critics with a 60-57 overtime victory over fourth-seeded Syracuse in the first round of the Austin Region.

It was the first NCAA Tournament win in school history.

A heavily criticized team this season because of having an RPI in the top 25 for most of the season, the Catamounts (25-6) became the first America East Conference team to win a game in the NCAA Tournament since Drexel knocked off Memphis in 1996, 75-63.

Brennan, who left the court with both of his arms in the air in celebration, is retiring after completing his 19th season as coach.

"I've been getting some heat because of my gushing toward the fans - too bad, too bad," said Brennan, whose team beat a ranked opponent for the first time since 1950. "I just looked into the stands and people were just (exhilarated). Do you know how many people were just exhilarated right now?"

Appearing unintimidated by the speed and athleticism of the Orange, Mopa Njila highlighted his stellar performance by hitting a 3-pointer from the right wing that gave the Catamounts a 56-55 lead with two minutes remaining in the extra period.

"I just played my role on the team," said Mopa Njila, who combined with fellow seniors Taylor Coppenrath and T.J. Sorrentine to pull the upset. "Those two guys are by far our best players and I just tried to help them when they had good defense on them."

Mopa Njila, whose basket at the end of regulation was nullified when he stepped on the baseline, then pulled the ball away from Hakim Warrick when he tried to make an underhanded pass in the lane, setting up a deep 3-pointer by Sorrentine.

"It was really important," Mopa Njila said. "When the game was tied, every player has a dream to make the last shot. When I stepped on the line, I was muttering to myself. And when we went to overtime, I just said to myself, 'You have to step up.'"

The 3-pointer by Sorrentine made it 59-55 with 71 seconds to play and brought most of the crowd at the DCU Center to its feet.

"When that went it, 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 can make you feel like that."

"We were up one and a minute left," Sorrentine added. "We were just holding the ball, happy to have the ball. The (shot clock) got to be about 15 and I looked over and coach said, 'Run red, run red.' I said, 'Nah, hold on and relax.' I knew it was good when it left. I had one more in me."

Syracuse lost in the first round for the just the second time in its last 12 NCAA appearances.

"We put ourselves in that position," said coach Jim Boeheim of the Orange's defense on Sorrentine's 3-pointer. "It was a tough shot but give him credit, he made it."

Syracuse cut the deficit to 59-57 on a runner by Josh Pace with 1:01 left, but had a costly turnover on its next possession when Gerry McNamara dribbled off teammate Terrence Roberts' foot near halfcourt for a over-and-back penalty with 15 seconds remaining.

The turnover by McNamara was the final of 24 on the night for the Orange. Warrick, the Big East Player of the Year and a Naismith Award candidate, finished his collegiate career with 10 turnovers.

"I thought both teams played tremendous defense the entire game," Boeheim said. "It was just a real hard-fought battle. We just made too many turnovers in an NCAA game to have a chance to win."

Martin Klimes then split two free throws for Vermont and McNamara missed a running 3-pointer with three seconds remaining to seal the upset.

Mopa Njila scored a career-high 20 points and pulled down nine rebounds for the Catamounts, who next will face either Michigan State or Old Dominion in the second round on Sunday.

Warrick, who was held scoreless for most of the second half, finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds and McNamara had just 11 points on 4-of-18 shooting for Syracuse (27-7), which lost in the first round for the first time since 1999.

"We knew they had really good players in Coppenrath and Sorrentine," said Warrick, who moved into fourth place on the all-time scoring list, passing Syracuse great Sherman Douglas. "We knew they were going to try and spread us out, get Coppenrath the ball and work off him. They did a good job of spreading us out and hitting some clutch shots down the stretch."

It was the final game for seniors Warrick and Pace, who helped lead the Orange to the national title in 2003.

"Just a lot of disappointment," Warrick said. "Just felt we could've played a lot better and it's just a lot of disappointment. I just didn't want to end my career the way it ended today."

"I think we really can't say we had a bad career," Pace added. "We had a lot of positives but you never want to end on a note like this. The positives outlast the negatives, but we never want to end a game like this or a career like this."


© 2005 STATS, Inc
Search