March 11, 2011
Kings of MSG
Orange rally past St. John’s for quarterfinal win
NEW YORK (AP) — Syracuse is back in the Big East tournament semifinals. The players who came up big for the Orange in the quarterfinals don’t have any experience in those kind of games.
Sophomore guard Brandon Triche had a season-high 22 points and freshman center Fab Melo scored a career-high 12, including two layups in the final 2 minutes, and No. 11 Syracuse beat No. 17 St. John’s 79-73 on Thursday.
The fourth-seeded Orange (26-6) will meet ninth-seeded and 21st-ranked Connecticut (24-9) in the semifinals Friday night. The Huskies beat top-seeded Pittsburgh 76-74 on Kemba Walker’s buzzer-beating jumper Thursday.
The last time Syracuse and Connecticut met in the Big East tournament it was the Orange’s epic 127-117, six-overtime win in the quarterfinals in 2009. Last season, it was one and done for the Orange, who are expected to be one of the Big East’s 11 schools in the NCAA’s field of 68.
“Any team, you look around the country, they’re all good teams,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “Our league, we have the most this year, but they’re all good teams.”
Melo, a 7-foot native of Brazil who has been inconsistent in his rookie season, gave the Orange the lead for good at 70-68 with a layup off an inbounds pass with 2 minutes left.
He added another layup on a bounce pass from Triche that made it 74-70 with 32 seconds left.
“He has had good practices and he did play well at DePaul,” Boeheim said, referring to Melo’s previous career high, 10 points against the Blue Demons. “I think I played him against Georgetown and he made a couple big plays. ... Having the 10 days of practice we had, I think those practices were huge for him. He’s really worked hard in practice. He made some really huge plays out there.”
Melo’s layup with 2 minutes left came on a designed out-of-bounds play by Boeheim. The second late layup came on a nice bounce pass from Triche down low.
“I get on him a lot because he doesn’t try using his body and he’s really big, but he used his body,” Triche said. “I passed it to his off hand and he was able to make the play.”
Dwight Hardy had 22 points for the Red Storm (21-11), who advanced to the quarterfinals with a controversial second-round win over Rutgers.
After their 65-63 victory Wednesday, the conference admitted the officials missed two calls in the final seconds that should have gone against St. John’s and turned the ball over to the Scarlet Knights.
No controversy this time as Syracuse closed the game by going 5 of 6 from the free throw line over the final 26 seconds.
“Our team has a maturity about them that has allowed us all year to persevere, and persevere through tough stretches and handle a big win and a tough loss with the same approach,” first-year St. John’s coach Steve Lavin said. “Just to come back and continue to work and try to elevate our level of play so we can reach our goals and aspirations, and that’s to play in the NCAA tournament, that’s what I focused on in the postgame talk.”
St. John’s, which entered with an 8-1 record at Madison Square Garden this season (the only loss to Syracuse), stayed close in the second half despite playing without versatile senior guard D.J. Kennedy, who injured his right knee 51/2 minutes into the game and didn’t return.
The school announced Thursday night that Kennedy tore his ACL and will need surgery. He won’t be available for the NCAA tournament.
Kennedy, one of 10 seniors on the roster who treated St. John’s fans to the program’s best season in almost a decade, will have to watch when the Red Storm make their first trip to the NCAAs since 2002.
No. 21 Connecticut 76, No. 3 Pittsburgh 74: Kemba Walker hit the winning basket on a classic stepback jumper at the buzzer and Connecticut stunned Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.
Walker got the ball at the top of the key with 15 seconds left and found himself guarded by 6-foot-10 Gary McGhee after the Panthers switched on a screen. The shifty guard used a crossover and shoulder roll to dump McGhee to the ground, then calmly swished the shot.
The Huskies (24-9) have won three games in three days after a late-season slide sent them to the No. 9 seed in the Big East tournament.
No. 4 Notre Dame 89, No. 25 Cincinnati 51: Ben Hansbrough led a brutally efficient attack with 23 points and Notre Dame dismantled one of the nation’s best defenses in a quarterfinal rout of Cincinnati at the Big East tournament.
The league’s player of the year had plenty of help.
Carleton Scott scored 18 points and Tim Abromaitis had 17 for the Fighting Irish (26-5), who have already won more games than in any other season under longtime coach Mike Brey.
Sporting its highest national ranking since December 1980, second-seeded Notre Dame rolls into the semifinals tonight having won five straight games and 12 of 13 overall.
Dion Dixon scored 15 points for the Bearcats (25-8), who shot just 32.8 percent from the field and 8 of 17 at the foul line. They went the final 7:25 without scoring.
No. 14 Louisville 81, Marquette 56: Mike Marra hit six 3-pointers and had 22 points to lead the third-seeded Cardinals (24-8), who will play second-seeded Notre Dame tonight in the semifinals.
Marra was 6-of-10 from 3-point range and led Louisville’s 13-for-31 effort from behind the arc (41.9 percent) as the Cardinals won their fifth in six games and moved on to the Big East semis for the third time. They won their only Big East tournament title in 2009.
Jimmy Butler had 14 points for 11th-seeded Marquette (20-14), which beat Providence in the opening round and sixth-seeded West Virginia in the second round to reach the quarterfinals. The Golden Eagles were looking for their third semifinal appearance.
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