BOSTON -- Down 17 points with 6:38 to go in the first half, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim reached into his pocket and pulled out his lucky penny -- the "desperation press."
"When that happens, you do whatever you have to in order to win the game," Boeheim said. "You pull out all the stops."
Oklahoma State seemed to come out packing a punch, but couldn't sustain the Syracuse comeback as the Orangemen went on to post a 68-56 win.
"About two minutes into the game, I was thinking about tee times," Boeheim said.
Beginning the game with a 14-2 run, Oklahoma State fans were having Sweet 16 dreams, thinking their Cowboys may be headed to an easy victory, but Syracuse kept sawing away at the OSU lead and Boeheim's golfing plans.
"Seemed like it was 17, then 12, then 10 and then they get to go into the locker room only down six points," Cowboy senior Melvin Sanders said. "That was huge for them because it gave them so much momentum going into the second half."
Syracuse looked as though it was going to follow suit with Louisville, becoming Saturday's latest upset victim in the NCAA Tournament, but a spark late in the half sent a little glimmer of hope running behind the Orangemen into their halftime ‘pep talk.'
With a 29-18 lead, SU's Carmelo Anthony fouled Victor Williams as Williams was driving to the goal. The Cowboy senior knocked down both shots at the charity stripe, the last points OSU would score the rest of the half.
Syracuse began a 6-0 run after that, with five of the points at the hands of Billy Edelin. Edelin led all scorers with 20 points.
"Billy still has a lot to learn -- I think he hinks I pick on him a lot, but it obviously is a good thing," Boeheim joked.
Syracuse kept with its full-court pressure set on defense, something that rattled the Cowboys' ability to communicate with each other.
"We were just not executing," Sanders said. "Guys were not in the right place at the right time; (we) just didn't get the job done."
Full-court pressure isn't something OSU is accustomed to seeing, the loss to the College of Charleston on Nov. 29 being the exception.
"It isn't that Syracuse is really that great of a pressing team; it is just that we really didn't get everyone settled into their spots like we should have, so in that case, yes, (the press) was effective," Sutton said.
Floating on an emotional high and riding on the coattails of the Syracuse crowd, the Orangemen began the second half in the same fashion as they ended the first. The only difference was Syracuse point guard Gerry McNamara.
In the first half, McNamara had no points and three turnovers.
With 14:26 left in the second half, McNamara began the transition into his old self. Coming off a screen on the offensive end, McNamara bumped heads with Victor Williams, causing him to seek medical attention on the sidelines, but not before he drained a 3-pointer which gave Syracuse its first lead of the game.
McNamara said the blow to the head may have helped him find his shot.
"I don't think my right eye was working too good, so I used the left eye to shoot. I had to concentrate a little more. I guess it just knocked some sense into me."
Boeheim said McNamara is one of the keys to the team's offensive success and maybe the defenders should "hit him a little bit earlier next time."
After McNamara left the court to stop his eye from bleeding, the Orangemen were able to up their lead to four but struggled in doing so. With 12:20 to go, Boeheim stood and motioned to a member of his staff and yelled, "You go get Gerry -- tell him to get down here, I need him now."
It was a plea from a coach who saw flashbacks of Oklahoma State's 17-point lead.
"I'm not very patient with the medical people," Boeheim said. "If he can walk, he's going back in the game."
McNamara entered the game again, draining yet another 3-pointer to increase the Syracuse lead to seven.
McNamara went on to score 14 points, 12 of which came from treys.
The Syracuse freshmen Anthony and McNamara collectively average 36 points per game ranking the highest among Division I freshmen duos. OSU's Sanders covered Anthony, holding him to 13 points, well below his 22.7 average.
"They are very talented," Sutton said. "At this point in the season, you can't consider them youngsters anymore. They are going through the Big East which is a great league."
Sutton wasn't pleased with the way his team gave away such a large lead, but all in all he said the Cowboys came out on top.
"In a sense, these guys really overachieved," Sutton said. "This certainly isn't the most talented bunch I have coached, they just worked their tails off to prove they were better than they really were."
Coming off a Friday win over Penn in which OSU's Williams scored a career-high 29 points, the Syracuse defense held him to 10 points. The Cowboys were led offensively by McFarlin, who recorded a double-double pulling down 12 boards and 14 points.
The win over OSU secures a Sweet 16 berth for another Big East team, a conference which now boasts four teams still contending for the national championship.
The last time the Big East had four teams in the Sweet Sixteen was 1985, the same year the league sent three teams in the Final Four.
"Our league as a whole is underrated," McNamara said. "We don't get much attention, but look at us, look at Pitt, Notre Dame, UConn ... we showed today we can go at the conferences that get lots of glory, and we come out on top."
The last time the two teams met in the postseason, Syracuse suffered a 61-69 loss to the Cowboys in a 1999 first-round matchup.
"I didn't even know that, but sure, I guess it kinda makes it that much sweeter now," Anthony said. "Oklahoma State is by far the best, toughest team I have played all year. They made it hard; they made us work out of the gutter to get to Albany."