Syracuse defeats Rutgers 83 - 74

It was the story of the season. Near upset but not enough juice left at the end of the game. Rutgers led the Orangemen for most of the game but couldn't hold off a late second half Syracuse charge. Kareem Wright finished his career with a sensational 20 point, 8 rebound performance.

With nothing left to play for, the question was how would this team respond. The Knights were finishing their season; no Big East Tourney, no post season,  no NIT. Add to that the fact that RU was 0-7 at the dome and that this was going to be a game before a NCAA "on campus" record crowd of 33,071 and you had the recipe for a disaster.

Early on, though, the Knights held their own. Two inside scores by Sean Axani and some good outside shooting by Coleman and Lamizana , in fact, gave the Knights a 14-8 lead at the sixteen minute mark.

When the Knights extended that lead to 7 Syracuse went to a press. The Knights easily broke it and got the ball to Ricky Shields for a lay up to extend their lead to 9 with 13 minutes to go. After Syracuse missed a three, Jerome Coleman hit one to push the Rutgers lead to 22-10 forcing Jim Boeheim to call a timeout to regroup.

It didn't work. Syracuse abandoned the press went to man to man but Rutgers played the Orangemen even and by the nine minute mark the Knights held a 28-15 lead over the 'Cuse.

However, Syracuse kept playing tough "D" and it paid off. Power scores inside by Carmelo Anthony and Hakim Warrick capped off a seven point run to bring the Orange to within six points with six to go in the half. Two minutes later a Kueth Duany three and a Carmelo Anthony jumper cut the lead to only one. The only thing that was keeping Rutgers from falling apart was the rebounding of guard Ricky Shields who was cleaning the boards on Orangemen misses. That, plus the power scoring of Kareem Wright in the paint, was keeping the Knights alive. Still, that wasn't enough as a Gerry McNamara three tied the game with a minute and a half to go. Rutgers came back just before half time to retake the lead on a lay up by Wright. The score at halftime was 38-36.

Kareem Wright and Herve Lamizana led Rutgers with 10 each at the half. The Knights shot .500 for the half from three point range and over .800 from the foul line on 11 for 13 shooting. Carmelo Anthony led the 'Cuse with 14.

To open the second half Syracuse immediately tied the game with a crowd rousing alley oop to Hakin Warrick. But Rutgers quickly quieted the crowd. The Knights answered with a Kareem Wright layup and a short jumper by Axani to take a four point lead. Six straight foul shots by the usually poor shooting Wright pushed the Knights out to a ten point lead at the fifteen  and a half minute mark.

As they did in the first half, Syracuse responded by going t to full court pressure, but this time they had some success. The Orangemen quickly forced a number of Rutgers' turnovers cut the Rutgers lead to three at the eleven minute mark.

This time Waters took a time out and got the Knights to once again deal with the press by attacking it. It worked as Rutgers quickly extended its lead to seven, mainly on foul shots generated by drives to the hoop after the press was broken. At this point, however, Kareem Wright (20 points, 8 rebounds) went to the bench with a shoulder injury. With Lamizana also on the bench with four fouls Syracuse started attacking a tired Sean Axani underneath and cut the Knights lead to one with only six minutes to go in the game.

Waters put Wright back in the game but Syracuse wasn't done and took a three point lead off two hit foul shots and a Kueth Duany put back with just over five minutes to go.

As the clock wound down  the Knights were hanging around until a Keuth Duany three pointer gave Syracuse a seven point lead with two minutes to go. The Orangemen never again gave up the lead and the Knights were left with yet another repeat of the season long refrain of close but not close enough.

The final score was Syracuse 83, Rutgers 74.

Kareem Wright lead Rutgers with 20 points. Sean Axani had 12.

Rutgers finished the season 12-16 and 4-12 in the Big East.


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