Orange Gifted a Win?

The game between Syracuse (22-1, 9-1) and West Virginia (15-7, 5-4) on Saturday finished in regulation, but perhaps it shouldn't have. A questionable non-call by the referees down the stretch propelled the Orange to a 63-61 victory.

In a game with bookend shots by Big East Player of the Year front-runner Kevin Jones, you would assume that West Virginia upset Syracuse at home on Saturday. The difference was that the second shot, which was from three-point range, missed.

But that wasn't the controversy.

On the previous play, Daryl Bryant shot a three-pointer that missed and Deniz Kilicli got the rebound and put up a quick shot before Baye Moussa Keita could get his hands on it - after it hit the backboard.

"I went in for it, and luckily they called a block," said Keita. "I can't do anything about it."

"I don't think he did...I know he did," Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins said when asked if Kilicli's shot was goaltended.

Instead of a call that would have tied the game and given the Orange the chance to win with eight seconds left, it stood as a block. Kris Joseph then snagged the ricochet and appeared to get fouled after putting the ball on the floor, and again the referees swallowed their collective whistle.

After the inbounds and a couple of passes, Jones then hoisted up the shot that missed to give SU a two-point win.

"We challenged and we challenged," Orange coach Jim Boeheim said. "The game should have been over once Kris got the loose ball.

"I don't know what in the world he was thinking."

Before the questionable sequence, Syracuse pulled ahead after Brandon Triche knocked down a pair of free throws with 88 seconds left – which ended up being the final points of the game. Triche led the team with 18 points, 12 in the second half including five straight at one point.

"I thought Brandon was great, he made some huge plays for us," said Boeheim. "He really stepped up."

Joseph paired with Triche over the final three minutes to score SU's final seven points, just enough for the win.

"If you just play hard when you face a little adversity, you'll be able to pull through," said Joseph.

Leading up to the end of the game, it was a back and forth affair filled with nine ties and five lead changes, mostly in the second half.

The Mountaineers were in control for most of the first 20 minutes, until the Orange closed out the half on an 8-0 run aided by the defense forcing a pair of WVU shot-clock violations and capped by Scoop Jardine's buzzer-beating three to put SU up 28-24.

But the shots from long range went about as well for Syracuse as the rebounding battle did. West Virginia hauled in 41 rebounds to SU's 20 and the Orange only hit 4 of 20 shots from long range.

"This is the type of game that you need," said Triche. "It was a character game; we showed heart and toughness and got the W."

"Everything went their way," said Jardine. "But we got stops at the right time and we made baskets at the right time."

Jones led West Virginia with 20 points and eight rebounds. He missed each of his last two attempts from long range in the final 66 seconds though he accounted for the last three WVU points.

Orange freshman Rakeem Christmas fouled out with 4:58 to play, and Keita played the rest of the way with four fouls. The two have been playing off of each other in the absence of Fab Melo, who missed his third straight game with off-the-court issues.


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