Orange Fall To 'Bama In Sweet 16

Their reign as National Champs is over.<br><br> Syracuse's hope for a return trip to the Final Four fell short in the Valley of The Sun on Thursday as eighth-seeded Alabama defeated the fifth-seeded Orangemen, 80-71 in the Phoenix Regional semifinals at America West Arena.<br><br>

Syracuse finishes the season 23-8, while Alabama ups its record to 20-12 and will face the second-seed UConn Huskies in the regional finals. UConn defeated Vanderbilt 73-53 in the other semifinal game.

"It's hard to repeat anything," said junior Josh Pace who finished with six points and tied his personal best with seven assists . "When you win, teams are looking for you more than they're looking at everybody else. You're going to catch a team's best shot. All year teams have been giving us their best shot."

That Alabama did, not to mention the 18 turnovers that Syracuse committed that squandered any hopes of a repeat for a national title.

"That's what got us tonight," head coach Jim Boeheim said. "When they took control of the second half, we had as good of a run as we had made all year but we made some uncharacteristically bad turnovers, and that really hurt us."

Sophomore Gerry McNamara led SU with a game-high 24 points on 6-of-14 shooting. McNamara hit 4-of-9 three point attempts in the contest, tying Marius Janulis for third on the Orangemen's career three-point field goals ledger with 190 triples. McNamara now has 1,001 points in his two seasons. He is the 47th Syracuse performer to scored at least 1,000 career markers.

Junior Hakim Warrick scored 21 points, including 15 in the first half. He also pulled down eight rebounds. Freshman Louie McCroskey tied his career best with 10 points off the bench.

Alabama's 3-point barrage offset Syracuse's dominance inside through the first half, putting the Crimson Tide up 38-36 at the break.

Alabama went 8-for-15 on 3s in the first half, with Kennedy Winston and Earnest Shelton each going 4-for-6. Winston scored 15 and Shelton 13 in the first 20 minutes, while Antonie Pettway had two treys and six assists.

Alabama started the game 4-of-5 from three-point range as it jumped out to a 14-6 advantage with 16:19 left in the first half. Winston, scored nine points during the stretch all on three-pointers. Warrick scored six of SU's first eight points and also connected on a pair of free throws as the Orange cut the lead to 20-16 at 10:14. After a basket by Pace, Warrick hit a jumper to tie the game, 20-20, but Shelton drained consecutive three's to put Alabama ahead, 26-20 at the 8:04 mark. The Orangemen responded with a 9-2 run to grab a 29-28 margin at 5:19. A three by Pettway gave the Crimson Tide a 38-33 lead, but McCroskey connected on a trey to cut the lead to two, 38-36 at the half.

The Crimson Tide opened up the second half with a three by Shelton and took a six-point lead, 45-39, on two free throws by Chuck Davis with 16:23 remaining. Davis scored the next four points for Alabama to increase its advantage to 10 at 13:41. After a three-point play by McCroskey, back-to-back field goals by the Crimson Tide's Evan Brock and Davis gave Alabama a 53-42 lead at the 12:20 mark. With the score 53-44, McNamara hit for eight straight points, including consecutive threes to cut the Tide's lead to 55-52, and Warrick tied the game with a three-point play at 8:45. Alabama went on an 8-0 run to open up a 65-57 lead with 6:12 left to play. Two free-throws by Winston increased the Tide's lead to 10, 72-62 with 3:29 remaining and Shelton connected on two shots from the charity stripe to extend the lead to 78-64 with 1:35 left on the clock. Syracuse pulled within nine points on a dunk by Warrick with a little over a minute left, but could not get any closer.

"They did a good job of fronting me," Warrick said, "and they had good weak-side help. When I got the ball, I just didn't finish when I was around the basket."

Alabama shot .500 from the floor (26-52) and was 9-of-22 from beyond the arc (.409). Syracuse was 26-of-55 from the field and 4-of-10 from three-point range.

Shelton led Alabama with 22 points. He was 4-of-8 three's and was 8-of-8 from the charity stripe. Davis finished with 19 points, 17 of which came in the second half. Winston also tallied 19 points and Pettway contributed 10 points and dished out nine assists.

"We're not satisfied because we wanted to go to the Final Four," Syracuse freshman Demetris Nichols said. "We did some good things as a team, but we're not satisfied."

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