Syracuse Wins a Wild One

A close game often comes down to a few plays the winning team made that the losing team didn't, and Syracuse's 86-84 overtime victory was no different.

A close game often comes down to a few plays the winning team made that the losing team didn't, and Syracuse's 86-84 overtime victory was no different. It was decided on three big ones:

First, was Syracuse center Darryl Watkins' free-throw attempts with 41 seconds left in regulation. The whole Dome collectively bit its fingernails when Watkins- whose shooting form makes even the most loyal Orange fan cringe -was fouled by Rutgers' Jimmie Ingles on a rebound. With the Orange down a point, 72-71, the game was in the hands of a 45 percent free-throw shooter.

"I wasn't really nervous," Watkins said afterwards. He was quickly interrupted by his hysterically laughing teammate: Terrence Roberts. The whole press room laughed.

Nervous or not, Watkins hit the first free-throw and the Dome erupted. He had tied it up. It would be too much to ask for him to hit the second, and the fans were happy Watkins gave his team a chance to keep playing. The second shot left his fingers.

"He's been working on it," Coach Jim Boeheim said. "You see in practice where he is getting better."

The work paid off just as the ball cleared the rim and fell through the net, giving Syracuse a 73-72 lead. The worst free-throw shooter on the team had just hit two in a row to keep Jim Boeheim from going on his first ever five-game losing streak.

The game was supposed to be over after two more free throws by Demetris Nichols, who led Syracuse with 24 points in the absence of the team's leading scorer: Gerry McNamara. The senior guard left the game with five minutes left in the first half because of a deep thigh bruise. He didn't return.

Nichols free-throws put the Orange up three with nine seconds remaining. Syracuse focused on stopping Rutgers guard Quincy Douby on the final possession. Douby had scored a career high 38 points already, and Boeheim wasn't going to let him have any more.

"We were so concerned with Douby," Boeheim said. "You want somebody else to beat or tie you."

With three people on Douby, the junior passed to the baseline with five seconds left on the clock, and Marquis Webb hit a wide open 3-pointer.


2-minutes, 30-seconds remained in the overtime period, and the Orange was down one, 79-78 with the ball. An errant pass across the wing was stolen by Douby with nothing but wood and nylon in front of him. The closest man was Nichols.

"In the timeout we said we were not going to allow any lay-ups," Nichols said. "So I said to myself, ‘I have to get back and block this, or coach is going to go crazy.' "

Nichols ran after Douby from three steps behind him, and the opposite side of the court.

"I thought he was going to let me have (the lay-up)," Douby said.

He was wrong, and Nichols came across hoop and swatted the ball against the backboard, right into the hands of a Syracuse player. Just four seconds later Syracuse freshman Eric Devendorf had a lay-up on the other end of the court.

The block caused a four point swing that gave the Orange an 80-79 lead instead of 81-78 deficit.

Then came "The Shot."

Only eight seconds remained in overtime when Rutgers freshman Anthony Farmer hit an unlikely 3-pointer to give the Scarlet Knights a one point lead, 84-83.

But, that wasn't "The Shot."

The Orange didn't stop the clock. The ball was in-bounded to Syracuse point guard Josh Wright.

"With eight seconds to go we weren't going to take a timeout," Boeheim said. "There's no way you are going to get much of a shot."

Wright dribbled down the court and looked to penetrate on his defender. When a second Rutgers player trapped Wright, the sophomore flipped the ball back behind the 3-point line to Terrence Roberts.

The same Terrence Roberts who air-balled a free-throw earlier in the game. The same Terrence Roberts who had only attempted five 3-pointers on the season. And, the same Terrence Roberts who now held the game in his hands.

"I looked at the clock and glanced to see if anyone else was open," Roberts said. "I knew I had to take it."

He set his feet and let the ball go from his hands.

"I said to (assistant coach Mike Hopkins), when it was in the air, it was good," Gerry McNamara said.

Douby had other ideas.

"As soon as he let it go I'm looking to get the rebound," Douby said. "I turned around (and) I saw it go right through the net."

Pure joy filled the Dome and the Syracuse players as the last .4 seconds ran off the clock and the score read Syracuse-86, Rutgers-84.

"I don't know if the last shot's going to be drawn up for me anymore," McNamara said with a smile.

Boeheim disagreed.

"(Roberts) shoots that shot every day (in practice)," Boeheim said. "I just tell him never to shoot it in the game."

Well he did, and in a game of big shots, it was the biggest.

"I've made big shots, big plays," Roberts said. "But that was by far the biggest shot I've ever made."

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