Syracuse tops UConn, 79-76, in wild affair to stay undefeated

first_imgPARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Trevor Cooney, Michael Gbinije and Jim Boeheim walked down the lobby of the Atlantis Resort to a hero’s welcome. Cooney was still in uniform, two large ice bags taped to both of his knees. He waved to the roaring orange-clad fans roped off just inches away. Boeheim high-fived a security guard, whose other hand was occupied with a camera phone, documenting the moment.When the head coach sat down for his press conference, he could hardly be heard over the “Let’s go Orange” roars that permeated throughout the hallway.“It’s like an NCAA (Tournament) game,” Boeheim said.Renewing a Big East rivalry for the first time, Syracuse (5-0) took the lead over Connecticut (4-1) on the back of three-straight 3-pointers in the second half and muscled its way to a 79-76 win in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Syracuse fell down by 10 early and nearly gave up a 10-point lead late, but held on to defeat its first ranked opponent following a season where it had only two top-25 victories.Tyler Lydon scored 16 points and recorded 12 rebounds. Five players scored at least 13, and the Orange recorded 41 rebounds to UConn’s 33.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Both teams are getting up and down at the end, making plays, scoring baskets,” Cooney said. “Those are the type of games you want to play in.”First a long Lydon 3 swished through the net to tie the score at 44. He allowed himself a small celebration running up the court after clanking a fade-away two off the rim just moments before.On the next possession Malachi Richardson hit a 3 from the corner in front of the SU bench with a hand in his face. When SU got the ball back 23 seconds after that, it was a wide-open Gbinije that drained a 3 on the opposite end. UConn coach Kevin Ollie called a timeout and a much larger celebration ensued. It was a 50-47 lead that would only grow and never be given away.Not when Rodney Purvis hit three 3s in less than three minutes to cut the lead back to two. And not when Cooney lost track of the clock and had to shoot a 35-foot 3 with eight seconds left in the game.SU had sustained the first UConn punch. When Sterling Gibbs scored on an easy outlet layup off a Cooney miss, it gave him eight points in the first three minutes and the Huskies a six-point lead. But by the time he stood isolated in the corner of the court, hands at his hips after recording his fourth foul with in the second half, it was clear that Connecticut had no answer for how SU would fight back.“(Syracuse) played a great game in the second half,” Ollie said, “really took it to us offensively.”Cooney didn’t realize that the shot clock was about to expire. Only when there were two ticks left did he heave a miss off the side rim. Tyler Roberson, who had muscled on the glass for four offensive boards, skied up for his fifth and final one. The ball spent the last three seconds of the game in the hands of Richardson, who heaved it all the way down court.The finish was anti-climactic in its sudden end, but antithetical to a game in which no one ever seemed dead. As the clock ran out and Syracuse celebrated, a rivalry was reborn, and Syracuse picked up a season-defining win.After the fanfare of the press conference and after his players began to leave the makeshift locker room, Boeheim went back out to the concourse and sat alone on an armchair big enough to be a throne. There was no one around him, no one to high-five. Just a moment to soak in, if only temporarily.“It was a great game,” Boeheim said. “I can’t say enough for these guys. It was just a really good win.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on November 26, 2015 at 7:47 pm Contact Sam: sblum@syr.edu | @SamBlum3last_img read more