No. 2 Syracuse beats Connecticut 58-55

By Jim O'connell

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 8 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Syracuse's James Southerland reacts after scoring a three-point basket during the quarterfinal round of the Big East NCAA college basketball conference tournament against Connecticut in New York, Thursday, March 8, 2012. Syracuse beat Connecticut 58-55.

Seth Wenig, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Syracuse and Connecticut had another memorable meeting in the Big East tournament.

The latest game kept Syracuse's strong season moving toward a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and ended Connecticut's memorable postseason streak.

Dion Waiters had 18 points and James Southerland scored all 10 of his points over the final 8 minutes to lead No. 2 Syracuse to a 58-55 victory Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.

The top-seeded Orange (31-1) won their 11th straight game overall and advanced to face fourth-seeded Cincinnati in the semifinals on Friday night at Madison Square Garden. The Bearcats beat No. 13 Georgetown 72-70 in double-overtime.

This was their first game after earning a double-bye into the quarterfinals.

"I hate sitting around all week, and it's very difficult," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "I'm glad that we were able to get a win. We haven't played that many games and we need to play again. Tomorrow's game will help us, but this was a tremendous comeback. This team has been very good down the stretch all year, and that was the case today."

The Huskies had their 13-game postseason winning streak snapped and ended a chance at making history for a second straight year.

Shabazz Napier had 15 points and Andre Drummond added 14 for the ninth-seeded Huskies (20-13), who were trying to duplicate last year's first-ever five-game run to the Big East tournament title that was followed by a six-game streak that brought the school its third national championship.

"The anguish I feel is disappointment for them," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said of his team. "They were primed mentally today to do something very special and almost pulled it off. ... No one can tell you that it wasn't a good team who was wearing blue today. Did we shoot great? No. Did we make great decisions? No. Did we play with great heart and great intensity and did we play for us and each other? Without a doubt, and I couldn't be prouder of them."

In the semifinals last year, Connecticut beat the Orange 76-71 in overtime. In the previous meeting in the tournament in 2009, Syracuse won 127-117 in a six-overtime quarterfinal.

This one ended in 40 minutes, but there once again was the chance at playing past the regulation buzzer.

The Huskies, who beat DePaul and West Virginia in the first two rounds, went 7 minutes without a field goal and during that span Syracuse was able to take the lead for good on a fallaway jumper by Waiters that made it 48-47 with 5:41 to play.

Southerland, who came into the game averaging 6.6 points, hit his second 3-pointer 16 seconds later to make it 51-47. Drummond converted an alley-oop pass from Napier with 2:32 left, the first time the Huskies were within three points.

The last time they were that close was 58-55 with 4.6 seconds left on a reverse by Drummond. After a timeout, the Orange were able to inbound the ball and run out the clock.

"We got James open a couple times. He's a tremendous shooter," Boeheim said. "He can make those shots, and he made them early in the year. He struggled a little bit during the week, but he's been making them in practice. He looked good the last game, made a big one, and we think he can make those shots and be a factor for us, a big factor for us the rest of the way. So it was good for him to get those looks.

"Our guys are very unselfish. They found him in there and got him the ball."

And Southerland, a 6-foot-8 junior from New York, knew what to do when they did.

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