The Bearcats shredded Syracuse's famed 2-3 zone from the start, making six of their first seven 3-point attempts. They made eight of their first 10 shots from beyond the arc in taking a 34-17 lead with 5:43 left in the first half, with Kilpatrick going 4 of 4. That was one point shy of Syracuse's biggest deficit this season, and that came at Notre Dame in its only loss. It was only the third time this season the Orange trailed by double figures.
The sellout crowd of 20,057, which was wearing a lot of orange, was stunned as Syracuse shot 31 percent in the first half (9 of 29), while the Bearcats went 13 of 26 and had an assist on all but one of the field goals. A modest 6-1 run to close the half had Syracuse within 35-23.
The crowd came alive as the Orange chipped away at the lead. They became the team with the touch from 3-point range, shooting 9 of 17 in the second half while Cincinnati missed its first six 3s. Kilpatrick made the Bearcats' only 3s of the second half in nine attempts, the second from the left corner as the shot clock ran out that made it 65-55 with 1:47 to play.
"Cashmere just told me to stay in the corner, and then Coach was telling me to go to the corner because Kris Joseph, he was going to come up and play Cash because Cash was hot, as well, throughout the game," Kilpatrick said. "Once he played Cash, I was just wide open, so it was a good thing that Cash caught me."
The Orange, though, weren't done.
Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph and Waiters all made a 3 in the final 37 seconds. Waiters' 3 made it 68-66 with 17 seconds to play.
JaQuon Parker made one of two free throws with 15.6 seconds left. Waiters was fouled before he could get off a possible tying 3-pointer. He made the first and when the second went through the net, he turned to the Syracuse bench with slumped shoulders as he apparently tried to miss it to give the Orange one last chance.
"No matter who you're playing, the top half of our league, the game is never over," Cronin said. "It's human nature to flinch a little bit when they come. Obviously it's like a home game for them, which makes the win even sweeter for us. But we hesitated for a little bit and didn't attack their pressure. Once we started attacking their pressure, we were able to get it back to a 10-point lead.
"I kept telling the guys in the timeouts, this is going to be a crazy ending and we're going to win by more than 10 because we got to break the press. I have seen them play. When they get behind, they're going to come. They're not going to sit back in that zone. They're going to come. So we did a pretty good job after our initial hesitation of attacking their pressure."
It was the second straight year Syracuse lost in the semifinals. Connecticut beat the Orange 76-71 in overtime last season on its way to the tournament title.
"We've won 31 games, and we've proven what we can do and we've got to get back and we have to play a little better from the beginning," Boeheim said. "Most national championships, not all, but a lot of them, have been won by teams that lose in their conference tournament, including us. So as much as we want to win this tournament, the tournament that starts next week is the only one that matters. Nothing else matters anymore in college basketball."
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