Syracuse Feels at Home in Win
Carmelo Anthony encountered another physical defense designed to stop him Friday, but the Syracuse freshman remained cool under pressure.
After being held scoreless in the first half, Anthony scored 18 points and carried the Orangemen down the stretch en route to a 79-78 victory over Auburn in an East Regional semifinal before a pro-Syracuse crowd of 15,093 at Pepsi Arena.
Anthony, considered the nation’s best freshman and a high NBA draft pick if he decides not to return to Syracuse next season, said there was no reason to panic at halftime with the Orangemen leading, 37-27.
“We were winning, so I didn’t feel I had to score,” said Anthony, who missed all four of his first-half shots. “I did other things -- I helped my team out, I got everybody shots, I tried to hit the boards.
“Everybody knows I don’t have to score for this team to be successful.”
Anthony might get a few arguments, although Syracuse has shown it can survive without its star at the top of his game.
After averaging 22.5 points in the regular season, Anthony is averaging 16 points through three NCAA tournament games.
Third-seeded Syracuse (27-5) will play top-seeded Oklahoma (27-6) in the regional final Sunday. It will mark the Orangemen’s seventh regional final and their first since 1996.
Syracuse withstood a late comeback by 10th-seeded Auburn (22-12). Tiger guards Lewis Monroe and Nathan Watson combined for six three-point baskets in the second half to keep their team within striking range.
Guard Kueth Duany made four throws in the final 27 seconds to twice build Syracuse’s lead to five points. The Orangemen needed the cushion after Auburn made three three-point shots in the last 30 seconds.
“Fortunately Kueth made the four free throws or we’d be on our way home right now,” Coach Jim Boeheim said.
Boeheim said the Orangemen got out of sync against Auburn’s triangle-and-two defense, something they had previously faced only a few times this season. The tactic was designed to slow down Anthony and Duany.
“It’s a very difficult defense to contend with, because they’re really taking your two best players out of the game,” Boeheim said. “We got a little frustrated on offense.”
Josh Pace scored 14 points and secured the victory with a breakaway dunk for a 79-75 lead with six seconds left.
Auburn made seven of its season-high 10 three-point baskets in the second half.
“We had to find a way to hang on,” Boeheim said. “We took care of the ball down the stretch.”