NEW YORK –
Dion Waites scored a game-high 18 points to lead 2/2 Syracuse (31-1, 17-1) past Connecticut (20-13, 8-10) 58-55 in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
Syracuse’s 31 wins ties a school-record for most wins in a single season with the 1986-87 team and propels the Orange into the semifinals of the BIG EAST Tournament. Syracuse will play the winner of Georgetown and Cincinnati.
A missed three-pointer by UConn’s Roscoe Smith allowed Brandon Triche
to score an uncontested layup for the first points of the game. From there, the game would be tied five times until Waiters hit one-of-two from the free throw line, giving SU a 13-12 advantage.
Waiters, the BIG EAST Conference Sixth Man of the Year recipient, then hit from long range and followed that up with a fast break slam dunk. Rakeem Christmas
concluded an 8-0 Syracuse run by slamming home a no look pass by Michael Carter-William
and pushing the Orange lead to 20-12.
With SU leading 23-15, the Huskies responded with a 6-0 run, forcing Syracuse into a timeout. Triche would then score Syracuse’s final four points of the half to help SU hold a 27-24 heading into the break.
The Huskies took their first lead of the game since they had a 3-2 advantage by scoring the first five of the second half, which was a part of a 15-4 UConn run out of the locker room. That run put Connecticut ahead 39-31 with 13:58 remaining.
The Orange responded though, with a 10-3 run of its own. Six of those 10 points came from the charity stripe and five of them by Kris Joseph
. A steal and a layup by Waiters forced a Connecticut timeout. The two teams would each score five points out of that timeout with Connecticut clinging to a one point lead (47-46) at the under eight media timeout.
Waiters recaptured the lead for the Orange with a jumper from the free throw, and after a defensive stop, James Southerland
nailed his second three-pointer to give SU a 51-47 lead and forced another UConn timeout with 4:53 remaining.
After the Huskies Andre Drummond’s offensive rebound and put back, Joseph and Southerland hit back-to-back buckets to increase the Orange lead to 55-49. The Orange would be fouled down the stretch and hit 1-of-3 from the line, which then UConn scored four consecutive points, bringing the score to 56-53 with 16 second remaining.
Southerland was fouled on the ensuing inbounds pass and knocked down two clutch free throws to push SU’s lead back to five with 15 seconds remaining. Connecticut would score one score one final hoop, but it would not be enough as Syracuse held on for the three point victory.
The Orange shot 38 percent for the game (20-of-52) and was 15-of-23 from the line. The Huskies were 34 percent for the contest (22-of-64) and held a 46-34 rebounding advantage. Syracuse will be in the semifinals of the tournament on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. (ESPN).
The Orange has defeated Connecticut three times in one season for the second time in program history, the other of which was the 1983-84 season … SU is now 8-6 against Connecticut in the BIG EAST Tournament.