(5) Syracuse 72

(23-7, 11-5 Big East)

(4) Maryland 70

(20-12, 7-9 ACC)

    5:40 PM ET, March 20, 2004

    Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado

    1 2 T
    #5SYR 32 4072
    #4MD 22 4870

    Warrick's 26 carries 'Cuse to Sweet 16

    DENVER (AP) -- Syracuse is still defending its national title -- barely.

    Hakim Warrick and the Orangemen nearly blew a 16-point lead before hanging on to beat Maryland 72-70 Saturday in a matchup between the last two NCAA champions.

    Warrick had 26 points and nine rebounds for fifth-seeded Syracuse, which advanced to play Alabama in the Phoenix Regional's round of 16. The Crimson Tide, seeded eighth, stunned top-seeded Stanford 70-67 Saturday.

    Dick Vitale's Tourney Take
    Syracuse dominated early and allowed only 22 points to Maryland in the first half, but after what the Terps did in the ACC tournament you just knew they had a run in them. Give credit to Jim Boeheim and his Orangemen, though, for holding off a supreme comeback effort by Maryland. The Terrapins reflected the personality and determination of coach Gary Williams with a gallant effort, but they were just short in the end. Syracuse was still able to pull it out despite a subpar performance from Gerry McNamara, who went for 43 in a first-round win. Hakim Warrick gave the Orangemen quality minutes and has established himself as a legitimate top-10 player in the nation. He and McNamara are the reasons Syracuse has a date with Alabama in the Sweet 16.
    More on Saturday's Games
    "Hakim was tremendous today," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "When he gets down in the low post, he is very tough to guard."

    Warrick said Maryland "didn't double-team me, and I just tried to score or get fouled. My team did a good job of getting me the ball and I was able to make some plays."

    The game was just the third between the two previous national champions in NCAA Tournament history, and the first since 1994 champ Arkansas beat 1993 title winner North Carolina in the 1995 semifinals.

    This one looked like it might be a blowout when the Orangemen (23-7) took a 54-38 lead with 13:01 left. But the Terrapins (20-12), who had won six in a row and made a surprising run to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title, didn't give up.

    D.J. Strawberry's 3-pointer cut the deficit to 59-49 with 7:32 left, and layups by Chris McCray and Jamar Smith made it 61-54.

    Josh Pace's jumper pushed the lead to 69-60 with 1:58 left, but Maryland whittled the margin to one.

    Travis Garrison and John Gilchrist hit layups to make it 69-64. After Syracuse's Craig Forth missed two free throws, Orangemen guard Gerry McNamara hit a pair with 29 seconds left.

    Smith followed with a layup and, after Forth missed two more foul shots, Maryland's Mike Jones was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer. He hit the first two free throws and missed the third, but the Terrapins' Nik Caner-Medley grabbed the rebound and Strawberry made a driving layup with 9 seconds left, cutting the lead to 71-70.

    McNamara was fouled, but the normally near-automatic free throw shooter made just one of two with 7.5 seconds to go.

    Maryland had one last chance but Strawberry missed a shot from the lane at the buzzer.

    "The bottom line is that we played a great 38 minutes and overcame a bad two minutes," Boeheim said.

    Referring to the finish, Warrick said, "It was the longest couple of seconds I've had in a long time."

    Maryland coach Gary Williams lauded his young team's resiliency. The Terps have four sophomores in the starting lineup.

    "Those guys don't quit. They could have gone home at halftime, but we stuck around and got back in the game," Williams said.

    "We had to get the clock stopped to lengthen the second half, and you do that by driving to the basket and getting fouled. We wound up shooting our share of free throws. We weren't doing that in the first half. We weren't aggressive enough against a good team and we paid for it."

    McNamara wasn't up to his first-round performance when he hit nine 3-pointers and scored 43 points in a win over Brigham Young. He didn't make his first basket, a 3-pointer of course, until early in the second half.

    McNamara finished with 13 points on 2-of-11 shooting.

    "It's not like I didn't have it," McNamara said. "They played tough defense. When you come off a big game, I expected to be pounded. If they zero in on me like they did today, Hakim gets more opportunities and vice versa. Having two threats makes us that much tougher to beat."

    Garrison and Smith led Maryland with 16 points apiece.

    Gilchrist, Maryland's leading scorer, played only 14 minutes of the second half because of foul trouble and fouled out with 29 seconds left. He scored seven points.

    After McNamara's first 3, Warrick scored 10 of Syracuse's next 14 points, and Pace hit a short jumper to give Syracuse its biggest lead, 54-38, but Maryland wouldn't go away.

    Neither team shot well in the first half but Syracuse used runs of 10-0 and 9-0 to take a 32-22 halftime lead. Warrick had 13 points in the half.

    McNamara was 0-for-5 from the floor in the first half, including 0-for-4 from 3-point range. He wasn't the only one missing.

    Syracuse shot 32 percent in the half and Maryland shot 26 percent.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press



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