Syracuse 63, Oklahoma 47

Monday, March 31st 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ The fans chanted ``One more year!'' as Carmelo Anthony trotted off the court. Syracuse's sensational freshman was just happy for one more game.

For a change, Anthony struck early Sunday against Oklahoma, scoring 10 of his 20 points in the first 12 minutes as the third-seeded Orangemen beat the top-seeded Sooners 63-47 in the East Regional final.

``We've been playing and joking about going to the Final Four since the first game, even though we lost the first game to Memphis,'' said Anthony, who soon will have to decide whether to come back for his sophomore year or jump to the NBA.

``This is something everybody on our team wanted to do, and now we've got the chance.''

When Anthony left the court, he was carrying teammate Hakim Warrick on his back. It was a fitting moment because Anthony has carried the Orangemen all season. And when they needed an early lift against the Sooners' tough defense, Anthony delivered, something he had failed to do in the previous three tournament games.

Anthony's turnaround jumper with 8:35 left in the first half gave the Orangemen an 18-17 lead. They never trailed again.

``I knew when he hit those jump shots they weren't going to be able to guard him,'' said coach Jim Boeheim, headed to his third Final Four in 27 years at Syracuse. ``When he makes the jump shot, I don't think there are many people who can guard him. We were able to really set the tempo of the game.''

The Orangemen (28-5) will face Texas on Saturday. The Longhorns (26-6) beat Michigan State 85-76 to win the South Regional.

Oklahoma came in with the vaunted defense. Only two opponents had scored more than 70 points against the Sooners (27-7), and they had held five teams to point totals in the 40s. This time they were on the receiving end because of Syracuse's 2-3 zone defense.

With Anthony and Warrick, both 6-foot-8 forwards, and 6-6 guard Kueth Duany waving their long arms in the Sooners' faces all afternoon they struggled to find an open shot. The Sooners finished 5-for-28 on 3-pointers, a terrible 17.9 percent compared to their season average of 40.2 percent.

``We haven't seen a zone like that,'' said Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson, who was trying to lead the Sooners to their second straight Final Four. ``Just because you've seen a zone doesn't mean you're prepared for it.''

Warrick had 13 points and nine rebounds for Syracuse, which was playing about two hours from its campus and had most of the Pepsi Arena crowd of 15,207 on its side.

Freshman De'Angelo Alexander led the Sooners with 14 points and Hollis Price finished with eight. Ebi Ere, coming off a 25-point performance against Butler, had seven.

The defeat ruined the hopes of Price and Quannas White. They played together at St. Augustine High School in New Orleans, site of the Final Four, and had hoped to play their final college games back home.

``It's tough,'' said Price, 2-for-11 on 3-pointers. ``We came so far and so close. It hurts. Syracuse did a great job of matching up with us.''

The Sooners managed just three points over the final 8 1/2 minutes of the first half as Syracuse took a 30-20 lead. The Orangemen then scored the first eight points of the second half. A 3-pointer by freshman Gerry McNamara with 15:35 to play capped a 22-3 run.

If an 18-point lead wasn't daunting enough, the struggle to find an open shot had to be. The Sooners ate up much of the clock just looking for something that rarely appeared.

``It seemed like they were trying to be real patient,'' said Duany, Syracuse's lone senior. ``I think they were over-patient, and it took them out of their rhythm. I think it hurt their offense when they tried to wait too long to go.''

The last time Syracuse made it to the Final Four was 1996 when it lost to Kentucky in the championship game. The last time the Orangemen were in New Orleans for a Final Four they lost to Indiana in the 1987 championship on a baseline jumper by Keith Smart in the final seconds.

Now, Boeheim gets another chance at that elusive national title.

``I had a tremendous experience in New Orleans for five days, 39 minutes and 56 seconds,'' he said. ``Now I have to get that other four seconds in this time.''

As for Anthony, soon to be 19, that one-more-year decision might end up being a lot more difficult than he ever imagined, no matter what happens next weekend.

Waiting to be interviewed after the game, Boeheim put an arm around his star and whispered something special in his ear.

``That was the first time he ever told me he loved me,'' said Anthony, who was raised by his mother, Mary, after his father died 16 years ago. ``I kind of was like, `Whoa, he told me that he loved me.' I love him, too. He got me here. If it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't have been here.''