Syracuse 68, Oklahoma State 56

Sunday, March 23rd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) _ Gerry McNamara never took his eye off the goal. His good eye, anyway.

Bloodied by a blow to the head that sent him to the locker room in the second half, he returned to hit three big 3-pointers as Syracuse overcame a disastrous start and beat Oklahoma State 68-56 Sunday.

``I don't think my right eye was working too good,'' McNamara said. ``So I used the left eye to shoot. I had to concentrate a little more.''

The win achieved another goal _ a berth in the round of 16.

The Big East also came back from a shot _ to its prestige _ and went 8-0 in the first two rounds after only four of its teams were picked for the NCAA tournament.

``Our players are playing with a chip on their shoulders,'' conference commissioner Mike Tranghese said. ``No one had to say anything to them. They felt the league was slighted and it still doesn't make up for the fact that we only got four teams in.''

But all of those teams _ Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Notre Dame _ advanced.

The second-round victory in the East Regional sends the Orangemen to Albany, N.Y., next Friday against Auburn (22-11).

Third-seeded Syracuse (26-5) got there after falling behind 14-2, trailing 31-25 at halftime and not taking its first lead of the second half until McNamara's 3-pointer made it 40-39 with 14:26 left.

He was hit as he shot, left the game, and returned with a bandage above his nose. He went back into the game with 8:36 to go and Syracuse leading 47-43, and hit a 3-pointer that made it 50-43.

Coach Jim Boeheim wanted him back even sooner _ and told that to Syracuse personnel on the bench _ as sixth-seeded Oklahoma State (22-10) took a 43-40 lead a minute after his departure.

``I'm not very patient with medical people,'' Boeheim said. ``If he can walk, he's getting back in the game.''

McNamara and Carmelo Anthony, two of Syracuse's three talented freshmen, each missed all six of their shots in the first half. But McNamara finished with 14 points and Anthony added 13.

McNamara hit three 3-pointers in the last 8:08, giving Syracuse leads of 50-43, 59-50 and 64-52.

``We're going to make mistakes and turn the ball over,'' Anthony said. ``It's a matter of how hard we play after the turnover or the mistake.''

They had to play hard after their horrible start in which Oklahoma State ran after nearly every Syracuse miss or turnover.

``The first 14 minutes of the game, our game plan was executed as well on the defense as you hoped it could be,'' Cowboys coach Eddie Sutton said. ``The last half may have been one of the worst we've had all season.''

Searching for a way to get back in the game, Boeheim shifted to ``a desperation press'' on defense. It worked as the Orangemen scored the last seven points of the half to trail by six.

Oklahoma State could have had a much bigger lead if it didn't commit 13 turnovers and miss 17 of 30 shots in the half.

``We just didn't convert easy baskets,'' said Melvin Sanders, who did a decent job guarding Anthony. ``We ended up with 22 turnovers.''

Syracuse freshman Billy Edelin, who is overshadowed by Anthony and McNamara, had two outstanding halves _ scoring 12 points in the first and eight in the second for a game-high 20.

The Cowboys were led by Ivan McFarlin with 14 points and Victor Williams, whose 13 points were far below his career-high 29 points in a first-round win over Pennsylvania.

The spurt by the Orangemen late in the first half shifted the momentum, and that carried over into the second half. Syracuse outscored the Cowboys 66-42 after trailing 14-2.

``I always thought it's better to come out slow and finish fast than the other way around,'' Anthony said.