SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Brandon Triche had 18 points, including a pair of free throws that broke the final tie with 88 seconds left, and No. 3 Syracuse beat West Virginia 63-61 on Saturday.
After Triche’s free throws, the Mountaineers missed four straight shots, including an airball 3 by Darryl “Truck” Bryant and a miss on the follow by Deniz Kilicli. But when Kris Joseph snared the rebound and tried to dribble away, he fell out of bounds with 6.2 seconds left, giving West Virginia one last chance. Kevin Jones missed a 3 from the left corner at the buzzer and Syracuse survived.
Syracuse (22-1, 9-1 Big East) has won 13 of the past 14 games against West Virginia (15-7, 5-4). The win was the 878th for Orange coach Jim Boeheim, moving him within one victory of tying North Carolina’s Dean Smith for third in Division I.
Joseph finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, Scoop Jardine had nine points and five assists and Dion Waiters had eight points for the Orange, who played their third game without center Fab Melo.
Jones led West Virginia with 20 points and eight rebounds, Bryant had 12 points, all in the second half, and Gary Browne scored 11.
The Mountaineers were coming off a 78-62 loss at St. John’s on Wednesday night, a game in which the Red Storm started five freshmen, but they led most of the first half in this one and never trailed by more than three points in the final 17 minutes.
Syracuse led by four to start the second half and made it to 33-27 on Triche’s steal and layup with 18:57 to go. After that, it was anybody’s game. The score was tied seven times in the second half, the last when Jones hit a 3 from the left corner to tie it at 61 with 1:41 left.
The Orange were hampered by fouls to their big men. Baye Keita picked up his fourth midway through the half and 6-foot-9 freshman Rakeem Christmas fouled out with 4:58 to go.
The Orange trailed most of the first half as the Mountaineers patiently attacked the 2-3 zone. Jones started the game by hitting consecutive midrange jumpers from the heart of the Syracuse defense.
The Mountaineers led by six three times, the last at 22-16 after a 3-pointer by Jones from the left wing with 7:34 left, but they converted only one other basket in the closing minutes — a runner by Hinds — as Syracuse increased the defensive intensity with a press.
The Orange forced shot-clock violations on consecutive possessions in the final 3 minutes and Joseph’s baseline drive and layup gave Syracuse a 25-24 lead with 68 seconds left, just the Orange’s second lead of the half. Waiters fed Jardine for a wide-open 3 from the right corner with 3.2 seconds left to give Syracuse a 28-24 halftime lead. It was just the second make in 11 tries from behind the arc for the Orange.
Melo watched the game from the bench in street clothes. After starting the first 20 games of the season and becoming a force in the paint, the 7-foot Brazilian has not played since logging 29 minutes in a home win over Pitt nearly two weeks ago. Melo is ineligible to play because of academic issues but has been practicing with the team, and Boeheim is hopeful he’ll be able to return to the lineup.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.