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Sooners can't crack 'Cuse zone, young stars

ALBANY, New York (Ticker) -- Carmelo Anthony got started
early for Syracuse. Hollis Price never quite did for Oklahoma.

Anthony collected 20 points and 10 rebounds as the third-seeded
Orangemen used their stifling zone defense to bottle up Price
and the top-seeded Sooners for a 63-47 victory in the East
Region final.

Syracuse (28-5) advanced to its fourth Final Four and first
since 1996, when it lost to Kentucky in the title game. The
Orangemen will face Texas in the national semifinals in New
Orleans, the site of their 1987 title game loss to Indiana on
Keith Smart's famous jumper in the closing seconds.

"I had a tremendous experience there for five days, 39 minutes
and 56 seconds there," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "I'm
gonna try to get that other four seconds in this time."

Anthony, the region's Most Outstanding Player, had turned in
scoreless halves in his last two NCAA Tournament games. But the
freshman sensation came out strong Sunday, scoring 12 points on
6-of-9 shooting in the first half and setting a tone with his
aggressiveness.

"This is my first time making it to the Final Four. Hopefully,
it's not my last," said Anthony, who is rumored to be heading to
the NBA. "We've been playing and joking about going to the
Final Four since our first game, even when we lost (to
Memphis)."

Price, the Big 12 Player of the Year, showed the lingering
effects of a groin injury and also failed to score in the first
half. He missed his first seven shots, finished with eight
points in his final game and was part of an attack that never
solved the Orangemen's famed 2-3 zone defense.

"We haven't faced anything like this," Price said. "They did
good jobs of extending to me and Quannas and Ebi (Ere). We
didn't attack the zone the way we should have. We worked on it
in practice, but we didn't do it in the game."

The Sooners became the third straight top seed to lose in its
regional final. Texas, which has not been to the Final Four in
56 years, bucked the trend by beating Michigan State in the
South Region final.

Anthony scored six points and Kueth Duany added four in a 14-1
spurt that gave Syracuse the lead for good at 30-18 with 1:40
left before halftime.

"Offensively, Carmelo got us off to a good start for a change
and that was nice," Boeheim said.

Oklahoma (25-7) came out cold to start the second half, and
Syracuse took advantage with the first eight points. Freshman
Gerry McNamara's 3-pointer with 15:35 remaining opened a 38-20
advantage, and the lead never dipped below double digits
thereafter.

Price's 3-of-17 shooting was emblematic of Oklahoma's problem
all game as it shot 31 percent (18-of-58), its second lowest
shooting performance of the season. His backcourt partner,
Quannas White was 1-of-8 for two points.

"We were real active today and tried to take away their shots,"
Duany said. "Our activity is what sparked us."

Price and White, former high school teammates in New Orleans,
missed a chance to return to their hometown for a second
straight Final Four. The duo combined for nine of the Sooners'
season-high 19 turnovers.

"It's tough to come so far and so close," White said. "We were
40 minutes away from getting back home."

Part of Oklahoma's problem was the way it attacked the zone,
using Jabahri Brown and Johnnie Gilbert to flash to the high
post. Neither Brown nor Gilbert are major offensive threats and
both were unable to successfully create scoring opportunities
from that position.

The Sooners were a woeful 5-of-28 from beyond the arc and Price
was 2-of-11.

"Their zone was a factor," Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said.
"To play well against it, you have to have good guard play and
our guards didn't play as well as they're capable of."

Hakim Warrick had 13 points and nine rebounds as he and Anthony
helped Syracuse to a 40-28 advantage on the glass. The Orangemen
also exploited the Sooners inside for a 40-24 cushion in points
in the paint.

"We were active on the boards," Boeheim said. "I'd say it was
the best job we've done all year."

The Orangemen are the first Big East Conference squad to reach
the Final Four since Connecticut's championship team in 1999 and
just the second in the last seven years. They were boosted by a
partisan crowd filled with orange-clad fans at Pepsi Arena,
just a two-hour drive drive from campus.

"It's not always that you get to an 'Elite Eight' game you play
on the road," Sampson said. "Give Syracuse credit, they took
advantage of the crowd."

Duany had a pair of layups that gave Syracuse an early 10-3
lead. Oklahoma finally found the range and freshman De'Angelo
Alexander's 3-pointer provided its only lead, 17-16 with just
under nine minutes left before halftime.

The Sooners missed their next nine shots and Syracuse embarked
on its game-breaking run, sparked by Anthony.

The Orangemen shot a healthy 52 percent (25-of-48), becoming
only the fifth team to top 50 percent against the Sooners.
Syracuse overcame 24 turnovers, including eight by Warrick.

Alexander scored to pull Oklahoma within 50-39 with 6:36
remaining. With the Sooners pressing for steals, Warrick
answered with a dunk and fed Anthony for a jam and a 15-point
cushion with 5:13 remaining.

"Our effort was tremendous the whole game," Boeheim said. "We
did a great job of sliding and adjusting to what Oklahoma was
doing.

Alexander was the only Sooner in double figures and fouled out
with 14 points. Brown had nine points and seven rebounds.

Ere scored seven points on 2-of-8 shooting after breaking out of
a shooting slump for 25 points in Friday's win over Butler.
Freshman power forward Kevin Bookout was also a non-factor with
two points and four rebounds for Oklahoma.