Kris Joseph, late run carry Orange to NIT Season Tip-Off title

NEW YORK -- Kris Joseph stumbled getting up after the postgame news conference and knocked over a chair.

"Another turnover," deadpanned Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim.

It's easy to make jokes after a win, and Boeheim's latest wisecrack followed the fifth-ranked Orange's 69-63 victory over Stanford on Friday night in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden.

It didn't look like there would be much to laugh about for Syracuse as it couldn't get in front of Stanford until the Orange started to put on full-court pressure and closed the game on a 15-3 run.

"We played 40 minutes of good defense, 35 minutes of horrendous offense and 3 to 4 minutes of full-court pressure to get back in the game," Boeheim said. "They outplayed us the whole game."

Joseph had 18 points and eight rebounds and grabbed MVP honors with 38 points and 19 rebounds in the two games.

"First of all, he's a senior and great leader and a terrific player," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said of Joseph. "He stepped up and made big plays and he's done that before. We tried to limit his touches, but I'll tell you what, he hit some tough shots. We defended him well, but he finishes around the basket as well as any young man I've seen."

The Orange (6-0) were never able to make a run against Stanford until the game's final 4 minutes, when they made all five of their shots from the field and five of seven free throws. They forced the Cardinal (5-1) into 24 turnovers, including three in the closing stretch against the pressure.

"We just went back to what was working down the stretch," Joseph said. "We played well. We played hard and came out with the win."

Aaron Bright had 13 points for Stanford, which led 60-54 with 4:27 to go on two free throws by Chasson Randle.

Brandon Triche, who finished with 11 points, started the Orange's big run with a drive. C.J. Fair followed with a three-point play after a turnover and Joseph gave Syracuse the lead for good, 61-60, with a banked jumper with 2:54 to go.

Joseph was asked if he called "glass" before the shot.

"If your friends ask you, you say 'Definitely,' " he said sheepishly, "but I didn't call it."

He said he was chosen MVP because "my teammates were able to get me the ball. We all should have shared it. We all played outstanding, not just me."

Scoop Jardine added 14 points for the Orange, and Fair and Dion Waiters, the two reserves who led the semifinal win over Virginia Tech, both had 10 points. Syracuse shot 46.7 percent for the game from the field (28 of 60), including 17 of 28 (60.7 percent) in the second half.

"In the second half we went back with the two guards who played so well the other night," Boeheim said of Fair and Waiters, who are both sophomores.

Randle had 12 points for the Cardinal, who beat Oklahoma State in the semifinals, while John Gage added a career-high 10, six more than he scored all season.

Stanford struggled against Syracuse's 2/3 zone, but it was controlling the ball rather than making shots that did in the Cardinal. They shot 42.9 percent from the field (24 of 56), but their 24 turnovers were converted into 25 points by Syracuse. The Cardinal outrebounded the Orange 36-34 and that led to a 16-11 advantage in second-chance points.

"It's awful. It's never good when you lose, especially when you were up the whole game," Bright said. "Syracuse played great down the stretch and we weren't able to make the same plays."

The crowd of 8,477 seemed to be waiting for a Syracuse run that would keep Stanford at bay, but it didn't happen until the final minutes when the Orange's speed and size suddenly became a problem for the Cardinal.