CLEVELAND (AP) -- Preston Shumpert knew what was riding on a
flick of his wrist.
Shumpert's jumper from in front of the Syracuse bench with 37
seconds left was the difference as the Orangemen held off Kentucky
52-50 on Saturday in the second round of the Midwest Regional.
"When you get shots like that in the clutch, the first thing
you usually do is tense up. I'm glad I didn't," Shumpert said.
Wildcats freshman Keith Bogans had a chance to tie the game in
the closing seconds, but his off-balance 10-footer came up short
and Tayshaun Prince missed on a tip as the horn sounded.
It was a fitting end to a game in which both teams struggled
"It looked like an ugly game," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim
said, "but we're moving on."
The Orangemen (26-5) will play top-seeded Michigan State on
Thursday in the regional semifinal in Auburn Hills, Mich. Kentucky
(23-10) goes home with only its third loss in its last 24 NCAA
tournament games over five seasons.
Syracuse, which lost to Kentucky in the 1996 championship game,
won despite not having leading scorer and rebounder Etan Thomas for
most of the second half. He was watching from just a few feet away
as Shumpert's shot fell, having fouled out with 3:46 left.
"I've got a lot of confidence in my teammates," Thomas said.
"They've been in situations before when they've had to play
without me. They knew they had to step up, and they did."
Thomas, the school's career leader in blocked shots, picked up
his fourth foul away from the ball with 13:22 left and sat out the
next five minutes.
While he was out, a 33-31 Syracuse lead was transformed into a
42-40 deficit as Kentucky pounded the ball inside to twin towers
Jamaal Magloire and Jules Camara. Magloire scored the first four
points and Prince -- scoreless to that point -- supplied the last 10
of what would be a 14-9 run.
Thomas returned and scored the Orangemen's next four points,
keying an 8-3 spurt for a 48-45 lead. But Thomas was called for his
fifth foul with 3:46 left when he hacked Prince on a drive in
Prince hit one foul shot and Camara followed with a pair of
thunderous dunks as the Wildcats pulled even at 50 as the clock hit
the two-minute mark.
The teams traded turnovers before Jason Hart drove the left side
of the lane and whipped a long bounce pass to Shumpert on the
opposite side of the court.
"That's one of our designed plays," Hart said. "I didn't go
over the top. I went backdoor and found him."
After releasing the shot, Shumpert made contact with Prince and
fell to the floor.
"I just tried to hold my follow-through as long as I could,"
the 6-foot-7 sophomore said. "The ball came to me and I just tried
to step up and knock it down."
Boeheim jumped while holding his arms up in the 3-point signal,
trying to influence the officials.
Kentucky set up its offense after three late timeouts and a
Syracuse foul that stopped the clock with 5.9 seconds left. The
Wildcats decided to give the ball to Bogans, their third-leading
Sat, March 18
Kentucky's streak of five straight Sweet 16 appearances ended on a Preston Shumpert corner jumper, but the Wildcats' wild offseason may have just begun.
Kentucky nation will likely face plenty of dissection over the next week, aimed at Tubby Smith and going down the line. Speculation about Smith's departure to the Atlanta Hawks won't go
away until the end of the NBA season, or whenever Lenny Wilkens leaves his post.
Jules Camara needs to be on board for the long haul after flirting with transferring early in the season. The Wildcats will have to decide what they'll do with Desmond Allison, who was suspended for the
NCAA Tournament for a DUI arrest last Sunday. Saul Smith has another year left, but
the Kentucky faithful may not allow him to grow in the position as a point guard after the team's early exit.
The Wildcats could have avoided this position had they taken better care of the ball in their loss to Arkansas in the SEC tournament. The same problem haunted them against Syracuse. With the SEC improving each season, Kentucky can't afford to be loose with the basketball if it expects to get back to the Sweet 16 level next season. The question is, will the Smiths be there to lead
them from the bench and on the floor? The pressure has been intense
on the Smith family, and no one would blame them if they bolted.
"We designed it for Keith coming off a screen," Magloire said.
But with the Orangemen bunched inside in a tight zone, Bogans
couldn't get off a decent shot once he drove.
"With only 5.9 seconds left, it was tough to get through that
zone," Prince said.
Shumpert, with 12 points, was the only Syracuse player in double figures. Thomas had nine points, 10 rebounds and three blocked
shots. Ryan Blackwell, forced to do most of the work inside in
Thomas' absence, had nine points and seven rebounds. Three
teammates had at least six points.
After winning its first 19 games, Syracuse came into the
tournament having won only half of its last 10 games.
"I don't think anybody expected us to get this far, especially
after the sluggish way we ended the season," Blackwell said.
Magloire had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Wildcats and
Bogans also had 12 points. Prince and Camara had 10 points apiece.
Kentucky, which got by St. Bonaventure 85-80 in two overtimes in
the first round, had won 11 of its last 12 second-round games. It
hadn't lost in the second round since falling to Marquette six
The Orangemen, even without substantial help from Thomas,
outrebounded the Wildcats 40-33 and had 21 offensive rebounds.
Kentucky also had 19 turnovers.
"What killed us was second-chance points," Kentucky coach
Tubby Smith said. "And we had some curious turnovers."
Both teams struggled offensively, with Kentucky shooting 40
percent and Syracuse hitting just 20 of 63 shots from the field (32
percent). The Orangemen were 4-of-21 on 3-pointers.
"We were lucky," Boeheim said. "It was one of those games
where no one could make a shot."
Except for the one by Shumpert.
|Saul Smith couldn't keep Kentucky from falling short of the Sweet 16.||
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