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Sunday, Jan. 21 3:30pm ET
With backs against the wall, Pirates come up big


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Seton Hall coach Tommy Amaker said his team was at a crossroads last week after its loss to Georgetown and with Syracuse looming next on the schedule.

With freshman forward Eddie Griffin coming within two blocked shots of a triple-double, the Pirates (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) made it through the trouble, beating Syracuse (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) 77-65 Sunday.

"I think the kids sensed it and we saw that kind of effort," Amaker said, referring to how important he felt the game was.

The loss to Georgetown was the third in four games for the Pirates (12-5, 3-3 Big East) and dropped them to 1-4 against ranked opponents. Even though the NCAA tournament is a long way off, the game was considered almost must-win for Seton Hall.

"We finally beat a Top 10 team when we've been struggling to beat a lot of teams that aren't even ranked," freshman point guard Andre Barrett said. "We knew that with another loss we'd be in trouble in the conference and might be the next team out of the Top 25. We didn't want that to happen."

Griffin made sure it didn't with 20 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocked shots as Seton Hall snapped the Orangemen's six-game winning streak.

"I wanted to come out and play hard and play my best," said Griffin, who had the first triple-double in school history when he had 21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocked shots against Norfolk State in December. "I think maybe this was my best all-around game of the year. We worked real hard in practice this week, everybody was going hard, everybody wanted it."

The Pirates started strong against Syracuse (15-2, 4-1) and were up 32-23 at halftime as Griffin had seven blocks.

It looked like the blowout was on when Seton Hall opened the second half with a 12-2 run -- forcing Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim to call two timeouts in 54 seconds -- to go up 44-25 on a 3-pointer by Griffin with 17:18 to play.

Syracuse came right back with a 12-0 run that DeShaun Williams started with a jumper and capped with a 3-pointer that made it 44-37 with 14:54 left.

Griffin, however, wouldn't let Syracuse get any closer.

He made two free throws and then hit a baseline jumper to start a 9-0 run. The rest of the points had his fingerprints, too, as he had a steal that led to a missed 3-pointer by Andre Barrett. Griffin grabbed the rebound and got the ball to Barrett who made the 3 this time. Griffin then blocked a shot by Syracuse center Billy Celuck, and Marcus Toney-El scored on a long layup at the other end to make it 53-37 with 12:35 left. The Orangemen never got closer than nine points the rest of the way.

"I thought Griffin's performance was excellent, as usual," Amaker said. "It seems like this is a recording. He bails us out so many times with so many different things with his blocks, rebounding the ball, stepping away from the basket and making shots and making 3s."

Griffin, who has had a double-double in all but two of his 16 college games, was 7-for-14 from the field, including 3-for-5 from 3-point range.

"He just made big plays," Boeheim said of Griffin. "We kept going and finally got in there and got something but those are big plays to make. You have a layup and get nothing and they have a chance to go the other way and make something happen."

Darius Lane had 17 points for Seton Hall, while Barrett had 13 and Greg Morton added five points and 10 rebounds. The Pirates finished with a 48-36 rebound advantage, the first time this season they outrebounded a conference opponent.

Allen Griffin had 20 points for Syracuse, which was held to a season-low 37.7 percent shooting (23-for-61). Williams scored 19, Preston Shumpert 15.

Syracuse's previous worst shooting game was 38.8 percent in its only other loss, to Tennessee.

"Offensively, both teams struggled from the beginning and Griffin's blocks in the first half were a big factor," Boeheim said. "Offensively, I don't think either team ever got much rhythm."

Damone Brown, Syracuse's second-leading scorer at 17.4 points, had five on 2-for-7 shooting.

"Damone bruised his leg three days ago and didn't practice and then got it banged again right away today," Boeheim said. "We probably shouldn't have played him at all."

Boeheim said he doesn't think Brown will play Tuesday against Notre Dame.

Seton Hall beat then-No. 4 Syracuse 69-67 last season to snap the Orangemen's 19-game season-opening winning streak.

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 Seton Hall's Marcus Toney-El goes airborne for the layup against Syracuse.
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 Seton Hall's Eddie Griffin converts the behind-the-back pass from Marcus Toney-El into a monster jam.
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 Seton Hall's Andre Barrett dishes to Marcus Toney-El for the layup.
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 Syracuse's DeShaun Williams goes up strong for the layup against Seton Hall.
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