SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP)—Hakim Warrick had his usual double-double for Syracuse, but it was the shot he decided not to take that sank West Virginia.
With the seventh-ranked Orange clinging to a 65-61 lead and under two minutes to play Saturday, Warrick pulled down a rebound off a miss by Josh Pace. Surrounded by Mountaineers, Warrick flicked a pass to Gerry McNamara in the left corner, he drained his fifth 3-pointer of the half and Syracuse held on for a 72-64 victory.
“We have a lot of veteran guys that can make plays,” Jim Boeheim said after the 695th win in his 29 years as Orange head coach. “Hak didn’t try and force it back up. He found Gerry, and ballgame! It’s a smart play, and not many guys make that play. Most guys will try and force the ball back up. Those are winning plays.”
“Hak did a great job,” said McNamara, who scored all 18 of his points in the second half. “I saw two guys, so I floated to the corner. He was about to spin, and I think he caught me out of the corner of his eye.”
Warrick had 22 points and 13 rebounds, his 10th double-double of the season, and Billy Edelin added season highs of 12 points and seven assists in 30 minutes as Syracuse won its 12th straight. The Orange (19-1, 6-0 Big East), whose lone loss this season was to Oklahoma State at Madison Square Garden in early December, equaled the best start in school history. Syracuse won its first 19 in 1999-2000 and also started 19-1 in 1979-80.
“It’s weird with this start knowing we can get so much better,” said Edelin, who did not score in 21 combined minutes the previous two games. “We’re not playing our best basketball right now, but this Big East season has a long way to go. We’ll hit some rough patches.”
Patrick Beilein led the Mountaineers with 17 points, and Mike Gansey, Tyrone Sally and D’or Fischer each had 11.
West Virginia (11-5, 1-4) won its first 10 games this year, including road wins at LSU and No. 15 North Carolina State and a home triumph over George Washington. But the Mountaineers have run into a roadblock in the Big East, losing by 38 at Villanova and dropping consecutive home games to Boston College and Notre Dame.
Head coach John Beilein said the setbacks shook his team’s confidence, and it showed early against the Orange. West Virginia missed its first eight shots before Gansey’s two-hand slam dunk at 14:35.
Syracuse struggled, too. Pace, a key starter, didn’t attempt a shot in the first half, and the Orange were just 1-for-8 on 3-pointers before the break.
Warrick carried the load early, scoring 16 points in the opening period, and keyed a 13-4 run that began with 4:50 remaining in the first and carried over to the second. When his second straight three-point play gave Syracuse a 37-22 lead in the first minute of the second half, the Mountaineers seemed finished.
But even when McNamara finally found his shooting touch, West Virginia refused to fold. Patrick Beilein countered with two 3s and Johannes Herber hit another to move the Mountaineers to 45-35 at 14:42.
McNamara’s fourth 3 of the half gave the Orange a 63-50 lead with 6:53 remaining, but a 3 by Beilein and a long 3 from the top of the key by J.D. Collins had West Virginia within 65-58 with 4:34 left.
Even a raucous crowd of 29,077—the largest on-campus crowd in the country this season—that braved the big snowstorm pummeling the Northeast couldn’t intimidate the Mountaineers.
“We made them nervous a little bit, the fact that we stayed close and made them get away from stuff they wanted to do,” Gansey said. “We were upbeat all game. We didn’t worry about missing shots. We just felt like we would hit the next one.”
Another 3 by Beilein from the right wing over the outstretched arms of Pace made it 65-61 with 1:42 to go. After Sally missed a wide-open jumper in the lane, McNamara struck again from long range 35 seconds later and the Orange hit 4-of-6 free throws for the victory.
Syracuse, which has relied nearly exclusively on its vaunted 2-3 zone, displayed its first solid man-to-man defense of the season for much of the game, and it helped hold the Mountaineers to 10-for-32 shooting from beyond the arc.
“It was good to play man-to-man and get some key stops,” Warrick said. “I think that’s what really turned the game around.”
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