SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP)—First Pitt. Then Kansas. Now Syracuse.
Beating the big teams is getting to be old hat for Bucknell, which used its slowdown offense to rally past the 17th-ranked Orange 74-69 on Tuesday night.
“We never take the underdog role,” said Kevin Bettencourt, who led Bucknell with 20 points and keyed a late 13-2 run that decided the game. “We think we can win every game.”
And why not?
Last January, Bucknell handed 10th-ranked Pittsburgh its first loss of the season, also snapping the Panthers’ 48-game home winning streak against non-conference teams. Then in March they shocked the third-seeded Jayhawks 64-63 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
On this night, it was the Orange’s turn. Bucknell (2-0) won for the first time in nine meetings with Syracuse (3-2) and sent the Orange to their second straight loss.
“We thought if we did certain things well, we could hang around,” Bucknell coach Pat Flannery said. “We played with a lot of poise.”
And oh so deliberately. The Bison took only 17 shots in the second half, milking the clock on almost every possession, and missed just three times—an eye-opening 82.4 percent.
Charles Lee had 18 points and Chris McNaughton had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Bison.
Demetris Nichols led Syracuse with 19 points, Gerry McNamara had 18, and Terrence Roberts had 12 points and 11 rebounds, his second double-double of the season.
Syracuse trailed most of the first half before going on a late 10-3 run to take a 28-27 halftime lead. And when Nichols and McNamara hit consecutive 3-pointers to put the Orange up 60-56 with 5:27 left in what had been a see-saw game, the Carrier Dome was rocking in anticipation of victory.
“When we made our run, we just couldn’t get separation,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “Defensively, we just cannot stop people, and that’s my biggest concern right now.”
Unfazed by the noise, the Bison stuck with their game and it paid off. Their winning surge began when Lee missed a foul shot and was given another after Roberts committed a lane violation.
Lee converted the extra chance with 4:19 remaining and a steal and layup by Abe Badmus tied it at 60-all.
After the Orange missed three straight times down court, Lee stole the ball from center Darryl Watkins in the lane and sent Bettencourt on a fast-break layup that put Bucknell up 62-60 with 2:38 left.
McNaughton then hit a hook in the lane and Bettencourt went 5-for-6 from the free throw line to give the Bison a 69-62 lead with 65 seconds left.
Syracuse was done in by its sloppy play. Freshman Eric Devendorf and sophomore Josh Wright each committed turnovers in a 20-second span in the final two minutes, and Watkins and Wright also committed fouls, sending Bettencourt repeatedly to the foul line.
“We made careless turnovers, and they didn’t,” said McNamara, who had four assists and five of the Orange’s 16 turnovers. “We’re struggling right now and have to find ourselves. Hopefully, we can do that in the next couple of days.”
The 6-foot-9 Roberts had all but one of his rebounds in the first half, and the 6-11 Watkins finished with three boards, none in the second half.
“We can’t play 20 minutes with Terrence and Mookie (Watkins) and get one rebound,” Boeheim said. “Bucknell is a very good team, they’re going to score points, they’re going to get shots. But we cannot not do a better job inside on the boards. If we play in the Big East at this level, I don’t see us winning four games, and that might be a stretch.”