NEW YORK (AP)—JamesOn Curry couldn’t help smiling. That’s easy when you just hit the shot your team needed to remain unbeaten.
Curry’s 3-pointer with 22 seconds left stopped No. 21 Syracuse’s furious comeback from a 13-point deficit and led No. 22 Oklahoma State to a 72-68 victory Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic.
The Cowboys (10-0) hadn’t scored for over 3 1/2 minutes as the Orange cut a 67-54 lead to one point. That didn’t matter to junior guard as he let fly from the head of the key.
“You can’t think about anything like that when you’re playing. Players mess up when they think,” he said with a smile a player can have after scoring 20 points, including the game’s biggest ones.
The Cowboys (10-0) kept Sean Sutton’s record as a head coach perfect despite blowing almost all of that 13-point lead over the final 3:45. Oklahoma State lost eight games last season on the final possession.
“Confidence is the difference,” Curry said. “Confidence is contagious.”
Sutton, who took over for his father, Eddie, this season, called it a great win even if it wasn’t perfect.
“We played well for 35 minutes and in the final five minutes we had some breakdowns,” Sutton said. “I’m proud of my guys for hanging in there.”
Syracuse freshman Paul Harris almost made his Madison Square Garden debut a memorable one as he led the comeback by the Orange (7-2), scoring nine of his 11 points over the final 3:45.
But Orange coach Jim Boeheim said the highly recruited Harris, who was 0-for-3 from 3-point range and has seven turnovers, has a lot to learn.
“He’s 1-for-13 from the 3-point line,” Boeheim said, referring to the 6-foot-5 Harris’ stat for the season. “He thinks he can make them all I’ll give him that much. He is confident.”
Harris, who was fighting a stomach virus all week, sat in the locker room with his head in his hands and at first said he didn’t want to talk to the media, then changed his mind.
“I don’t even want to watch the film I played so bad. I don’t want to look at it. I’ve got to man up and watch it,” he said. “Honestly, in the first half I was shooting jumpers and should have gone to the basket and I waited too late when we were down 10 points.
“They’re not a bad team but I really believe we’re better. I think they outrebounded us, out-toughed us.”
Mario Boggan had 21 points—15 in the first half—on 9-for-14 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds for Oklahoma State.
“I get it started down low and then he takes over,” Boggan said, referring to Curry, who was 4-for-6 on 3-pointers.
Demetris Nichols had 26 points for the Orange, who lost their second straight game.
Boggan’s driving flip with 3:55 left capped the Cowboys’ second 9-0 run of the second half and made it 67-54.
Oklahoma State was able to take the double-digit lead in the second half as Syracuse committed 17 of its 23 turnovers over the final 20 minutes.
The Cowboys’ first 9-0 run gave them a 56-46 lead with 9:12 left, but the Orange were able to recover and got within 58-54 on a rebound basket by Terrence Roberts with 7:29 to go.
Syracuse again couldn’t take care of the ball and committed four turnovers in the second 9-0 run.
That’s when Harris took over.
His driving dunk with 2:28 to go made it 67-60 and the Orange suddenly had some life as Oklahoma State went cold from the field. He grabbed a miss by Curry and drove the length of the court to make it 67-66 with 49 seconds to go.
Curry hit his big shot 27 seconds later and Oklahoma State held on.
“We’re just making too many mistakes on the offensive end for two games in a row now,” Boeheim said. “We’re just not cohesive on the offensive end. We’re just trying to get the ball more inside and we’re just not comfortable right now doing that.”
Freshman Obi Muonelo had 11 points for Oklahoma State, his 10th game in double figures.
Roberts had 14 points for Syracuse, which was outrebounded 33-23, including 13-6 on the offensive end.
The Jimmy V Classic raises money for The V Foundation for Cancer Research, which was founded in 1993 by the late Jim Valvano and ESPN. The foundation has raised more than $60 million with the Jimmy V Classic donating more than $1 million.
On Tuesday, it was announced the Classic, which moved to Madison Square Garden in 2003, will continue to be played there through 2008.
Valvano, who led North Carolina State to the national championship in 1983, died of cancer in May 1993, just two months after delivering his famous “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up” speech at the ESPY Awards.