Greene leads Syracuse over Robert Morris, 87-81
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP)—Freshman forward Donte Greene scored a season-high 27 points, and undermanned Syracuse survived 16 3-pointers by Robert Morris in an 87-81 victory on Tuesday night in the first round of the NIT.
Syracuse (20-13), which will host Maryland in the second round Thursday night, gave coach Jim Boeheim his 30th 20-win season in 32 years. Robert Morris (26-8) ended its first NIT appearance with a second straight loss after 14 wins in a row.
Paul Harris had 19 points and 10 rebounds, Scoop Jardine had 15 points, Kristof Ongenaet had 13, while Arinze Onuaku had seven points and 10 rebounds.
A.J. Jackson led Robert Morris with 19 points, Jimmy Langhurst and Jeremy Chappell each had 15, Bateko Francisco and Mezie Nwigwe each had eight, and Tony Lee had 10 points and seven assists.
Freshman point guard Jonny Flynn, who injured his back in Syracuse’s Big East tournament loss to Villanova last week, had only one basket in the game, late in the first half. It came on an awkward shot along the baseline that caromed in off the glass. Flynn went to the bench after the shot in apparent discomfort and did not play again. Flynn, the second-leading scorer on the team, had played all but three minutes of the previous 13 games.
The Colonials earned a spot in the NIT by virtue of winning the Northeast Conference regular-season title, and if their loss to Mount St. Mary’s in the semifinals of the conference tournament was still haunting them, it never showed. They were in it until the end with their long-range shots hitting with regularity.
Robert Morris finished 16-for-41 from beyond the arc, a record for an Orange opponent in the Carrier Dome.
Even after a 3-pointer and two free throws by Harris gave Syracuse a 51-40 lead with 17:41 remaining, the Colonials gamely fought back with their four-guard attack.
Langhurst and Gary Wallace each hit 3-pointers and Chappell scored off a steal to narrow the lead to 51-48.
A pair of 3s by Greene gave the Orange a seven-point edge, but 3-pointers by Chappell and Langhurst and a steal and layup by Chappell had the Colonials back within 59-55 with 11:34 left, and 28 seconds later Langhurst hit another 3 to make it a one-point game.
After the Colonials gained a 71-70 lead on Jackson’s 3 at 6:52, Harris stole the ball and fed Jardine for a fast-break layup and the Orange never trailed again.
Consecutive 3s by Greene and Jardine boosted the lead to 79-71 with 2:55 left, and after Langhurst’s fifth 3 of the game pulled the Colonials within 81-79 with 63 seconds left, the Orange converted six free throws in the final minute to hold on.
Robert Morris twice led by seven points in the tight first half as the Orange’s defensive shortcomings on the perimeter continued to plague them. Villanova was 11-of-21 on 3s in its win over Syracuse in the Big East tournament and the Colonials picked right up where the Wildcats left off, hitting 8-of-20 from beyond the arc in the half.
But after Jackson’s third 3 gave Robert Morris a 35-28 lead at 6:06, Syracuse closed the half with a 16-5 spurt. Flynn started the surge and Greene helped finish it with a resounding one-hand slam dunk off a lob from Harris, whose two free throws gave the Orange a 44-40 halftime lead.