UMass shocks Syracuse again, 81-77 in NIT quarterfinals

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP)—Dante Milligan slammed a two-handed dunk off a feed from Chris Lowe with 28 seconds left to give Massachusetts the lead as the Minutemen rallied from 17 points down in the final eight minutes and stunned Syracuse 81-77 on Tuesday night in the NIT quarterfinals.

Massachusetts (24-10) advances to the semifinals against Florida on April 1 at Madison Square Garden.

No team had beaten Syracuse twice in the Carrier Dome in the same season until the Minutemen found their long-range eye and made their stunning late rally.

The top-seeded Orange (21-14) were coming off an impressive 88-72 win at home over Maryland last Wednesday, while the second-seeded Minutemen advanced with a 68-63 come-from-behind win against Akron on Saturday.

Ricky Harris led UMass with 23 points, Etienne Brower had 19, Milligan had 13 points and 11 rebounds, Luke Bonner had 13 points, Gary Forbes had nine points, and Lowe finished with 11 assists.

Arinze Onuaku had 20 points to lead Syracuse, Donte Greene had 18, Jonny Flynn 14 and Scoop Jardine 12.

Massachusetts made its Carrier Dome debut a memorable one back in November with a stunning 107-100 victory, the most points allowed by Syracuse in the Carrier Dome since it opened in 1980. The may have topped it in this one.

Syracuse dominated the opening period, leading by 18 at the break, and increased it to 54-32 as Flynn stole the ball and fed Jardine for a fast-break layup with 14:38 left.

The Minutemen, who were awful in the first half from beyond the arc, then began to find their long-range eye and surged back.

Brower, who had hit 50 percent of his 3-pointers over the previous 18 games, swished a pair in a 24-second span. UMass then took advantage of turnovers by Greene and Paul Harris, with Milligan converting a hook and tip-in to move UMass within 54-42 with 12:20 left.

The Minutemen, who overcame a 12-point deficit to win the November game, weren’t done firing yet. Brower hit another 3 and Ricky Harris swished a pair of 3s to pull UMass within 64-55 at 8:55.

A dunk and long baseline jumper by Greene and a layup high off the glass by Flynn gave Syracuse a 70-56 edge just over a minute later.

Unfazed, Brower, Bonner and Ricky Harris each hit 3-pointers, Harris’s from the left corner making it 74-69 with 3:45 left.

After Greene missed a pair of free throws, Milligan hit a follow and Ricky Harris drained a 3 from the left corner to bring UMass within 77-76 with 53 seconds left.

Greene lost the ball out of bounds to set up Milligan’s go-ahead dunk. Milligan then blocked Greene along the baseline, Flynn lost the ball on a drive in the lane, and Ricky Harris made a pair of free throws with 4.4 seconds left to complete the comeback.

The Minutemen struggled mightily in the first half as the game slowly seemed to be slipping away. They fell behind by as many as 14 in the first 12 minutes as their outside shooting was way off mark. UMass missed its first seven shots from beyond the arc and finished the period 2-of-15. In their win here in November, the Minutemen made 14-of-31 3-pointers.

Forbes missed all six of his shots from the floor in the first half and scored only one point while Ricky Harris was 2-for-12 and made only 1-of-7 from beyond the arc.

Meanwhile, after a slow start by both teams, Greene hit a 3 from left wing and Jardine fed Onuaku for a slam dunk to give Syracuse a 16-8 lead midway through the period.

Paul Harris followed with a layup, Greene’s steal set up a layup by Jardine and a dunk and hook by Onuaku completed a 15-5 spurt and boosted the lead to 25-11 with 8:08 left.

Ricky Harris finally hit a 3 to stop the surge, Bonner followed with two hooks and a jumper in the lane, and a layup by Ricky Harris had the Minutemen back within 29-20 with 4:45 remaining.

The Orange then scored the next 12 points, four from reserve Rick Jackson, to gain a 21-point lead and left the floor at halftime with a 43-24 edge.

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