Sunday , Mar , 07 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

McNamara powers defending champs over Huskies

Syracuse, NY (Sports Network) – Gerry McNamara scored a game-high 24 points to
lead 24th-ranked Syracuse to a 67-56 win over seventh-ranked Connecticut at
the Carrier Dome in the regular-season finale for both teams.

Hakim Warrick netted 19 points for the Orangemen (21-6, 11-5 Big East), who
have won their last five games. Craig Forth added 14 points and a career-high
13 rebounds in the win on “Senior Day.”

“I’ve been waiting for this one”. “UConn has had my number.”

Syracuse will enter the upcoming conference tournament as the fourth seed and
will get a first-round bye.

Charlie Villanueva had 13 points for the Huskies (24-6, 12-4), who had their
five-game winning streak halted. Ben Gordon scored 11 points, while Wooden
Award finalist Emeka Okafor battled through back spasms and finished with just
two points on 1-of-2 shooting in the loss.

“I did everything I could to try to play, and now we’ll do everything we can
to be ready for the postseason,” said Okafor.

Connecticut finished second in the Big East Conference and will also receive a
first-round bye.

The game was tied at 32 apiece at halftime, but the Orangemen began the second
half with an 10-2 run, highlighted by a pair of threes from McNamara, to take
a 42-34 lead with 17:05 left in the game.

Connecticut battled back and trimmed its deficit to 44-42 on Taliek Brown’s
jumper with 11:08 remaining, but Demetris Nichols’ three-pointer two minutes
later extended Syracuse’s advantage to five at 49-44. The Orangemen kept the
pressure on and McNamara’s floater from the right baseline with 6:22 left
widened Syracuse’s gap to 55-46.

Gordon brought the Huskies within 60-54 with his three-pointer with 2 1/2
minutes remaining, but the Orangemen answered with a jumper by Warrick and
one free throw by Josh Pace to stretch the cushion to nine points.

“We feel pretty confident as a team,” Warrick said. “We have a bit of a
swagger. We have not only beaten two of the best teams in our conference, but
in the nation. I think that says a lot.”

Connecticut never got closer than seven points the rest of the game.

Syracuse grabbed a 10-4 lead on a pair of free throws by Warrick with 16:18
left in the first half and led 16-10 moments later. However, the Huskies then
used a lengthy 13-0 surge, keyed by five points from Villanueva and four from
Brown, to claim a 23-16 edge with 7:23 left in the half.

Forth’s jumper with 6:31 left in the period ended a scoring drought of nearly
six minutes and brought the Orangemen within five. McNamara then buried a
three-pointer seconds later to bring them within 23-21.

After a Gordon three, Syracuse reeled off seven straight points, all by
McNamara, to seize a 28-26 advantage with 2:36 left in the first half. The
teams went back-and-forth over the final minutes and were tied at 32-32 at

Villanueva scored 11 points, while McNamara and Forth each had 12 in the
opening 20 minutes.