Each Thursday over the summer, The Juice Online will be counting down the top 10 moments in the 2012-13 basketball season. We continue our countdown with No. 7, Syracuse’s game against Pitt in the Big East championship quarterfinals
WHAT HAPPENED: Syracuse and Pittsburgh will meet again in a different conference. But in the two team’s last battle as Big East foes in the conference tournament quarterfinals, the Orange hung on for a 62-59 win.
Syracuse forward James Southerland gave the Orange the lead early, and Michael Carter-Williams helped finish Pitt in the end. The two teams will jump from the Big East to the ACC on July 1.
Southerland was on fire from distance, going a perfect 6 for 6 from 3-point land. It set a new Big East tournament record for 3s without a miss.
“I didn’t realize I was 6 for 6 until I looked down at the paper now,” said Southerland, who finished with 20 points. “I don’t think about it. I just go out and play and make sure I make every shot.”
Despite Southerland’s efforts, Syracuse was still only up one point with 30 seconds left. That’s when Carter-Williams finished the Panthers off with some timely free throw shooting.
Carter-Williams sank four free throws in the final half minute, and also added a late steal that put the game out of reach. On the afternoon, he finished with 11 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds (and 6 turnovers).
“Earlier in the year, he missed some against Temple in this building,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “He’s a competitor. He’s worked hard at it. I could see that he was determined.”
Boeheim was referring to a 83-79 loss to Temple on Dec. 22 at the Garden where Carter-Williams went 7 for 15 from the line, with 3 misses in his 4 attempts with under two minutes left.
After that game, the sophomore guard took the blame.
“If I had made my free throws,” Carter-Williams said, “we would’ve won the game.”
Fast forward three months later, and that’s exactly what Carter-Williams did, as he scored the final seven points for Syracuse, including 5 for 6 from the line.
“I’ve had some down moments at the free throw line this season, but overall, I’ve been OK at the free throw line,” Carter-Williams said. “I just wanted to go up there and knock them down.”
WHY IT’S NO. 7: If there is a game that you can point to where the Orange turned their season around, this would be it. Syracuse finished the season losing four of five games, including a humiliating 61-39 loss to Georgetown. A 75-63 win over Seton Hall in the Big East tournament second round wasn’t exactly going to convince anyone that the Orange were tournament ready. But a win over the No. 17 team in the country, who had beaten them by 10 earlier in the year, showed that the Orange’s season still had life.