NEW YORK — It was on this very same court three months ago that Michael Carter-Williams failed in Syracuse’s first loss of the season. But on Wednesday afternoon, Carter-Williams showed that during that time period, he had learned from his December experience.
Carter-Williams helped fend of a late run in a 62-59 win over Pittsburgh with a key steal and clutch free throw shooting as the Orange advanced to the semifinals of the Big East Tournament. They will get a third chance at Georgetown, who humiliated them 61-39 last week and has won both matchups this season.
With the Orange up just one point in the final 30 seconds, Pittsburgh fouled Carter-Williams, hoping for a few misses.
But Carter-Williams did no such thing, calmly sinking four shots from the charity stripe. Sandwiched in between the four free throws was a key 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.”
Certainly, his experience from December had something to do with it.
“Sometimes, you have to go through those bad experiences to be able to come back in this situation and be able to make them,” Boeheim said. “And they were huge. I don’t think we win the game if he doesn’t go to the line and make those free throws.”
And for all of his struggles this season at the 3-point line, Carter-Williams nailed his only attempt of the game with roughly 8 minutes left, which temporarily halted Pittsburgh’s momentum after they had trimmed the SU lead to four points.
“I just have a lot of confidence in myself, and my teammates have a lot of confidence in me,” Carter-Williams said. “Being one of the leaders of this team, whether its to shoot the ball or find someone for an open shot, I want to contribute.”