Two night's after Syracuse's loss to Duke ended with a Jim Boeheim meltdown in the wake of a questionable call, referees weren't the target of the legendary Syracuse coach's late-game wrath
Boeheim was far more disappointed with his own team.
Syracuse survived 57-55 at Maryland on Monday night despite a slew of late mistakes that turned a comfortable victory into a squeaker. The Orange led by 12 points with just over five minutes remaining before a flurry of errant jump shots, missed free throws and costly turnovers fueled a rally from the Terrapins.
An ill-advised Tyler Ennis cross-court pass that was stolen by Nick Faust led to a pair of free throws that cut the Syracuse lead to four with 4:35 to go. A lazy pass by Michael Gbinije a few minutes later led to a Jake Layman steal and free throw that trimmed the Maryland deficit to one with 47.7 seconds remaining. And a miss from C.J. Fair on a contested fadeaway jump shot actually put Maryland in position to win the game on its final possession.
Thankfully for Syracuse, Maryland capitalize on its opportunity. When Maryland coach Mark Turgeon opted not to call timeout, Nick Faust drove in transition and had his shot swatted away by Baye Moussa Keita with five seconds remaining, ensuring that the Orange would survive their fifth consecutive one-possession game.
Syracuse's victory was critical because it snapped a two-game losing streak and kept the Orange in position to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Orange also remain only one game behind ACC-leading Virginia entering their first-place showdown Saturday in Charlottesville.
For Maryland, the narrow home loss ends whatever slim hope remained of a late-season surge into contention for an NCAA tournament bid. At 15-13 overall and 7-8 in the ACC, the Terps have a better chance of fading out of the NIT bracket than they do making the NCAA tournament's field of 68.
If the loss was discouraging for Maryland, the victory wasn't much more encouraging for Syracuse.
In addition to the late-game issues, Syracuse also had forward Jerami Grant for only 13 minutes due to back issues and struggled offensively for the fourth straight game. Ennis bounced back from a poor game at Duke with 20 points and three assists and C.J. Fair added 17 points, but Maryland kept Trevor Cooney from heating up and allowed little production from anyone else.
What saved Syracuse, as usual, was its trademark two-three zone. Turnover-prone Maryland gave away the ball 18 times and only managed to shoot 35 percent from the field, not good enough to pull off a season-changing upset.
And so Syracuse survived and set up a huge game at Virginia on Saturday. The Orange can win, but they'll have to be better than they were Monday to do it.