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WVU basketball: Missed call keeps WVU from reaching goal

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- West Virginia did what it needed to do to tie Saturday's game against No. 3 Syracuse and a point-blank shot with 8 seconds to go had everyone on the sideline jumping and screaming -- but for all the wrong reasons.

WVU's Deniz Kilicli tried to score on an offensive rebound and bounced his shot off the backboard, only to have Syracuse's Baye Keita smack the ball off the glass and keep it from going through the basket. It should have been called goaltending, but the officials let the play continue despite vehement protests from the WVU bench.

After a trying timeout, Kevin Jones missed a 3-pointer as time expired and Syracuse beat the Mountaineers, 63-61, inside the Carrier Dome.  The crowd of 28,740 was the largest to see a college game this season and they saw a compromised ending to a competitive game.

"You saw it. What do you think?" WVU Coach Bob Huggins said after consoling and critiquing his players in the locker room. "I just saw it. I went in there and watched it. There's not any doubt."

Neither team led by more than six points. The score was tied nine times and Mountaineers and the Orange traded the lead five times.

Syracuse was up 61-58 when Kris Joseph scored inside with 2:07 remaining, but Jones evened things up with a 3 from the left corner 30 seconds later. Brandon Triche was fouled on a drive and made two free throws and Jones missed a 3 before Syracuse worked the shot clock and missed with 36 seconds to go.

The Mountaineers called a timeout with 27 seconds left and Truck Bryant, who warmed up and then cooled off in the second half, missed a 3. Kilicli had Joseph under control under the basket when he grabbed the rebound, but Keita sneaked in from behind the play and hit the ball.

Kilicli threw his arms in the air in disbelief and Jones was signaling for the officials to count the basket.

"I saw it," said a reserved Jones, who chose his words wisely. "It was a good shot. I don't know what to say about it. It was a good shot. That's all I can say about it."

Gene Steratore -- who has worked 17 college basketball and two NFL games this month -- was the official under the basket while Karl Hess -- working his 21st game in 28 days -- was on the left sideline near the play. Neither hinted they might call goaltending, though the rule says the basket counts once the ball hits the backboard above the rim.

"It was goaltending," Bryant said.

Keita grabbed the rebound, but WVU's Gary Browne sneaked up on Keita and poked the fall free as Keita tried to pass to Joseph. Browne and Joseph went after the ball and it went out of bounds off Joseph.

The Mountaineers called a timeout and Huggins started with the officials, including Brian O'Connell  -- 18 games this month -- who was closest to Huggins.

"Inexcusable," Huggins said afterward. "Inexcusable."

WVU still had 6.1 seconds to go and got the ball to freshman Jabarie Hinds, who was supposed to drive or pass to Jones. Hinds got caught between driving and shooting and Jones headed to the basket to rebound. Jones saw Hinds in trouble and flashed back to the perimeter and Hinds passed to Jones for a desperation 3 that was short.

"It's hard to get them back and refocused after that happened," Huggins said. "You've got 30 seconds to try to get them refocused and they're all thinking about a lot of other stuff that just happened. I honestly don't know if we ran exactly what I wanted."

The loss was the 10th in a row here for WVU (15-7, 5-4 Big East) against the Orange (22-1, 9-1). The Mountaineers won in the Dome in their first opportunity in 1996, but haven't won since and have lost 13 of 14 in the series.

WVU will now work to avoid the first three-game losing streak under Huggins in Monday's home game against Pitt. The Mountaineers lost 78-62 Wednesday at St. John's, though they were far better Saturday.

WVU was either tied or in the lead for all but 1:39 of Saturday's first half after trailing by double digits for most of Wednesday's first half.

"You knew West Virginia was going to come back like this," Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said. "They've been a good road team the whole year. They whipped Kansas State and they should have beaten Baylor in the tournament. They won by 20 at Rutgers. They just had a bad game the other night. Everyone does that at one time or another in this league. They're tough."

Jones led WVU with 20 points and eight rebounds and Bryant added 12 -- all in the second half, but none in the final 8:12. Browne was scoreless Wednesday, but had 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and no turnovers against Syracyse. Aaron Brown, also scoreless Wednesday, responded with five points off the bench while Hinds added six points and three assists with no turnovers.

Those three were 3-for-16 for six points and eight turnovers Wednesday. They were 7-for-12 with one turnover against Syracuse.

"It was a different game," Browne said. "We came out with our minds set and we listened to what the coaches said. We listened to what they said and we were a better team."

Triche led the Orange with 18 points and Joseph added 13 and seven rebounds. Scoop Jardine had nine points and five assists. Syracuse shot 46 percent in the game even while missing 16 of 20 3-point attempts. The Orange lived on WVU's turnovers and had 22 points off WVU's 17 giveaway.

"One good thing is that we only turned the ball over six times and they turned it over 17," Boeheim said. "We picked up (12) points there, which we had to have or the game would not have been close."

The Mountaineers shot 40 percent in the game and were 13-for-33 in the second half after starting 7-for-10.

"Deniz is 2-for-10 and they're all right around the goal," Huggins said. "You guys watch him. Normally he finishes better than that."

WVU won the rebounding battle 41-20, but also let the Orange do what they do best. They lead the country with 10.3 steals per game and had 11 Saturday and are also No. 1 with a plus-7 turnover margin, which was plus-11 against WVU.

Still, the Mountaineers allowed only 10 fast-break points and never let the game get away from them until it was over. They were also much improved on offense and used a patient, unselfish approach with 16 assists on 22 baskets.

"I know we didn't win, but I like the way we controlled the tempo the whole time," Bryant said. "We controlled the game and didn't just shoot 3s. We got the ball inside and outside. We knew they were a good team in transition and we wanted to keep them from running up and down the floor.

"We did a good job with all that. It sucks we didn't come out with a win, but we did some good things to get better results from now on."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.


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