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."