Missing 15 of 22 free throws makes it difficult to beat anyone, let alone the fifth-ranked team in the country. That was the painful lesson Syracuse learned last night in the second game of the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden. No. 4 Syracuse fell, 74-60, to No. 5 Oklahoma State, the Orange's first defeat this season.
"We like to think we can make free throws," Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said. "But we didn't tonight. I don't think we can play a game of this magnitude and level against a team like Oklahoma State and make 7 out of 22 from the free throw line."
Syracuse entered the game averaging 66.3 percent from the foul line, a number that will drop after its 31.8 percent performance.
Making matters worse, Hakim Warrick, Syracuse's leading scorer, was limited to 4-of-12 shooting from the field and was 5 of 13 from the line. He finished with 13 points.
Josh Pace led Syracuse (7-1) with 20 points, and Gerry McNamara had 18 points. Pace, McNamara and Warrick combined to score 51 of Syracuse's 60 points.
"I think we learned a lot from this game," Boeheim said. "We have three veteran players who are playing very well. For us to be good at the end of the year, they need to get some help."
The twins Stephen and Joey Graham each had 16 points to lead Oklahoma State. Ivan McFarlin also had 16. The Cowboys (6-0) managed to win even though John Lucas, who entered the game averaging 21.2 points, scored 5 points. He made 2 of 11 shots.
The first half was a plodding, low-scoring 20 minutes. When it was over, Syracuse led, 22-21.
"In the first half, that was the worst 20 minutes we've had in a long time," Oklahoma State Coach Eddie Sutton said. "But we've got to give them some credit. Their zone defense was very good."
The Orange jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but neither team was able to take control.
The Cowboys went in front, 17-13, on a layup by Stephen Graham with 6 minutes 11 seconds left, but OSU did not score again until Joey Graham scored on a putback with 1:34 left.
Syracuse was 2 for 11 from the free throw line in the first half, while Oklahoma State was 2 for 6.
"There were some bricks at both ends of the court," Sutton said. "If both of us don't shoot free throws better, it's going to wind up hurting both of us."
Syracuse extended its lead to 4 on a layup by Pace with 16:37 left in the second half, but the Orange could not pull away. Lucas scored his first points of the game on a 3-pointer with 5:52 left that put Oklahoma State ahead, 48-45. The shot ignited an 8-0 Oklahoma State run.
Syracuse struggled over the final four minutes as the game started to slip away. A traditional 3-point play by Stephen Graham with 3:53 remaining gave Oklahoma State a 58-48 lead, all but ending Syracuse's chances.
No. 11 Pittsburgh 70, Memphis 51
In the first game of the doubleheader at the Garden, No. 11 Pittsburgh, in its first significant test of the season, dominated Memphis, 70-51.
Improving to 6-0, Pitt jumped out to a 17-3 lead with 15:38 remaining in the first half and never trailed.
Pitt's five previous victories were against Howard, Robert Morris, Loyola (Maryland), St. Francis (Pennsylvania) and Duquesne, teams that had a combined record of 10-21 before yesterday. Pitt entered the game having outscored its opponents by an average of 28 points a game.
"Going into this game, everyone says that we haven't played anyone and this was our first big test," said Chris Taft of Pittsburgh. "The Big East itself is a crazy conference. We are a real good team, so it doesn't matter who we play. We went in with that attitude. We just wanted to go out there and show everybody who we are. Our best game hasn't come yet."