March 18, 2005

Vermont Shocks Syracuse 60-57 in Overtime

WORCESTER, Mass. - Tom Brennan called his Vermont Catamounts a dangerous team. Syracuse found out just how dangerous. Germain Mopa Njila and T.J. Sorrentine hit consecutive 3-pointers in a 48-second span of overtime, and the 13th-seeded Catamounts upset the Big East champions 60-57 Friday night in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

When Gerry McNamara missed a desperation 3 from the top of the key in the final seconds, the Cats had their first tournament triumph. They swarmed together and hugged in celebration, jumping up and down as Brennan raised his right arm in triumph.

Brennan, who is retiring at the end of the season, continually brushed tears from his eyes after beating a Syracuse team that had hopes of making the Final Four for the second time in three years.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim left the court with his head down, and the players followed.

Vermont (25-6) advanced to play either Michigan State or Old Dominion in the second round of the Austin Regional. Fourth-seeded Syracuse, the 2003 national champions, finished its season 27-7.

Brennan paced back and forth in front of the bench, thrusting his fist in the air each time the Catamounts took the lead, and the Vermont players were told by the officials several times to stay on the bench.

Syracuse never got on track, committing a season-high 24 turnovers. Hakim Warrick ended the final game of his impressive career with 21 points and 12 rebounds, his 16th double-double of the season, but he had 10 turnovers. McNamara had 11 points but was 1-for-7 on 3-pointers.

Vermont tied the game at 51 when Taylor Coppenrath hit a long jumper with 55 seconds left. The Catamounts then got the ball back with a chance to take the lead, but Mopa Njila stepped on the baseline — negating his go-ahead layup with 3.7 seconds left.

The Vermont coaches threw their pens and clipboards against their seats in frustration. McNamara missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds to send the game into overtime.

Coppenrath finished with 16 points.

No comments: