MILWAUKEE (AP)—Marquette is a different team with Dominic James wearing a suit instead of a uniform. And Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn and Andy Rautins made sure the Golden Eagles’ free fall will continue into the postseason.
Flynn scored 20 of his 24 points after halftime, and Rautins added a key 3-pointer and layup as the 25th-ranked Orange beat the 13th-ranked Golden Eagles 86-79 in overtime Saturday.
It was the fourth straight win for resurgent Syracuse (23-8, 11-7 Big East) and the fourth straight loss for Marquette (23-8, 12-6) in the regular season finale for both.
“We ended out on as good a note as we could,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “We started out with four (wins) in this league, and we ended with four. We’ll forget about the in-between.”
Jerel McNeal scored 25 points for the Golden Eagles in the final home appearance for their highly regarded trio of senior guards: McNeal, James and Wesley Matthews.
James again watched from the bench, his season having come to an end when he broke a bone in his foot in the opening minutes of a Feb. 25 loss to Connecticut.
Putting their current slide aside, James and his classmates spoke optimistically about the team’s chances in a postgame senior day ceremony.
“We still have a lot to accomplish,” James told the crowd.
The Golden Eagles have proved they can stay in contention against tough opponents without James, but still walked away empty-handed from a stretch of games that would have been brutal even with James.
“I think they’re competing their guts out,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “We’re just coming up short.”
Marquette’s four straight losses have come against Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
“They’ve lost three games to three No. 1 seeds coming into this, so they are still a real good team,” Boeheim said.
The Golden Eagles showed that in rallying from a seven-point deficit in the final 5 minutes of regulation—then watched the Orange regain control in overtime.
“It felt like a burden came off our back,” Flynn said. “We were fighting so long.”
Syracuse led 80-77 on a 3-pointer by Rautins with 2:29 left in overtime, but Marquette cut the lead to one on two free throws by Lazar Hayward. With the shot clock running down, Rautins hit a driving layup to give the Orange an 82-79 lead with 1:23 left.
Hayward missed on the other end—but Flynn missed a 3-pointer, giving the Golden Eagles a chance to tie.
Matthews missed a wide open 3-point attempt, but a tie-up under the basket gave the ball back to Marquette with 16 seconds left. McNeal then collided with Flynn near the Marquette bench, but officials ruled that McNeal stepped out of bounds.
Flynn and Rautins combined to go 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the final 13 seconds.
Boeheim was happy with the victory, but didn’t enjoy watching undersized Marquette outrebound his team 42-38 and outscore Syracuse 33-14 in second-chance points.
“They got more second-chance points than anybody got on us all year,” Boeheim said. “Our defense was good, but they just got so many second-chance points.”
Trailing by seven points with 4:50 remaining in regulation, Marquette put together a furious rally to retake the lead.
Matthews made two free throws, then McNeal made a steal and hit a layup to cut the lead to three. Syracuse turned the ball over out of bounds, and Marquette’s Jimmy Butler hit a putback to cut the lead to one with 4 minutes left.
McNeal’s 3-pointer with 17.9 seconds left gave Marquette a 73-72 lead, but McNeal fouled Syracuse’s Rick Jackson on the other end. He made the first free throw and missed the second, sending the game into overtime.
The afternoon began with James—wearing a sharp gray suit—walking in alongside Williams just before player introductions and pausing briefly to acknowledge the crowd.
James then was introduced as a starter with his teammates to a standing ovation, and stood as the team formed a circle around him to perform its usual pregame warmup dance.
Williams conceded afterward that the Golden Eagles were basically a “new team” without James, saying they miss him defensively even more than they do on offense.
“We’re trying,” Williams said. “We’re trying. I can’t fault our guys’ effort.”