ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP)—The way Jim Boeheim saw it, Syracuse had no business winning this one.
Wes Johnson scored 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and No. 4 Syracuse rallied from 18 down to beat DePaul 59-57 Saturday afternoon for its eighth straight win.
“Tonight, we played two great minutes,” Boeheim said. “Not usually enough to win.”
The Orange scored 16 straight to cut their deficit to two late in the first half, then took the lead with a 16-2 run in the second, escaping with a win after DePaul’s Will Walker missed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds.
Kris Joseph added 15 points for Syracuse (21-1, 8-1 Big East), including a 3-pointer that started the decisive rally. Rick Jackson scored 10.
Walker poured in 21 for DePaul (8-13, 1-8), which has lost nine of 10 and three straight since a win over Marquette that stopped a 24-game conference regular-season losing streak.
Trailing 52-43 with about seven minutes left, Joseph buried a 3-pointer to start the go-ahead run. Andy Rautins connected from the outside after DePaul’s Michael Bizoukas threw the ball away, and the Orange kept coming after the Blue Demons’ Mike Stovall hit two free throws.
Scoop Jardine buried another 3-pointer, and Johnson tied it at 54 with a one-handed fastbreak dunk over Stovall.
Jardine gave the Orange their first lead with a layup that made it 56-54 with 3:37 left, and Joseph converted a layup and hit a free throw to make it 59-54.
DePaul stayed in it when Walker hit a 3 with 1:08 left, but the Blue Demons could not bury the potential winner off the dribble in the closing seconds after Rautins missed a 3, and the Orange walked away with a tight victory.
“I really think I’m going to hit every shot when I let it go,” Walker said. “In high school, I’ve always hit that shot, so it’s a little bit different now. But I can’t keep thinking about it. I’ve got to go keep shooting the next game to get it out of my mind. It’s already out of my mind now.”
Syracuse would just as soon forget about this one, too.
The final seconds were excruciating for the Orange, not that the rest of the afternoon was easy. Walker’s miss just made the flight home a little more bearable.
“I don’t think it’s ever good for your team to stink,” Boeheim said. “We stunk. We played awful.”
Particularly in the early going—again.
The Orange turned the ball over on their first two possessions, resulting in a 3 by DePaul’s Stovall and a jumper by Jeremiah Kelly and more early angst for a team that fell behind 14-0 before rallying to beat Georgetown by 17 on Monday.
This time, Syracuse had trouble against an opponent that ranked last in the Big East in scoring and field-goal percentage.
“We can’t do that the rest of the stretch of the season because it’ll come back and bite us,” Johnson said. “It’s starting to catch up with us.”
A 3-pointer by Walker, a steal and layup by Mac Koshwal after a timeout, and a layup by Krys Faber to cap a nine-point spurt made it 18-6, and the Blue Demons were just getting started.
Another 3 by Walker started another 9-0 run that Stovall finished with a floater, making it 33-15 with 8:53 left in the half and whipping the crowd into another frenzy.
It didn’t last.
Arinze Onuaku scored and the Orange reeled off 16 straight, rattling the Blue Demons with their press. A long 3-pointer from the top by Rautins and short hook by Jackson pulled Syracuse within 33-31 with 1:48 left before Faber hit a corner jumper to make it a four-point game and end a 7-minute, 40-second drought for DePaul.
“We made plays when it mattered even though we didn’t want to be in that position to begin with,” said Rautins, who was 2 of 10 on 3-pointers.