AUSTIN, Texas -- The instincts that transformed Lawrence Moten from just another recruit into Syracuse's all-time leading scorer turned on him savagely yesterday. With 4.3 seconds to play and the Orangemen leading Arkansas 82-81, the senior captain called a timeout Syracuse didn't have.
As Chris Webber of Michigan so painfully taught the nation two years ago, the penalty for that mistake is a technical foul. Razorbacks forward Scotty Thurman made the second of two free throws to send the game into overtime. Given a reprieve, the defending national champions edged Syracuse, 96-94, in the second round of the NCAA Midwest Regional before 15,375 at the Erwin Center.
Second-seeded Arkansas (29-6) escaped an upset for the second time in two games. The Razorbacks move to the regional semifinals in Kansas City, Mo., to play No. 6 seed Memphis (24-9), which edged No. 3 seed Purdue, 75-73, in the opening game yesterday. In a sub-regional in which five of the six games had final margins of four points or fewer, the best game came last.
Syracuse (20-10), which trailed by as many as 12 in the second half, fought back to take an 82-81 lead with 27 seconds to play. Arkansas guard Corey Beck then saw the ball slapped out of his hands and out of bounds under the Syracuse basket with 6.5 seconds left. After each team took a timeout, Beck threw a bounce pass into the right corner toward teammate Al Dillard.
However, Syracuse forward Luscious Jackson dived, caught the pass and fell on his left side. Dillard bent down to tie him up. The possession arrow pointed toward Syracuse. The whistle blew with 4.3 seconds to play. Tim Higgins, a veteran official, raced from beneath the basket pointing up court. However, he pointed for the reason that would break Syracuse's heart. Moten had signaled for a timeout.
"I put my head down," Beck said. "Then I thought, 'Oh, there is a God.' "
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim argued that the officials should have called a jump ball. But that wouldn't have stopped Moten's quick reaction in a career that ended with 2,335 points.
Moten, who scored 27 points, two fewer than teammate John Wallace, came to the press room with eyes and nose ruddy with tears. "As far as the timeout call," he began, "I guess, you know, I guess I thought we had one, you know." He bit his lower lip.
Boeheim interjected, "It's over with."
Moten's mistake mimicked the timeout Webber called in the waning seconds of the 1993 NCAA championship game, right down to the same corner of the court. Webber's error allowed North Carolina to seal a 77-71 victory.
Thurman, who led Arkansas with 27 points, missed the first free throw, but swished the second to tie the score at 82.
The overtime featured three ties and three lead changes. Arkansas took a 93-92 lead on a Thurman three-pointer with 2:08 jTC left. After a timeout, Moten sliced through the lane for a layup to put Syracuse back in front. Thurman pump-faked a three, then stepped inside the line to drop a jumper that put Arkansas ahead, 95-94. Syracuse called its overtime timeout with 36 seconds left. However, Beck stole Wallace's inbounds pass and Thurman was fouled with 12.6 seconds left. Again, he made one of two free throws.
Syracuse and Arkansas scored on every overtime possession save the last one. Michael Lloyd and Jackson missed three-point shots in the final five seconds. When the buzzer sounded, Jackson collapsed at midcourt with his hands on his forehead. Moten fell to the floor at the sideline, his head beneath the curtain hanging from the press table. Thurman, who became friends with Moten at the Goodwill Games tryout camp in Los Angeles last summer, helped him up and hugged him.
"I told him, 'You have nothing to be ashamed of,' " Thurman said.