PITTSBURGH — Syracuse was the second of the four No. 2 seeds to lose to a No. 15 seed in the NCAA tournament , when the Orange was beaten by Richmond in 1991 at Cole Field House.
On Thursday, Jim Boeheim's team nearly became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed, surviving with a closer-than-it-looks 72-65 win overNorth Carolina-Ashevilleat Consol Energy Center.
The Bulldogs —as well a large majority of the crowd — felt a few calls helped Syracuse sneak through to the second round Saturday against Kansas State.
It left longtimeUNC-Ashevillecoach Eddie Biedenbach seething.
"There's not enough time for cooling off for this one," he said. "Syracuse is better than Asheville. Tonight we were better than Syracuse. I have all the respect for Jim Boeheim, their team being 31-2. He 's a fantastic coach. They deserve all the recognition they've got this year. This (UNC-Asheville) was the better team tonight."
Asked if he thought that UNC-Asheville was better than Syracuse on Thursday, Boeheim said, "That's why they make scoreboards."
Later on in the newsconference, Boeheim was asked if he thought his team was lucky.
"I don't think luck has anything to do with winning games," said Boeheim, the third winningest coach in Division I history behind Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight. "We had to make some plays. James (Southerland) made a couple of big shot. We took control of the game. No I don't think luck was involved at all."
UNC-Asheville (24-10) led by as many as seven points in the first half and was only the sixth No. 16 seed to even take a halftime lead (34-30) over a No. 1 seed since the tournament was expanded in 1985. Despite two-time Big South player of the year Matt Dickey missing 12 of 13 shots, the Bulldogs stayed close.
The game was decided by two calls that went in Syracuse's favor.
The first came when Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine, a 49-percent free throw shooter, missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:20 remaining and the Orange hanging on to a 62-58 lead. UNC-Asheville guard J.P. Primm got the reboundbut was called for a lane violation. Jardine then made both ends of a new one-and-one.
The second came after Primm (18 points) had cut Syracuse's lead to 66-63 with 38.2 seconds left. With UNC-Asheville pressing full court on the ensuing inbounds play, it appeared that Syracuse guard Brandon Triche lost the ball out of bounds as he was bumped. No call was made, but Syracuse was awarded possession. Jardine was fouled again and made a pair of free throws.
Referee Ed Corbett told a pool reporter after the game that Primm, who swooped in from the side off the lane, was "in clear violation. The player released early, before it hit the rim. We've since watched the replay 20 times and it was the right call."
Corbett declined to comment on the inbounds play because "that's not reviewable".
Biedenbach would not comment on the officiating, but said, "That big replay machine up on top (above the court), you heard the crowd reaction. If you can evaluate the crowd, can you get 18,600 answers. OK."
Said Primm, "When it gets to crunch time, everyone is human."
Playing without center Fab Melo, who was suspended prior to the tournament by the school for academic issues, Syracuse (31-2) certainly looked beatable.
"The first time we played without Fab at Notre Dame, we played our worst game of the year," Boeheim said. "It wasn't our worst game of the year, but it wasn't good. I'm hopeful now we've got this game behind us, and we'll be better Saturday."
Biedenbach and his players said it will take some time to get over what happened Thursday.
When a tournament official told Biedenbach's player that they could leave the post-game news conference, but that the coach had to stay to answer some more questions, the formerN.C. Stateassistant brought up the cooling off period again.
"I have our athletic director over here, Janet Cone," he said. "Can I have a cooling off period before August? Okay good."
Notes: Sophomore forward C.J. Fair (City), who struggled in the Big East tournament after playing well for most of the season, got into early foul trouble Friday for Syracuse and finished with only three points on 1 of 7 shooting in 15 minutes, playing only four minutes in the second half.