With the Mountaineers trailing 63-61 and seconds ticking away, Deniz Kilicli rebounded a missed shot and, wide open, put up what would have been the game-tying basket. Keita, out of position, made a desperate leap and blocked the shot, but long after it had touched the backboard above the rim.
Somehow, all three officials failed to see what was obvious to all those watching on television and to the 28,740 at the Carrier Dome -- the largest on-campus crowd to witness a college basketball game this season.
West Virginia’s bench exploded angrily, though Huggins didn’t stalk the officials down the tunnel as he did in 2008 when the Hoyas held on to a 58-57 win in spite of a similarly missed call.
“It’s inexcusable. It’s inexcusable,” Huggins told the Mountaineer Sports Network.
WVU had one last chance to win after the ball went out of bounds, but Kevin Jones couldn’t make a fallaway 3-pointer at the horn. Jones sat on the floor with an exasperated look on his face after the shot bounced out.
“Our kids played their hearts out,” Huggins said. “I just told them I wish we would have played our hearts out on Wednesday [in a blowout loss to St. John’s]. Then we wouldn’t be in the shape we’re in now.”
Player of the Game
At 15-7 overall and 5-4 in the Big East, West Virginia went from tied for second place in the Big East to the middle of the pack and needing wins to pad its NCAA Tournament resume in the span of only a week.
It narrowly missed out on what would have been its first win over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome since 1996, the sort of victory that would have shored up the team’s postseason credentials in a major way.
The Mountaineers actually led for most of the first half, building an advantage of as many as six points on two separate occasions. But the Orange (22-1, 9-1) went on an 8-0 run to take a 28-24 halftime lead.
The game remained close throughout the second half, as neither team ever held more than a six-point lead. In the final 11 minutes, neither team ever had a two-possession lead.
Jones hit a 3-pointer from the baseline to tie the game at 61-61, but SU’s Brandon Triche made a pair of free throws shortly after to give the Orange a two-point lead again.
West Virginia’s Jabarie Hinds missed a 3-pointer on the Mountaineers’ next trip, but WVU -- which dominated the glass 36-20 -- got an extra chance. Jones then missed another trifecta from the same spot where he had shot his game-tying 3.
But WVU got a stop, setting up a wild final sequence. Truck Bryant badly missed another 3-pointer, setting up Kilicli’s would-be game tying shot.
Jones had 20 points to lead all scorers -- his seventh-consecutive game with at least that many. The senior also grabbed eight rebounds. Bryant added 11 points, and Gary Browne came off the bench to score 11.
Triche scored 18 for Syracuse, and Kris Joseph added 13.
The Mountaineers, reeling after consecutive losses this week -- just as they were on the brink of entering the national rankings -- have a quick turnaround before Monday’s Backyard Brawl against Pitt.
Huggins said he didn’t believe it would be difficult to get his players, emotionally deflated after the loss, motivated for that game.
“We’ll get them back up,” he said. “If we don’t, then we’re going to the NIT.”