SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — As the final 5 seconds ticked off the clock, Jabarie Hinds drove the lane and dished the ball out to Kevin Jones in the left corner.
With the Mountaineers down by a basket to No. 3 Syracuse, Jones was set to atone for those subpar games in the past against the Orange, but a 3-pointer that would've been a huge moment in the forward's standout season clanked off the rim.
The Mountaineers' attempt to be the second team to beat the Orange this season fell short just as Jones' shot did. Instead, West Virginia lost 63-61 and walked off the Carrier Dome court wondering what could've been.
"We beat ourselves," Gary Browne said.
Perhaps the worst part for the Mountaineers, though, was that just seconds earlier center Deniz Kilicili went up for a layup, only to be thwarted by Syracuse center Baye Keita. While it was called a block by the officials, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said after the game he was positive Keita should've been called for goaltending.
"I just went in and watched it," Huggins said. "There's not a doubt."
Jones finished 8 of 18 from the field for 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Darryl "Truck" Bryant scored 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting, and Browne had 11 off the bench. In his four previous games against Syracuse, Jones totaled 23 points and 20 rebounds combined.
The final play was set up as Huggins said he intended — Hinds penetrating inside with Jones at the arc waiting for his chance. After the disputed call, though, Browne said the game was essentially taken out of the Mountaineers' hands.
"We executed well, but we didn't get the shot," he said. "We can't handle that situation. The officials made that decision. But it happened. We learn from it."
West Virginia played well enough to win, and hung with the Orange the whole game. The Mountaineers dominated the boards, outrebounding Syracuse 41-20.
In the end, it wasn't enough.
Brandon Triche had 18 points, including a pair of free throws that broke the final tie with 88 seconds left, to lead the Orange.
Syracuse (22-1, 9-1 Big East) has won 13 of the past 14 games against West Virginia (15-7, 5-4). The win was the 878th for Orange coach Jim Boeheim, moving him within one victory of tying former North Carolina coach Dean Smith for third in Division I history.
Kris Joseph finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, Scoop Jardine had nine points and five assists and Dion Waiters had eight points for the Orange, who played their third game without center Fab Melo.
The Mountaineers were coming off a 78-62 loss at St. John's on Wednesday night, a game in which the Red Storm started five freshmen, but they led most of the first half in this one and never trailed by more than three points in the final 17 minutes.
Syracuse led by four to start the second half and made it 33-27 on Triche's steal and layup with 18:57 to go. After that, it was anybody's game. The score was tied seven times in the second half, the last when Jones hit a 3 from the left corner to tie it at 61 with 1:41 left.
The Orange were hampered by fouls to their big men. Keita picked up his fourth midway through the half and 6-foot-9 freshman Rakeem Christmas fouled out with 4:58 to go.
The Orange trailed most of the first half as the Mountaineers patiently attacked the 2-3 zone. Jones started the game by hitting consecutive mid-range jumpers from the heart of the Syracuse defense.
The Mountaineers led by six three times, the last at 22-16 after a 3-pointer by Jones from the left wing with 7:34 left, but they converted only one other basket in the closing minutes — a runner by Hinds — as Syracuse increased the defensive intensity with a press.
The Orange forced shot-clock violations on consecutive possessions in the final 3 minutes and Joseph's baseline drive and layup gave Syracuse a 25-24 lead with 68 seconds left, the Orange's second lead of the half. Waiters fed Jardine for a wide-open 3 from the right corner with 3.2 seconds left to give Syracuse a 28-24 halftime lead. It was the second make in 11 tries from behind the arc for the Orange.
Melo watched the game from the bench in street clothes. After starting the first 20 games of the season and becoming a force in the paint, the 7-foot Brazilian has not played since logging 29 minutes in a home win over Pitt nearly two weeks ago. Melo is ineligible to play because of academic issues but has been practicing with the team, and Boeheim is hopeful he'll be able to return to the lineup.