No. 19 Syracuse was lucky enough to hold on and advance to tonight's semifinals in the Puerto Rico Holiday Classic.
The Orangemen defeated Saint Louis, 67-64, in the first round and will take on No. 25 Texas Christian University in the semifinals (8:30 p.m., Empire; Radio 1340). The first semifinal will feature Michigan and Division II American University of Puerto Rico (6 p.m., Empire).
That's because that for No. 12 Arkansas, there was little holiday cheer. In the biggest upset in college basketball this season, American-Puerto Rico defeated Arkansas, 64-59.
Todd Burgan made three free throws in the final 22 seconds as Syracuse held off Saint Louis.
Burgan led Syracuse with 21 points. Ryan Blackwell added 18 for the Orangemen and Etan Thomas had 12.
"I thought we played real well to get the lead at the end," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "We made some mistakes but I have to give my kids credit. They hung right in there in a tight situation and did enough to get the win."
Freshman Larry Hughes led Saint Louis with 21 points, but made only 7 of 13 free throws. The Billikens were 14 of 26 from the foul line, while Syracuse was 22 of 30.
Syracuse (10-0) led, 64-58, before Saint Louis (8-2) rallied one final time.
Reserve John Redden, who scored 10 points for Saint Louis, scored on a driving layup to close the gap to 64-62. But Burgan made two free throws with 22 seconds left to put Syracuse up, 66-62.
Hughes countered with a pair of free throws with 16 seconds left, slicing the lead to two again. Redden then stole the inbounds pass and was fouled with 15 seconds remaining but missed both free throws.
Burgan made the first of two free throws with 13 seconds left to make it 67-64. Saint Louis had a chance to tie the game, but missed a two-pointer with one second remaining.
"Saint Louis is a very tough team," Boeheim said. "I think they'll be a (NCAA) tournament team."
In the shocker of the day, Angel Paniagua scored 14 of his 15 points in the second half for American University and Wilfredo Pagan finished with 22. The win came 15 years to the day after tiny Chaminade of Hawaii pulled one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history, beating top-rated Virginia and its star center, Ralph Sampson, 77-72.
"I figured we had a one percent chance of winning," American coach Pep Claros said. "I knew the difference might be 40 or 50 points. But you play five on five for 40 minutes and you never know what might happen."
The Pirates (6-6), who upset Alabama during Thanksgiving, overcame a 25-9 deficit in the first half to win in the opening round of this tourney for the first time.
Nick Davis scored 13 points and grabbed 17 rebounds for the Razorbacks (8-1) while Derek Hood added 12 points.
Mike Jones scored 22 points to lead five double-figure scorers for Texas Christian (10-1) in its 93-54 win over Iowa State (5-5).
Maceo Baston scored 17 points and Robert Traylor had 10 points and 15 rebounds to lead Michigan (8-3) to its 76-53 win over Murray State. De'Teri Mayes led Murray State (9-1) with 19 points and Chad Townsend added 10.