SYRACUSE -- Brandon Triche is Syracuse's top free throw shooter, and in his mind if the first one he takes in a game feels good he's going to have a good game at the line.
On Saturday, with West Virginia and the third-ranked Orange clawing for a victory and the score tied, 61-all, with 88 seconds left, Triche swished a pair of free throws -- his only attempts of the game -- and Syracuse held on for a 63-61 victory.
"It just happened to be me tonight," said Triche, who led the Orange with 18 points. "We showed heart, mental toughness."
After Triche's free throws -- he's 38 of 44 on the season -- the Mountaineers missed four straight shots, including an airball 3 by Darryl "Truck" Bryant and an attempt on the follow by Deniz Kilicli, who caught the ball under the basket. Playing with four fouls, Syracuse center Baye Keita helped deny Kilicli's shot and appeared to get away with goaltending that wasn't called.
"We did pretty good as a team," said the 6-foot-11 Keita, who matched his season high by playing 25 minutes in the absence of starting center Fab Melo and registered three blocks and four points. "I'm just supposed to try to block those shots. Luckily, I got it and the ref missed it (the goaltending call). I don't know if that's a goaltending or a block."
It was goaltending in the mind of West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.
"Do I think it was? No. I know it was. I saw the replay," Huggins said. "It's hard. You've got 30 seconds and you're trying to get them refocused and they're all thinking about other things."
Kris Joseph snared the crucial rebound for Syracuse but lost the ball out of bounds with 6.2 seconds left, prompting a tirade from coach Jim Boeheim and giving West Virginia one last shot. Unable to drive the lane as planned, Jabarie Hinds passed to Kevin Jones in the left corner as C.J. Fair stormed at him, and his desperation 3 at the buzzer fell short.
"We beat ourselves," Gary Browne said. "We've dug ourselves in a hole where we aren't supposed to be. We feel hurt right now. This loss hurt us a lot."
Syracuse won its second straight since a loss at Notre Dame and did so despite being hammered 41-20 on the boards, 24-9 in the second half, and missing 16 of 20 3-point attempts. Still, there was a battle for every loose ball under the baskets and the Mountaineers only finished with a 13-8 edge on second-chance points, not much to show for a 19-5 edge on the offensive glass.