Over the past 2 1/2 years, Gerry McNamara has earned a reputation as one of college's top marksmen from 3-point land, as well as a player who comes up with a basket in a clutch situation.
The Orange trailed Connecticut 69-65 with one minute and five seconds left during Syracuse's Monday night game against Connecticut and naturally, it was McNamara taking the most important shot of the game. He rolled off a screen and squared up along the left baseline for an open 2-point shot – past experience would lead one to believe that he would've hit it.
But McNamara's shot was long, and a swarm of Huskies were there to recover the miss. It was that kind of night for McNamara, who finished with just nine points on 1-of-9 shooting from 3-point range as Syracuse lost to Connecticut 74-66 at the Carrier Dome.
"I missed a few shots toward the end," McNamara said. "Off the ball, they did a good job of guarding me, so it was tougher. We let one slip away."
Syracuse (21-3, 8-3) certainly had a chance to win its 16th-straight home game, building a 61-56 with 8:10 left after McNamara found Darryl Watkins inside for a dunk.
But the Huskies (15-5, 7-3) stormed back with Charlie Villanueva leading the way. Villanueva, who had scored just 15 points over the past three games, broke out of his recent funk, scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Eight of those points came after Watkins' slam, and his layup with 2:47 sparked a 9-1 run, putting Syracuse away.
Rudy Gay added 19 points and seven rebounds for the Huskies. Hakim Warrick led Syracuse with 16 points but was bothered by foul trouble in the second half, collecting his fourth foul with 11 minutes left.
He wasn’t the only one as both McNamara and Watkins had four fouls. Terrence Roberts fouled out. All told, Syracuse was whistled for 24 fouls while Connecticut committed only 15 fouls the entire game, just six in the second half.
“I look up at the scoreboard and there's five players with 17 fouls,” McNamara said. “It's tough to play aggressive when it seems like everything's going one way."
McNamara tried to stay aggressive with his shot, but he was shadowed by Marcus Williams, forcing McNamara into difficult shots. Williams showed no ill-effects of a virus he had over the past few days, and had plenty of help from Villanueva and Josh Boone.
It certainly showed as McNamara fell nine points short of his season average (18), shooting just 4-of-18 from the field, culminating with the missed jumper that could’ve brought the Orange to within two with a minute left.
Still, the shot wouldn’t have been as important had Syracuse executed down the stretch. In the two possessions leading up to McNamara’s miss, Syracuse turned the ball over two out of three times trying to lob the ball into Warrick.
It was uncharacteristic of Syracuse, which had just come off a come-from-behind win against Notre Dame on Saturday. On that day, Syracuse rallied from 11 points down with six minutes left to win, using a crisp press and timely shooting from McNamara, who ended up with 22 that day.
"We have been very good down the stretch,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “But every game down the stretch you're not always going to make the right plays or miss a shot or two and that's what happened."