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SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Jerami Grant had tied the score with a putback with just over a minute left and was looking to make another impact play.
He did seconds later with a backbreaking steal, fed a streaking Michael Gbinije for the go-ahead layup, and No. 9 Syracuse escaped with a 56-50 victory over St. Francis Brooklyn on Monday night.
Syracuse (4-0) trailed for most of the second half as leading scorer C.J. Fair struggled against the pesky Terriers (2-2), who were seeking their second upset of the young season. But the Orange defense clamped down over the final 4 minutes as Syracuse closed with a 10-0 run for the victory.
"We're not going to give up no matter how much we're down, no matter who we're playing," said Grant, who scored 13 points and stole the ball from Wayne Martin to set up Gbinije's basket with 65 seconds left. "It definitely says a lot about us."
Iowa State beat then-No. 7 Michigan 77-70 and Belmont rallied past North Carolina 83-80 on Sunday. The losses dropped the Wolverines seven spots in the AP Top 25 to 14th, while the Tar Heels' first home nonconference loss in eight years dropped them 12 spots to No. 24.
No such problem for the Orange.
Syracuse's last nonconference home loss was to Cleveland State on Dec. 15, 2008. In that one, Cedric Jackson took an inbounds pass with 2.2 seconds left, turned and swished a two-handed, 60-foot shot at the buzzer to give the Vikings a shocking 72-69 victory over the 11th-ranked Orange.
Syracuse was in trouble in this one until the end as Fair, who came in shooting 53.3 percent and averaging 21.7 points, went 2 of 13, all but one of his attempts coming from close range. But with the game on the line and time winding down, the ball was in Fair's hands. He drove to the basket, missed at the rim and Grant was there to convert and tie the game at 50-all.
"They denied hard," Fair said. "They didn't let me pop off or anything. They just tried to make my job harder. It was tough because I couldn't really find a rhythm."
Anthony White committed a turnover for St. Francis with 39 seconds left and Ben Mockford then threw up an airball 3.
"It was a good feeling, but at the end of the day our goal was to just play hard for the rest of the game and try to grind this win out," said Jalen Cannon, who led St. Francis with 16 points and eight rebounds. "I guess they wanted it more than us."
St. Francis shot 41.9 percent (18 of 43) for the game and scored 22 points in the paint. Syracuse was 18 of 51 (35.3 percent) from the field, made 2 of 6 3-point attempts, and outscored the Terriers 18-9 at the free throw line. Orange freshman point guard Tyler Ennis had an off-night, too, going 1 of 8 with three assists and two turnovers.
St. Francis whooped it up before the game and in the runway before the second half, and that was understandable. The Terriers knocked off reigning Atlantic Coast Conference champion Miami 66-62 in overtime to open their season nine days ago. Cannon's layup with 1:02 left put St. Francis ahead for good as Miami never led in the extra session.
It was the first victory in school history against an ACC team, and the Terriers did it despite missing their first 13 shots of the game. They almost made it two in a row, trailing Syracuse just 30-26 at halftime and gaining a 33-32 lead on White's 3, which came after a resounding block by Grant early in the second half.
"I'm proud of the kids," St. Francis coach Glenn Braica said. "It's crazy. I thought we had a shot in this one, which you don't expect coming up here. It was close. If it was close and I thought we couldn't have won, it wouldn't hurt me as much. But it was close and I really thought we could win because we had the lead late."
That lead came when Mockford, coming out of a timeout, broke a 46-all tie with a 3-pointer from the right corner with 4:48 to go,
"When it's a tie game and you're trying to pull an upset, you start thinking about it," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "We got a couple of turnovers there. When you've got that many guys not playing very well and still get out of here (with a win), it's a pretty fortunate thing."