March 30, 2003

By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Carmelo Anthony cut the down the net, then stuck strands underneath his brand new white cap that showed the next stop for the Syracuse Orangemen: New Orleans.

The freshman sensation led the way, scoring 20 points and adding 10 rebounds to help knock off top-seeded Oklahoma 63-47 in the East Regional final Sunday.

"This is my first time getting to the Final Four," he said, "and hopefully not my last."

"I'll second that one," coach Jim Boeheim yelled.

Whether Anthony heads for the NBA or not, he will have at least one more game in his college career.

The fans had already expressed their feelings on the matter as they chanted "One more year" when it was announced that the 6-foot-8 forward was the regional's MVP.

With Anthony stepping up from the start and Syracuse dominating with its 2-3 zone, the Orangemen advanced to their first Final Four in seven years.

"Our defense was the difference," Boeheim said. "That was probably the best we've played defensively all year. We did a good job of getting to their shooters and making them shoot tough shots."

The third-seeded Orangemen (28-5) will face the winner of the South Regional final between Texas and Michigan State next weekend.

After slow starts in the first three games of the NCAA tournament, Anthony came out strong, scoring 10 points in the opening 12 minutes.

"Carmelo got us off to a good start for a change and that was nice," Boeheim said as he laughed.

Syracuse's zone took over from there, causing the Sooners (27-7) fits inside and outside. The Sooners managed just three points over the final 8 minutes of the first half as Syracuse took a 30-20 lead.

Things got worse for Oklahoma.

Syracuse scored the first eight points of the second half to take its biggest lead on a 3-pointer by freshman Gerry McNamara with 15:35 to play that capped a 22-3 run.

"We knew going in this was a tough matchup for us," Sooners coach Kelvin Sampson said. "I don't think we played as well as we're capable of playing, but that's neither here nor there. When you get on this stage in this setting you have to play good today."

The last time Syracuse was in the Final Four was 1996 when it lost to Kentucky in the national championship game. The last time the Orangemen were in New Orleans for a Final Four they lost to Indiana in the 1987 championship on a jumper by Keith Smart in the final seconds. Now, Boeheim gets another chance at that elusive national title.

"I had a tremendous experience in New Orleans for five days, 39 minutes and 56 seconds," he said. "Now I have to get that other four seconds in this time."

As the final seconds ticked off, Anthony finally looked like a freshman as he stood near midcourt jumping up and down before flinging the ball high toward the roof of Pepsi Arena.

Hakim Warrick had 13 points and nine rebounds for Syracuse, which was playing just 2 hours from its campus.

"We knew the crowd would be cheering for us since we're just two hours away," Anthony said. "We can't do anything about where the committee put us."

The Orangemen shot 52 percent from the field (25-for-48) - just 2-for-12 on 3s - and outrebounded Oklahoma 40-28.

De'Angelo Alexander had 14 points for Oklahoma, which was trying to get back to the Final Four and make up for last year's loss to Indiana in the national semifinals.

It was especially tough for Oklahoma seniors Hollis Price and Quannas White, natives of New Orleans and high school teammates there.

"We came so far and got so close," Price said. "We were 40 minutes from getting back and going home. Syracuse did a great job of matching up with us."

The only thing that kept the game even remotely close was Syracuse's poor free throw shooting. The Orangemen missed eight of their first 11 in the second half.

The Sooners shot just 31 percent (18-for-58), including 5-for-28 from 3-point range.

Price had eight points, all in the second half, and was 3-for-17 from the field and 2-for-11 on 3s.

Oklahoma missed its first seven shots of the half and committed four turnovers before Price broke the drought with a 3 with 14:58 left that made it 38-23.

Sampson tried everything to get the Sooners going against the zone. He called three timeouts in the first half and a fourth with 13:35 to play.

"Zone is a relative term," Sampson said. "We hadn't seen a zone like that."

Syracuse was the only one of the four Big East teams to reach the regional semifinals to win in the third round.

The Orangemen helped the conference again. The win over Oklahoma guaranteed the Big 12 could not get three teams in the Final Four, something only the Big East has done, in 1985.