Kris Joseph scored 18 points and No. 5 Syracuse used a 10-0 run to overcome a late deficit in a 69-63 win over Stanford in the championship game of the NIT Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden. The Cardinal (5-1), which led by eight with 6:31 remaining, gave the Orange all it could handle, but couldn't overcome a season-high 23 turnovers and another poor showing (8-for-15) at the free throw line.
Syracuse (6-0) was almost as bad at the line (8-for-14) and with taking care of the ball (19 turnovers) as Stanford was, but the Orange turned up the defensive pressure and made plays down the stretch to avoid the upset.
Aaron Bright led Stanford with 13 points, including three 3-pointers, his last one giving the Cardinal a 55-47 lead. Stanford led 60-54 before Brandon Triche started the Orange's 10-0 run with a layup. Freshman Chasson Randle had 12 points, including a banked-in 3-pointer that pulled Stanford to within 64-63 with 1:36 to play, but also committed five turnovers. That was the theme of the day for the Cardinal -- a lot of good mixed with a lot of bad.
Josh Owens was solid defensively and grabbed 7 rebounds, but shot only 2-for-8 from the field and missed all three of his free throws. John Gage was a pleasant surprise off the bench, pouring in a career-high 10 points, but the sophomore's turnover with 22 seconds remaining and Stanford trailing by 3, was the final dagger.
Still, Stanford can head home feeling awfully good about itself, and Cardinal fans should be excited about the season ahead in what should be a wide open Pac-12. While I expected Stanford to be better than it was last season, I thought the Cardinal would struggle early in the year. I'm surprised that Stanford made it to New York, let alone the championship game. In front of a pro-Syracuse crowd, Stanford didn't just hang with the No. 5 team in the country, it had the Orange on the ropes.