DENVER, Colo. — Syracuse is still defending its national title -- barely.
Hakim Warrick and the Orangemen nearly blew a 16-point lead before hanging on to beat Maryland, 72-70, Saturday in a matchup between the last two NCAA champions.
Warrick had 26 points and nine rebounds for fifth-seeded Syracuse, which advanced to play Alabama in the Phoenix Regional's round of 16. The Crimson Tide stunned top-seeded Stanford, 70-67, Saturday.
The game was just the third between the two previous national champions in NCAA tournament history, and the first since 1994 champ Arkansas beat 1993 title winner North Carolina in the 1995 semifinals.
This one looked like it might be a blowout when the Orangemen (23-7) took a 54-38 lead with 13:01 left. But the Terrapins (20-12), who had won six in a row and made a surprising run to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title, did not give up.
The Terrapins became the first Atlantic Coast Conference team eliminated from the NCAA tournament. The loss dropped the league's record to 8-1 overall, with both Wake Forest and Duke headed to the Sweet Sixteen.
D.J. Strawberry's 3-pointer cut the deficit to 59-49 with 7:32 left, and layups by Chris McCray and Jamar Smith made it 61-54.
Josh Pace's jumper pushed the lead to 69-60 with 1:58 left, but Maryland whittled the margin to one.
Travis Garrison and John Gilchrist hit layups to make it 69-64. After Syracuse's Craig Forth missed two free throws, Orangemen guard Gerry McNamara hit a pair with 29 seconds left.
Smith followed with a layup and, after Forth missed two more foul shots, Maryland's Mike Jones was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer. He hit the first two free throws and missed the third. The Terrapins' Nik Caner-Medley grabbed the rebound, and Strawberry made a driving layup with 9 seconds left, cutting the lead to 71-70.
McNamara was fouled. But the normally automatic free-throw shooter made just one of two with 7.5 seconds to go.
Maryland had one last chance. But Strawberry missed a shot from the lane at the buzzer.
McNamara was not up to his performance in the first-round, when he hit nine 3-pointers and scored 43 points in a win over Brigham Young. He did not make his first basket, a 3-pointer, until early in the second half.
McNamara finished with 13 points on 2-of-11 shooting.
Garrison and Smith led Maryland with 16 points apiece.
After McNamara's 3, Warrick scored 10 of Syracuse's next 14 points, and Pace hit a short jumper to give Syracuse its biggest lead, 54-38.
Neither team shot well in the first half. But Syracuse used runs of 10-0 and 9-0 to take a 32-22 halftime lead. Warrick had 13 points in the half.
McNamara was 0-for-5 from the floor in the first half, including 0-for-4 from 3-point range, but he contributed three assists.
Syracuse shot 32 percent in the half, and Maryland shot 26 percent. The Terrapins committed 11 turnovers in the half compared to Syracuse's four.