SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Cleveland State coach Gary Waters figured his team was headed for overtime. Cedric Jackson thought otherwise.
The senior guard took an inbounds pass from J'Nathan Bullock 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 No. 11 Syracuse on Monday night.
"I looked up to see if there was a chance but knew there wasn't enough time," Jackson said. "It was a prayer. It's not an everyday shot."
Certainly not for Waters.
"I have never been a part of one of those types of shots, I had my head down," said Waters, in his third year at Cleveland State. "I told my coaches we were headed for overtime. I didn't expect that to happen. Nobody in the house expected that to happen."
Syracuse (9-1) sure didn't.
The Orange had escaped in all five games they had trailed this season, and they tied this one in the closing seconds on a rebound dunk by Arinze Onuaku.
Only to set up Jackson's amazing shot, which was almost never in doubt from the moment he let it go.
"It tears your heart out when you see the ball up in the air and you know it's good," said Syracuse's Andy Rautins, whose missed 3-pointer for the win was rebounded by Onuaku. "I kind of stopped looking at it because I knew it had a pretty good chance. Then I heard the crowd and I knew the game was over."
Neither team led by more than six points -- there were 16 ties and 15 lead changes -- and it stayed close right to the finish.
Norris Cole hit a 3 from the top of the key to break a 59-all tie and D'Aundray Brown then converted a fastbreak layup off a Syracuse turnover to give Cleveland State (7-4) a 64-59 lead with 2:31 remaining.
Eric Devendorf responded for the Orange with a 3 from the right corner to make it a two-point game. But the Orange, beaten much of the game on the offensive glass, were victimized again when Jackson missed and Chris Moore nabbed the rebound to set up Bullock's shot off the glass that put the Vikings ahead 66-62 with 71 seconds left.
Undaunted, Flynn hit a 3 from the right corner to make it 69-67 with 19 seconds left, and the Orange press forced Bullock to lose the ball out of bounds with 15 seconds to go, giving Syracuse a chance to win or tie it.
Rautins went for the win and it the miss turned into the game's final tie.
It was just the second regular-season win over an AP Top 25 team for Cleveland State, a program in disarray for most of the past 20 years. The Vikings stunned No. 12 Butler last January.
Cleveland State's last appearance in the Carrier Dome was also a memorable one. The Vikings won NCAA tournament games over Indiana and Saint Joseph's in the building in 1986 to advance to the round of 16. The 83-79 victory over Indiana was the first by a No. 14 seed over a No. 3 seed in tournament history and was the first time former Hoosiers coach Bob Knight lost a first-round game.
Bullock led Cleveland State with 18 points, all in the second half, while Cole had 16 and Jackson 13, including his only make in five tries from beyond the arc.
Devendorf paced Syracuse with 17 points, while Flynn added 16 and Harris and Onuaku each had 11.
"We can't keep putting ourselves in these holes and expect to come out of them," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who remained tied with Lute Olson for ninth all-time in Division I with 780 career victories. "We either start playing better early, or we're going to have a very difficult time. We made great shots and great plays to get back in this, but you can't put yourself in that position."
Syracuse was fortunate to be tied 30-30 at halftime. The Orange shot 52.2 percent but took 14 fewer shots in the half as the Vikings dominated the offensive glass 11-1, scoring eight second-chance points to none for Syracuse. But Bullock, a 41 percent shooter, struggled. Averaging 13.5 points, he missed all nine of his shots in the half.
"When I went back into the locker room, I told our guys we let them off the hook," Waters said. "We gave them some opportunities when we shouldn't have. They only scored when we turned the ball over and got something in transition. They had a hard time scoring against our set defense."
With four games to go, Louisville's matchup against North Carolina can prove pivotal in determining who takes the conference crown.
With Syracuse treading in bubble territory, the Orange can improve their tournament selection odds with a win over a Duke team that looks like a contender for the national championship.
Second-ranked Villanova can clinch the Big East regular season championship with a victory over No. 22 Butler Wednesday night at The Pavilion.