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Hoyas’ frantic comeback comes up short against ‘Cuse
Don’t call it a comeback.
In another classic edition of their storied rivalry, Georgetown (18-7, 8-6 Big East) nearly stormed back from a 23-point deficit to knock off Syracuse (25-2, 12-2). But in the end the Hoyas came up short, and the Orange prevailed 75-71.
The Hoyas had an opportunity to win, with the lead down to one and the ball in their hands with less than a minute to play. But no matter how close they came, it was still a loss, one in which they never even held the lead.
Still, there is something to be taken from the loss. In this rivalry there are no moral victories, but Georgetown was at least able to say they did not go down without a fight.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Georgetown head coach John Thompson III said. “Losing is hell and after a loss there is nothing but misery and pain, and there is misery and pain right now. But I’m proud of how our guys responded. In no way—[with] this program, this team, this past—in no way am I trying to imply this is a moral victory…we don’t believe in that. But I’m just proud of our guys.”
The Hoyas can be proud that for the last quarter of the game, they were unquestionably the better team. But it is a 40-minute game, and in those first 30 minutes Georgetown was completely outclassed by the Orange.
Things started off inauspiciously, with Thompson being forced to call timeout three minutes into the game when the Orange jumped out to an 11-2 lead. His intervention did little to change the trajectory of the first half. Syracuse’s suffocating zone defense stymied the Hoyas, and on the other end of the floor the Orange scored with deadly efficiency.
Syracuse’s primary assassin was senior guard Andy Rautins, who continually riddled the Hoyas with daggers from beyond the arc. Rautins finished with 26 points to lead all scorers.
“He made some tough shots,” junior guard Chris Wright, who was often the one Rautins was shooting over, said. “He kind of used our physicality to his advantage, to draw us into ticky-tacky fouls and that type of thing. He’s a very good player, and it’s hard to defend him coming off a screen.”
At halftime the Hoyas trailed 44-31, and the air was sucked out of the Georgetown fans in attendance. The Verizon Center did not quiet though, with a sizable Syracuse contingent finding its way into the crowd of 19,976.
After the break, however, the Hoya faithful found reason to be fired up.
“You know they are going to come back,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “They were down 19 to Connecticut here, you knew they were going to come back. I think the reason they did is we just stopped scoring.”
Still, things got worse before they got better. The Orange ran the lead to 23 points with 12:37 to play, and shortly before that the Hoyas’ frustration boiled over as Wright jawed with Rautins, leading to a double technical foul.
Then the Hoyas had a breakthrough. The zone became a little less impenetrable—perhaps due to foul concerns, which plagued both teams—and suddenly Georgetown was able to find sophomore center Greg Monroe consistently in the post, where he operated as the fulcrum of the Hoya offense.
“The thing that hurt us was they were able to post Monroe,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “We just didn’t do a good job of keeping the ball out of there. We usually don’t have that problem with our defense but we did. You can’t double him down there, if you do he throws it out and they make threes. So you’ve got to try to bother him as much as possible.”
Little seemed to bother Monroe, who also dealt with foul trouble all game. He had been subbing in and out for offense and defense as often as he could since picking up his second foul in the third minute of the game, but still was able to find a rhythm on offense. Monroe finished with 20 points and nine rebounds.
The Hoyas also got major contributions from the other two members of their “Big Three,” Wright and junior guard Austin Freeman. Wright was consistent throughout, scoring 20 points and also grabbing five steals.
Freeman, however, was more crucial in Georgetown’s comeback attempt. The junior had a rare off-night from beyond the arc, finishing 2-for-8, but retooled his game in the second half to become a wrecking ball inside. He led the Hoyas with 21 points and also had six rebounds. Altogether the “Big Three” had 61 of Georgetown’s 71 points.
With a minute to go the Hoyas seemed destined to complete the comeback. Momentum had been on Georgetown’s side for most of the second half at that point, and with a gutsy offensive rebound after his own missed free throw, Monroe gave the Hoyas the ball with a chance to take the lead.
But then sophomore guard Jason Clark missed a jumper, and the Hoyas just failed to save the ricochet from going out of bounds. Syracuse killed the shot clock and converted a layup with nine seconds to go, and Georgetown was finished.
After the game, the clearly dejected Hoyas knew they could have had the win.
“One thing about this team is that we believe in each other,” Wright said. “We really are confident when it comes to coming back and pulling through deficits. We believe in perseverance and really try to climb through any struggle.”
With their first back-to-back losses of the season, the Hoyas face a new struggle. The regular season is rapidly coming to a close, and in the past two games Georgetown has done no favors for its Big East or NCAA standing. But as the Hoyas showed late on Thursday, they can never be counted out.