Hoyas falter in overtime at Carrier Dome

February 9, 2012

The Georgetown men’s basketball team (18-5, 8-4 Big East) gave the second-best team in the country all they could handle on Wednesday night. But Syracuse handled the Hoyas in the post when it counted, and that was all that mattered.

In a game that saw 18 lead changes and no margin greater than six points, overtime seemed inevitable. The Orange (24-1, 11-1 Big East) ultimately prevailed in the extra period, 64-61.

The Hoyas proved that they more than belonged on the court with the Orange, dominating the boards and mostly neutralizing Syracuse’s vaunted fast break. However, the Orange’s interior defense, led by Brazilian 7-footer Fab Melo, denied the Hoyas the easy buckets they needed to win.

Georgetown’s failure down low was glaring on the stat sheet. Freshman big man Mikael Hopkins saw 19 minutes, his most yet in conference play, and was 1-for-8 from the field. Senior center Henry Sims had an even worse night, going 1-for-12 from the field while struggling to stay on the court with foul trouble.

“He missed a bunch of lay-ups,” head coach John Thompson III said of Sims. “The ball just wouldn’t go in. He was getting the ball in pretty good position, right under the basket, right under the rim. I have to go back and look at the tape and debate and argue whether he was bumped or when he wasn’t bumped, but at the end of the day, he got it right there and the ball didn’t go in. It happens sometimes.”

Melo, the Orange’s sophomore center, wasn’t always causing the Hoyas’ misses down low, but it often felt that way. The big man played 39 minutes and posted 11 points, seven rebounds, and six blocks.

“He’s just a big force down low,” freshman forward Otto Porter said. “He’s big—he can cover up a lot of space.”

Other than their performance under their basket, the Hoyas were as good as they could have hoped to be. Even if they couldn’t finish, they moved the ball effectively against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense, and they took control on the boards, outrebounding the Orange 52-35. The team even managed to weather a seven-minute stretch where its two seniors, Sims and Jason Clark, sat on the bench with foul trouble.

Porter led the Hoyas on the glass, grabbing 13 rebounds to go along with his team-high 14 points. Junior forward Hollis Thompson also had a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards.

“This is a disaster game as far as I’m concerned,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “I’m very disappointed, at this stage of the year, to get beat like that on the boards. You can miss shots—that’s part of the game—but you’ve got to find a way to rebound the ball better.”

While the Orange were hopeless on the boards, senior forward Kris Joseph compensated for his teammates’ deficiencies by simply putting the ball in the basket. The D.C. native torched the Hoyas for 29 points on 9-for-20 shooting, including 6-for-11 three-pointers.

“Kris bailed us out,” Boeheim said. “He made some shots for us. Nobody else really looked comfortable shooting the ball.”

Georgetown left Joseph wide open numerous times on the perimeter. He eventually punished them, making four of his last five threes, including the game winner with 29 seconds left in overtime.

That still left the Hoyas with plenty of time to tie the game. Their last possession went awry from the start, however, when Thompson was not allowed to check into the game coming out of a Hoyas timeout after not making it to the scorers’ table before the buzzer.

“I shouldn’t comment on Hollis not getting in,” Thompson III said after the game.

Without the sharpshooting junior, Thompson III said the plan was for Clark to work off a screen at the top of the key. But the Syracuse defense never allowed that play to develop, forcing Clark to dribble around the perimeter where he was eventually tied up by Orange guard Scoop Jardine, leading to a turnover with five seconds to go.

The Hoyas were left heartbroken while the 27,820 fans in attendance celebrated Boeheim’s 880th career win.

“It’s always fun to come up here and play in this atmosphere,” Clark said. “You do want to get a win for the last time you’re playing a team, so that’s heartbreaking. But we’ve just got to move on and take it one game at a time.”

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