It was worth the wait.
In the long-awaited revival of one of college basketball’s great rivalries, the Georgetown men’s basketball team (4-3, Big East) defeated No. 14 Syracuse (6-2, ACC) 79-72 in front of 18,231 rabid fans at Verizon Center.
Georgetown senior center and co-captain Bradley Hayes led four Hoyas in double-figures to give the Blue and Gray bragging rights in the first matchup between the bitter foes in nearly three years. The win extends Georgetown’s winning streak to three games as well as notches their first win over a ranked opponent this season.
“It’s a big time win, not just for me, but for the team and the coaches,” said Hayes after the game. “We all understand how much history Georgetown and Syracuse have.”
Hayes had a career-high 21 points, off an efficient 8-of-12 shooting, and eight rebounds in 28 minutes played. After scoring only 30 points in his entire career entering this season, Hayes now has had five double-digit scoring efforts for the Hoyas as well as four games with eight-plus rebounds.
“That is what we now expect and need from him,” said Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III. “I don’t think [Syracuse was] expecting that. He was a presence and they had to deal with that. He will have a lot more moments like today, before the season is over.”
One of only two Hoyas on the current roster who had played against Syracuse before, Hayes had a minimal role with the team back when the two rivals last met in 2012-13, totaling only one minute of playing time in the three matchups. What a difference three years makes.
“It’s been constant work. Unfortunately I didn’t get to play much against Syracuse the last time and there was a lot of built up aggression toward that,” said Hayes of his progression. “So to be able to come out and play and show how hard I’ve worked up to this moment, it just felt good.”
In addition to Hayes, freshman forward Marcus Derrickson recorded a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds), sophomore forward Isaac Copeland had 14 points, and senior guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera added 11 to to lead the Hoyas offense, which shot 48 percent from the field overall.
After building a 36-24 halftime lead, Georgetown used an 11-2 run in the first 3:48 of the second half to increase their lead to 47-26, their largest of the game, after a conventional three-point play from Hayes at the 16:12 mark. The Orange were able to whittle down the Hoyas’ lead to eight, 66-58, with 4:24 left, but the 21-point deficit was too large to overcome.
“I think we did a good job getting the ball where we wanted it, most of the time, getting into the teeth of that zone and the person in there then having to make a decision while you are under duress,” said Thompson of the Hoyas’ attack against the Syracuse 2-3 zone. “It wasn’t perfect, but I thought the guys did a good job of getting it in there…Overall, I thought offensively we were pretty good.”
Senior forward Michael Gbinije paced the Orange with a game-high 23 points, off 7-of-16 shooting, five rebounds, and five assists. Junior forward Tyler Roberson added 15 points and eight rebounds. The Hoyas’ defense held Syracuse to 38 percent shooting overall, including 26 percent from three-point range (7-of-27). The Orange entered Saturday’s game as the second-leading three-point shooting team in the ACC.
“For stretches it was very good,” said Thompson of Georgetown’s defensive effort. “I think from the beginning we had the energy necessary, we had the communication necessary, I think we were anticipating what was going to happen. I thought it was very good for long stretches today.”
Both teams set a fast pace early on, as Georgetown jumped out to an 12-10 lead a little over six minutes in. The Hoyas then erupted for a 14-2 run over the next 5:45 to take a 26-12 lead. The Orange settled down on both ends afterward but failed to cut into the Hoyas’ lead, as both teams played pretty evenly for the remainder of the half. Georgetown entered the locker room with a 36-24 lead. The Hoyas maintained the same aggressiveness throughout the second half.
“We stayed in attack mode. We wanted to be aggressive, very, very aggressive, without being selfish,” said Thompson. “ I thought our guys did that. We wanted to keep coming at them.”
The Orange were without longtime Head Coach Jim Boeheim, who began serving a 9-game suspension for NCAA violations committed by the program under his watch. Assistant Coach Mike Hopkins will lead the Orange during the nine-game stretch and made his head coaching debut Saturday. Boeheim’s absence did not mean much to Thompson and the Hoyas.
“Syracuse was still on the chest,” said Thompson. “It did not feel odd at all.”
The Hoyas will have a quick turnaround for their next game, as they return to action Monday night at Verizon Center to face Brown (2-5, Ivy League). Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m.