Georgetown fans Kris Henman, left, and Tom Cassels are heckled by a raucous… (Kevin Rivoli/Associated…)
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — There was hardly a shot Georgetown’s Otto Porter Jr. couldn’t make in Saturday’s ear-splitting, emotionally charged showdown against longtime foe Syracuse. He drained three-pointers as the shot clock expired. He hit a jump shot while sandwiched between two defenders, one of them dangling on his arm.
With his 33-point performance, the sophomore forward led 11th-ranked Georgetown to a 57-46 win over the No. 8 Orange and claimed a place alongside the great individual performers in the Big East’s most heated rivalry — players such as Patrick Ewing, Michael Sweetney and Sleepy Floyd, who hit the two free throws that clinched the 52-50 upset that started the bitter feud 33 years earlier.
That was the game — the last scheduled contest at Syracuse’s old on-campus arena — in which Georgetown snapped the nation’s longest home winning streak at 57, and Coach John Thompson Jr. famously declared, “Manley Field House is officially closed.”
There was a striking parallel Saturday, as the teams met at the cavernous Carrier Dome for the final time as Big East rivals before Syracuse leaves for the ACC. A record crowd of 35,012 was on hand, slathered in orange, to cheer on Syracuse’s second-longest home winning streak, which stood at 38 games.
This time, it was Georgetown Coach John Thompson III who spoiled the party.
“I’m sure you guys are waiting for a Manley Field House-type of statement; you’re not going to get it,” Thompson told reporters. It was just his second victory in eight attempts at the Carrier Dome, and he allowed himself only a measured amount of outward satisfaction.
“It feels good to get a win here,” Thompson said. “But there’s still a lot of ball to be played, so I’ll put my coach’s hat back on and take the emotion out of it.”
With the victory, Georgetown (21-4, 11-3) bumped Syracuse (22-5, 10-4) from what had been a three-way tie atop the Big East standings. After Marquette’s loss to Villanova later Saturday, Georgetown stands alone atop the conference.
Georgetown and Syracuse will play once more this season, at Verizon Center on March 9, bringing an end to a long-standing hatefest that has seen punches thrown, oranges hurled from the stands and technical fouls fly. But for all the enmity, Georgetown-Syracuse games tend to bring out the best in players.
And none excelled quite like Porter did Saturday, his 33 points the most scored by a Georgetown player in the history of the series, which dates from the 1929-30 season. Sweetney had 32 in Feb. 2003.
“Porter was the difference in the game,” Syracuse Coach Boeheim said. “He played tremendous. He was great. Their other players really struggled. He had to make plays, and he made them all day.”
At one point, with Georgetown leading 21-15, Porter had more points (16) than the Syracuse team. The rest of the Hoyas combined to make just seven field goals in 35 attempts. Their trio of guards — Markel Starks, Jabril Trawick and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera — shot just 4 of 24 from the field.
But there was nothing selfish about Porter’s play. He did the dirty work, too. He snagged a game-high five steals, grabbed eight rebounds and brought the ball upcourt with smarts and authority. Even though his teammates could barely hit the backboard, Porter kept dishing to them when they had an open shot, never losing faith. But when he had the rare opening against the Syracuse zone, even if it was paper-thin, he took full advantage, hitting 12 of his 19 shots.
And Porter did it all with a surgeon’s precision and dancer’s grace, turning over the ball just once in a game-high 40 minutes’ work.
“I did a pretty good job,” said Porter, who strengthened his case for Big East and perhaps national player of the year honors with the performance. “It could have been better. It’s a team thing. Our guards just made it possible for me to get open shots.”
Trawick was particularly effective penetrating the zone, dishing out a team-high five assists, and reserve center Moses Ayegba proved invaluable in the paint, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking two shots.
After bolting to a 12-4 lead, Syracuse struggled offensively the rest of the game. The Orange closed the first half on an 8-0 run to take a 23-21 lead at halftime, but Syracuse’s 46 points were a season low. Boeheim only partially credited Georgetown’s defense, which held the Orange to 34 percent shooting.
“The games that we’ve lost, we have struggled shooting the basketball,” said Boeheim, whose team was led by C.J. Fair (13 points). “Today is no exception. I just thought the game got away from us early. . . . Offensively, we just didn’t play well.”
The game got more physical in the second half.
Brandon Triche’s layup knotted the score at 29 with 13 minutes 56 seconds left, but the Hoyas then embarked on a 10-2 run that ended with a three-pointer by Smith-Rivera and a Syracuse timeout. At that point, Porter had 24 of Georgetown’s 39 points.
With just less than five minutes to play and Georgetown’s lead down to four, it looked as if the Hoyas would be stymied. But Trawick flicked the ball to Porter, who drained a three-pointer while being fouled by Triche. He made the free throw that followed.
“I don’t know how that went in, but it did,” Porter said. “I was speechless. And I went up there and knocked my free throw down.”
Thompson was close to speechless, as well.
“He was special,” Thompson said of Porter. “That’s the only way to categorize it.”