Sometimes in basketball, some of the best games you can ever see are the ones where your team starts off playing nearly as bad as you’ve ever seen. A 72-71 Syracuse win over former Big East rival Georgetown lies up to the intensity you’d imagine if you knew the final score beforehand, but in the game it was a tale of two very different halves.
For a hyped-up game in the Carrier Dome, the Orange got off to an incredibly slow start against the Hoyas. Missed layups, missed threes, missed free throws, turnovers, offensive fouls, collisions between two SU players, alley-oop collisions, you name it—it did not look like Syracuse was playing college basketball.
Syracuse started off the game 1-13 in shooting, ending with 7-28 in field goals through the first half. Once the Orange fell behind by a few points early in the game, Georgetown put on the press, which only accelerated SU’s struggles, running time off the shot clock and forcing the Orange into bad passes and bad shot selection
The Orange were passing the ball frequently—which is different from its strategy over the past few years where Syracuse would dribble and hold the ball at the key for most of the shot clock before making any moves—but some passes in the first half either were intercepted or were completely off target and went out of bounds.
Regardless, the game stayed close for a while due to somewhat of an unclean game from Georgetown as well, which seemed to go under the radar since Syracuse was struggling even more. Georgetown turned the ball over eight times (SU had five steals), and the Orange had six second chance points.
SU was down 35-22 at the half, seeming out of stride.
But after a first half to forget, Syracuse put up a second half to remember.
The Orange scored 50 points in the second half and shocked the Hoyas with an electric feel that was missing in the first 20 minutes of play.
Tyus Battle returned to the court with a fire burning, scoring 10 of SU’s first 14 points in the second half (all within four minutes) to make make it a one-possession game, down 39-36.
Paschal Chukwu turned it up a notch on defense in the second half, making big plays, one of which was a steal. He also scored eight points in the second half to help the cause, making two layups, one dunk and two all-important free throws in what turned out to be a one-point game.
With 11:11 left in the game, Elijah Hughes gave Syracuse its first lead since the Orange was ahead 5-3 just over three minutes into the first half. He hit a hit a three on a pass from Battle that put SU ahead 50-48.
Jalen Carey struggled throughout the game with three turnovers and missed shots, but he made his one successful shot of the day matter with a three-pointer to give SU the 67-66 advantage with 2:35 left to play.
With 1:30 to go, the intensity grew. Battle hit a three to make it 70-68 Syracuse. Jessie Govan hit a three for Georgetown a few seconds later to give the Hoyas a one-point lead.
Battle missed a jumper with 37 seconds left, and Georgetown got the rebound, still ahead by one point. With seven seconds on the shot clock and 10.6 left in the game, Jagan Mosely got a charging foul after running forward into Marek Dolezaj and knocking him to the ground.
Syracuse took over on offense with what seems to be one final chance to score and win the game. Georgetown pressed, and SU had some trouble getting the ball down the court. Elijah Hughes had the ball and passed to Battle who charged through traffic in the lane and scored to make the score 72-71 Syracuse with 2.5 seconds left.
After a timeout, Georgetown was forced to haul a half-court shot that was close but missed the mark.
Syracuse won 72-71.
Emotions were either extremely low or extremely high for Syracuse throughout this game.
Both fans’ and players’ reactions throughout the first half were pained, disappointed, frustrated and in disbelief.
In the postgame press conference, Jim Boeheim said he hoped his team was in a bad mood at halftime.
In the second half, every shot SU made unleashed powerful cheers from the fans. Every shot Georgetown made silenced the crowd.
Elijah Hughes made four threes in the second half and punched his right fist in the air and to the ground.
Other Orange players clapped the ball between their hands and screamed.
I CHALLENGE YOU
Boeheim said he challenged Battle at halftime to play better.
Battle said he accepted the challenge.
“He was monstrous,” Boeheim said of Battle’s second-half performance.
THE CHOSEN ONE
With 10.6 seconds left in the game and Syracuse down by one point, the Orange had the ball. After working down the court through the Hoyas’ press, Battle hit a layup to give SU the lead 72-71.
In the postgame press conference, Boeheim said he had wanted Hughes to take the shot at the end, but Hughes saw Battle open and passed the ball.
After the game, Battle said he is always trying to get open and help his team out, always wanting to make a play if he can. When asked if he knew that shot was going in when he let it go, Battle responded confidently, “oh yeah.”
Hughes said he saw Battle open and knew Battle could make the shot. Hughes said he is always looking around to see what his options are.
Recently, Syracuse has not had a steady man at center. It’s been a constant rotation between Chukwu, Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe.
Boeheim said that he still has a lot to figure out in that regard to the big-man position. He said Chukwu played well defensively in the second half today and that Dolezaj can play center but not when he has to defend against powerful players.
There’s still work to be done to get this team where it needs to be.
WHAT ABOUT GEORGETOWN
Georgetown stayed consistent throughout the game, scoring 35 points in the first half and 36 in the second. It was Syracuse’s play that made the Hoyas look good to start and not as good in the second because of how drastically the Orange stepped up its game.
Boeheim said Georgetown has improved a lot since SU played them in DC last year.
BY THE NUMBERS
4 — The number of assists Jalen Carey had. He struggled throughout the game, going 1-4 in shooting and having three turnovers, but he led the Orange in assists.
7:25 — The total time Syracuse led for in the game. Not much. But all you need is to end the game up by one to win.
8 — Second-chance points scored by Syracuse. SU missed a lot of shots, but not all of them were completely worthless.
10 — The number of steals Syracuse had. Frank Howard had four and Tyus Battle had three. Even Paschal Chukwu had one.
14 — The number of points Syracuse had on fastbreaks. They’re faster than the Hoya’s bulldog mascot.
HE SAID IT
“Basketball’s a game of runs. We knew at some point they were going to make their run.” ~Patrick Weing, Georgetown basketball head coach. His team stayed consistent throughout the game, scoring 35 points in the first half and 36 in the second for 71 total. Meanwhile, Syracuse scored 22 in the first half and went on a tear in the second, scoring 50.
“It would be the worst decision of my lifetime.” ~Jim Boeheim, talking about playing Oshae Brissett at center. He said he’d rather play Chukwu at the one instead of Brissett at the five.
THE END OF AN ERA?
With the expansion of the conference schedule, the question is whether Syracuse and Georgetown will find time to play each other in the future.
Boeheim said there are only so many games that can be played, and Ewing said he would love to see the rivalry continue.
Next, Syracuse takes on old-friend Old Dominion on December 15 at 12:00 p.m. in the Carrier Dome.
The last time these two teams met was more three and a half decades ago.
It will be the fourth time the two teams have ever played. Syracuse leads the all-time series 2-1.
Published: David Edelstein