Orange Still Growing in the Garden

What better way to say good-bye to the Big East Conference than to say hello to the tournament's championship, as the Orange move past the nagging obstacle of the Hoyas and into the final two. Full story inside.

No one wants to play a team three times in a season. It does not matter the sport.

With three games to go and first place on the line, the New York Yankees know it will be hard to get three in a row on the Boston Red Sox and shift the American League East in their favor.

When the Boston Celtics are vying for first place in the Eastern Conference, they do not want to see the Los Angeles Lakers three times in their final few weeks.

The Dallas Cowboys having two games on the Philadelphia Eagles realize the third game is typically an uphill climb.

But, nevertheless, the schedule is not always in your control, as with the Syracuse Orange and Georgetown Hoyas.

Syracuse had to win back-to-back games in two days to advance to the Big East Conference Tournament's final four. Georgetown had to get past the Cincinnati Bearcats after sitting out the first two rounds.

Game One saw an end to the 38-game home-winning streak of the Orange in front of the largest on-campus crowd at an NCAA Division I men's basketball game ever, with 35,012 on-lookers at the Carrier Dome.

Game Two was even worse for Syracuse because they were never really in it, scoring 18 points in the opening half and 39 overall, losing by more than 20.

Embarrassed on their home court hurt.

Clearly outplayed on the road was "fool me twice".

So the third time around, the Orange bid good-bye to the Hoyas the way they wanted to, with a victory.

Starting the match from behind, senior forward James Southerland connected from long range. No this was not cut and pasted in, it happened again. That three-pointer and the foul shot that ensued brought the game even at 6-6 with 16:38 to go.

But Georgetown took the lead right back and held on for more than eight minutes.

Once again, Southerland believed in his outside ability, and the net embraced that belief. At 8:04, the match was tied again, this time at 17-all.

The Orange defense held the Hoyas from scoring until 43 seconds remaining in the first half, a span of just under eight minutes.

In the meantime, Syracuse's redshirt-freshman guard Trevor Cooney was working to extend the team's lead. His three-pointer at 6:25 gave the Orange their first advantage in the opening half, but he was not done.

After a steal and dunk in transition by fellow guard, sophomore Michael Carter-Williams, Cooney would grace Syracuse's net with another three followed by his play close to the rim with a layup. Adding in his first made attempt, a jumper at 11:52, Cooney led all Orange and all players in total with 10 points.

Looking at Cooney's overall play in the first half, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim shared his thoughts on the young guard. "Trevor Cooney, he struggled this year, but we know he can shoot," said Boeheim. "We have faith in him. Players found him. They got him open shots, and he knocked them down. He got four defensive rebounds. I thought he played tremendously well in the first half."

Cooney also aided Syracuse on the defensive end, grabbing four rebounds, residing atop all Syracuse players after the first 20 minutes were played.

From 13:24 remaining to the end of the first half, Cooney was on the floor for all but five seconds. Cooney's 13-plus minutes in play were more than his total playing time in each of Syracuse's last seven games.

Heading into the locker room, the Orange were ahead 29-20.

In the second half, Syracuse advanced to a double-digit lead on fourth separate occasions, gaining their largest lead (12 points) off of another made attempt from distance from Southerland at 16:15, making it 37-25.

That would be the fourth and final three made by Southerland, who went 4-for-10 in the game. His four makes from beyond the arc added with 12 between Syracuse's wins over the Seton Hall Pirates and Pittsburgh Panthers, gave him 16 in this year's Big East Tournament, tying him for first place all-time in the conference. Who is the man he shares the prowess from long range with? None other than Gerry McNamara, whose ability from long range also aided Syracuse in moving forward during his playing days for the Orange. He is currently an assistant coach on the Syracuse staff.

"First of all, I just apologize to G-Mac," said Southerland after the game. "Sorry, man. I didn't mean to do that."

But in order to win this contest, the Orange would have to overcome a late surge by the Hoyas. With 11:01 remaining in the game, Georgetown sophomore forward Otto Porter, Jr., would take away Syracuse's double-digit lead for good on a jumper.

Fittingly, with his Hoyas down by two in the closing seconds of the match, Porter, Jr., would also be the one to give Georgetown the two points that would send the game into overtime, off of his two made attempts from the charity stripe.

Ushering in a comeback to force an extra period usually means that the win will reside in the team that did so.

Tell Orange senior guard Brandon Triche that. He scored immediately in the bonus time on a layup with just 13 seconds having ticked off the game clock.

In between that and his final point, which came on a free throw attempt, it was the success of Syracuse's inside play that aided in making sure history did not repeat itself yet again. Junior center Baye Keita rebounded Carter-Williams' miss for a putback layup, followed by fellow junior, forward C.J. Fair's thunderous smack-down dunk with 2:01 to play.

That dunk by Fair advanced him past 1,000 career points, with 1,001.

The layup by Keita tied him with Southerland and Triche as the Syracuse's points leader, with 13. Seven of those 13 points came at the line, where Keita was 100% on the night (7-for-7).

Without Keita's positive consistency at the line, this win would not belong to the Orange.

Outside of Keita, Syracuse went 6-for-12 from the line.

"Baye [Keita] was just unbelievable tonight," Boeheim expressed. "I told him he's going to shoot the technicals from now on the rest of the year."

Up by three, 58-55, with 17 seconds remaining, a final heave by Georgetown left only one team remaining between the two, and it was not the Hoyas.

"I remember two years ago we ended up beating them twice, and they beat us in the Big East Tournament," said Triche. "We just wanted to return the favor."

Syracuse, the tournament's fifth-seed knocked out Georgetown, the overall top seed in the conference tournament, in what now most likely closes the 33-year chapter of the book on their rivalry.

A long book. A long road to their first win against Georgetown. Another step toward a Big East Tournament title.

Syracuse closed their Big East play against Georgetown the way they wanted to, but still must play one more game in the conference, an 8:30pm ET match with the Louisville Cardinals in the Garden, and then look to the bigger picture of the NCAA Tournament. As Robert Frost would say, "I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep."

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