Rivalry Renewed

There were 26,287 fans were on hand at the Carrier Dome as the Syracuse Orange took on their arch-nemesis, the Georgetown Hoyas. Syracuse entered the game riding a four-game winning streak that included an impressive road victory over Providence. The Hoyas entered Monday's game sitting atop the Big East after an impressive 12-game winning streak of their own.

The game was preceded by a senior day celebration that honored Demetris Nichols, Terrance Roberts, Darryl Watkins, and Matt Gorman before the senior class embarked upon the final home game in their collegiate career.  With familiar names such as "John Thompson" and "Patrick Ewing" invading the Dome, the game had a decided old school feel reminiscent of what was once the most heated rivalry in the Big East Conference.  The once bitter rivalry between these two traditional Big East powers had all but fallen by the wayside in recent years, but the situational circumstances surrounding Monday's contest made it an important game for the Syracuse Orange,

 

With the hobbled Terrance Roberts jumping center, the Hoyas won the opening tap, but were unable to convert on a 10 foot baseline shot by Jeff Green.  Senior forward Nichols made the Hoyas pay on the other end of the floor, drilling a three point shot from the right hash mark that put the home team on the scoreboard first.  

 

Both teams came up empty on the next several possessions, with Georgetown registering their first points on a pair of free throws.  Watkins was able to convert an old fashioned three point play on a strong move to the basket that gave SU an early 6-2 lead.

 

Georgetown cut the lead to 1 on a Jessie Sapp three point shot, but SU responded with a pair of free throws by Nichols that gave the home team an 8-5 edge.  The burgeoning enthusiasm of the Carrier Dome crowd was quickly diminished when torrid shooting Andy Rautins was whistled for a pair of early quick fouls that sent him to the bench at the 15:15 mark.  With Rautins out of the game, the Georgetown defense extended to harass the Syracuse ball handlers.  Poor ball management led to several Syracuse turnovers, and SU gave up the lead two possessions later when a Devendorf turnover led to a Georgetown fast break that culminated with a dunk by Big East Player of the Year candidate Green.  Fortunately for the home team, poor shooting on the offensive end by the Hoyas coupled with solid rebounding by the Orange enabled Syracuse to keep the game close in the early going. 

 

The crowd exploded in anger when Devendorf seemingly got hammered on a drive to the basket at the 11:10 mark, but drew no call.  The ensuing missed shot led to a Georgetown fast break that was disrupted thanks to hustling defense from Paul Harris, enabling the Orange to go into the under 12 minute timeout trailing 14-11.  On SU's next possession, Harris was the unlucky recipient of another no-call despite the fact that his strong foray to the basket drew significant contact.  The lack of calls drew the ire of the partisan crowd, but in actuality the lack of whistles benefited Syracuse in the early going, as it was Georgetown that had to make adjustments based upon foul trouble.  After a determined Harris drew a foul on Georgetown big man Roy Hibbert—his second—Georgetown coach John Thompson III was forced to remove his star big man from the game. 

 

Harris's strong play continued on SU's next possession, as the star freshman converted a turnaround, mid-range jumpshot.  After Roberts intercepted a long Georgetown pass, Harris took the outlet pass the length of the floor to the basket, this time earning a foul for his efforts, much to the mock delight of the Carrier Dome crowd.  Harris converted the first of two free throws, enabling the Orange to cut the lead to 16-14.

 

Harris committed a foul on Georgetown's next possession, facilitating a traditional three point play for Georgetown on a made jump shot.  But a pair of high-arching Devendorf layups sandwiched around a Harris drive enabled Syracuse to close the gap to 21-20.

 

The active Syracuse zone was countered by the Hoya's patient methodical approach early on.  The Hoyas scored the game's next two baskets to build a five point lead, but a Roberts jumper after an offensive rebound was followed by a steal that led to an SU fast break layup.  After forcing another turnover, Devendorf drilled a three point shot from straight away that gave SU a 27-25 lead.  Punch, counterpunch—Syracuse responded to the Hoya run with a seven point run of their own.

 

Fueled by the raucous crowd, the Syracuse zone defense came alive, almost forcing several turnovers on the Hoya's next possession.  With the frenetic pace throwing the highly structured Georgetown offensive flow out of whack, Roberts was able to draw an offensive foul on a broken play.  Even playing on essentially one leg, Roberts was making an early impact on the game.

 

SU continued to make the Hoya's pay for not taking care of the ball.  On Syracuse's next possession, Rautins calmly drilled a three point shot that gave Syracuse a 5 point lead [30-25].  But on the ensuing possession, Rautins was whistled for his third foul.  Perhaps most frustrating to the Carrier Dome crowd was that the call was little more than a touch foul, bailing Georgetown out after a poor jump shot by Dejuan Summers that was significantly off target.  Summers hit 1 of 2 to cut the Syracuse lead to 4.

 

Devendorf turned the ball over on SU's next possession, but inspired defense by Syracuse forced a long jumper that missed the mark as the shot clock expired.  Harris was bulled over by Green on the rebound attempt [no call], but SU was awarded the ball.  Determined to make the Hoyas pay, Harris immediately took the ball to the basket and the Orange were able to score on an offensive rebound putback by Watkins.

 

Georgetown slowed the game down for the final shot of the first half, getting a clean look for Summers from the wing, but his shot was off target.  Harris corralled the rebound, and the Orange entered the locker room clinging to a slim 32-29 lead.  Perhaps more importantly, the Syracuse big men had been able to avoid foul trouble, with Watkins having zero fouls and Roberts only being whistled for one in the first half.

 

Syracuse opened the second half with the ball, scoring on a beautiful interior pass that led to a point blank layup by Terrance Roberts.  However, the Hoyas answered less than 10 seconds later, on a Jonathan Wallace three point shot—his first basket of the game.  A poor pass by Devendorf led to a Hoya fast break that tied the game 34-34.

 

The Orange were discombobulated on their next offensive possession, barely getting off an errant, buzzer beating shot, but SU forced a turnover on Georgetown's next possession, and Eric Devendorf drove the length of the floor for a basket that gave the ‘Cuse a 36-34 lead.  After forcing Hibbert to step on the baseline, SU found Andy Rautins for a deep three point shot that extended the Syracuse lead to 39-34.  The rattled Hoyas committed another turnover on a bad pass, and a nice entry pass to Watkins on an isolation play drew a foul on Jeff Green—his second. 

 

Green returned the favor on Watkins, drawing a foul from the Syracuse center Georgetown's next offensive possession, but was only able to convert 1 of 2 from the line.  Watkins was whistled for his second foul less than 20 seconds later on a questionable call.  After going nearly 25 minutes without committing a foul, Watkins was suddenly on the cusp of being in foul trouble—a disadvantageous position for the Orange defense, which relies so heavily upon Watkins's ability to anchor the post on the defensive end.

 

The questionable calls continued when Hibbert blocked a layup attempt by Paul Harris, but drew no foul.  SU forced a miss on Georgetown's next two possessions, but an unforced turnover by Harris gave the ball back to the Hoyas at the 14:30 mark.  Seeking to take advantage of Watkins's foul situation, Georgetown worked the ball to Hibbert inside, but the monolithic Hoya found no room to operate inside amidst the swarming SU defenders, who forced a jump ball.  The possession arrow favored the Hoyas, but when Wallace committed an offensive foul attempting a dribble drive, the referees hit the protesting Thompson III with a technical foul.  Demetris Nichols converted both free throws to give Syracuse a 41-35 lead. 

 

With a six point lead and the ball, Syracuse attacked the rim.  A slick move to the basket by Rautins led to a Watkins field goal attempt that resulted in Hibbert being whistled for his third foul.  While Watkins was unable to convert either free throw, Thompson was again forced to remove Hibbert from the game.

 

The referees temporarily lost control of the game as emotions on both sides spilled over on the game's next possession.  After Harris was whistled for a foul on a defensive rebound, he was quickly whistled for a retaliatory technical foul by an overzealous referee.  A Georgetown foray to the hoop drew another call against Watkins, and the crowed began to actively voice their displeasure with the officiating.

 

With the momentum turning against the home team, the Orange found their go-to scorer, Nichols, on a curl play that led to a successful 15 foot jumper, but Nichols was whistled on the opposite end of the floor on a foul that gave the Hoyas an old fashioned three point play that cut the lead to 43-42.

 

The two teams traded several empty possessions, before another foul was whistled on Nichols.   The Hoyas converted both free throws to take the lead, and went into the under 12 minute timeout already in the bonus.  This proved to be the turning point of the game, as the Orange went on a 16-2 run that put the game away.

 

First, Harris drew a foul and knocked down a pair of free throws that reclaimed the lead for SU.  SU extended the lead to 47-44 after Harris scored in transition on a nice assist from Devendorf.

 

Patrick Ewing, Jr. threw down an offensive rebound putback dunk on the Hoyas' next possession on a play that could easily have been whistled as offensive interference.  After forcing a pair of Georgetown misses, Syracuse stretched their lead behind a pair of three point shots by Rautins and Nichols that drew an exasperated timeout from Thompson III at the 8:18 mark.

 

Inspired by the frenzied crowd, the Syracuse defenders forced another miss that resulted in a Terrance Roberts rebound.  But as Roberts looked to secure the ball, his injured leg gave out and he collapsed to the floor.  Syracuse came out of the ensuing scrum with the ball and quickly called timeout to accommodate their courageous big man, who was writhing on the floor in pain.  Assisted by his teammates, Roberts quickly clambered to his feet and hobbled over to the SU bench. 

 

The game's strange flow continued, as double technicals were issued against both SU and Georgetown for a verbal altercation during the timeout.  Boeheim inserted Harris into the game for Roberts, giving the injured big man an opportunity to rally, and the hot shooting Rautins drilled yet another three point shot that gave SU a 10 point lead, 56-46.

 

The Syracuse defense forced a wild, thirty-foot three point shot that was well off the mark, and Nichols made the Hoyas pay by drilling another three point shot as the shot clock expired.  The crowd exploded in delirium, and was whipped into an ever bigger frenzy when SU forced a turnover on the Hoyas' next possession.  Capitalizing on Hibbert being out of the game, Watkins scored inside on a power move to the basket that gave SU a 61-46 lead.  Georgetown was again forced to call timeout in a futile attempt to quell the Syracuse momentum.

 

Roberts reentered the game at the 5:30 mark, much to the delight of the Dome faithful, and the Orange went into a premature stall in an attempt to run clock.   But poor execution on SU's next offensive possession led to a quick run out by the Hoyas that drew Darryl Watkins 4th foul at the 4:25 mark.  The desperate Hoyas came out of the free throw attempts in full court pressure and forced another SU turnover.  Georgetown missed a pair of three point shots, and after securing the defensive rebound, Boeheim called a timeout at the 3:37 mark to get his team on the same page. 

 

After Devendorf was called for a foul after pushing off on a foray into the lane, the Hoyas got the ball back, down 11, with just over 3 minutes left to play, but were unable to convert.  Again, the Orange ran the shot clock down, but this time the team ran their offensive set to perfection, as Nichols drained a three point dagger that effectively ended the Georgetown rally.  After forcing another Hoya miss, the Big East Conference's leading scorer calmly knocked down a pair of free throws that extended the SU lead to 16 points, 66-50.

 

Georgetown drew a foul on the team's next offensive possession, but was unable to convert either free throw.  The Hoyas quickly fouled Terrance Roberts after he corralled the rebound, and the senior big man split the pair of free throws to extend the Syracuse lead to an insurmountable 17 points.

 

Syracuse shredded the last ditch full court pressure that the Hoyas threw at them, and were rewarded with a fast break dunk from Darryl Watkins that punctuated the victory.  At the end of the game, the frenzied Syracuse fans rushed the floor to celebrate the hard fought victory with the jubilant Orange. 

 

Syracuse win over their hated rivals 72-58, ended the Hoyas 12-game winning streak, and enabled the senior class of 2007 to cap off their career in grand style.  More importantly, the victory gave the surging Orange [21-8, 10-5] a marquee win to enhance their NCAA tournament resume.

 

After the final buzzer, as the triumphant Syracuse players celebrated on the court with their fans, it was clear that this once unparalleled rivalry—which had all but been rendered irrelevant over the course of the previous decade—was renewed with a vengeance.

 

Player of the game:  Demetris Nichols scored 22, Andy Rautins continued his superlative three point shooting, Eric Devendorf had 11 assists, and Darryl Watkins did an excellent job of patrolling the lane on defense, but no player left his heart and soul out on the floor more than Terrance Roberts.  Playing through a knee injury [torn cartilage], Roberts sacrificed his body throughout the game, and made significant impacts on both ends of the floor that helped key his team's victory over the Hoyas.

 

 

 


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