Saturday's matchup may not be mentioned in the Georgetown history books, but the Hoyas will certainly take the result of their final Big East regular-season matchup with rival Syracuse. Behind a brilliant defensive performance, the Hoyas closed out their conference schedule with a 61-39 win over the Orange at the Verizon Center.
On an afternoon when the Hoyas honored former star Patrick Ewing, their current top starters came to play. Otto Porter finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and five assists in what likely will be his last game at Georgetown. Porter, a sophomore, is expected to be a first-round pick if he enters June's NBA draft.
However, he wasn't the only Hoyas star who came through on Saturday. Guard Markel Starks led the way with 19 points on a day when the Hoyas completely controlled the offensive rhythm.
Employing John Thompson III's slowed-down, conservative offensive philosophy, the Hoyas controlled the game's pace from the opening tip. Though both sides had shots clang off the rim throughout the early going, the controlled tempo kept Georgetown relatively in control.
Syracuse made just one basket in the game's opening six minutes with a Rakeem Christmas layup, and the Hoyas stormed (relatively speaking) out to an 8-3 lead. Those first few minutes were indicative of the entire first frame, as neither side could ever get totally into rhythm offensively.
Georgetown kept itself ahead or tied during the first half thanks mostly to Starks' early greatness. He scored the Hoyas' first eight points, carrying their offense while his teammates struggled to heat up. The remaining stars eventually showed up before the home crowd midway through the half, and Georgetown walked into halftime ahead 25-18.
Starks was contrasted by the first-half struggles of Michael Carter-Williams. The Orange star, upon whom the offensive burden is oftentimes laid, had more turnovers (four) than made baskets (three) to finish the half with seven points.
While Carter-Williams began filling up the bucket following the halftime break—finishing with 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting and just those four turnovers—his teammates did not follow suit.
Georgetown broke open its lead to double-digits within the first minute of the second half, as Porter and Starks played an Orange-harvesting tag team. The two Hoyas stars combined to score 15 points in the second half's opening 10 minutes, outscoring the entire Syracuse team by two in that span. By the time Jim Boeheim called a timeout with 9:48 remaining, Georgetown was ahead 47-31, a lead that was essentially insurmountable considering the Orange's struggles on offense.
It turned out Syracuse wasn't even able to get close to the 47-point mark. Georgetown forced the Orange into five straight missed field goals following the timeout, stretching its lead to 21 points in the process.
Syracuse finished with just two field goals in the final nine minutes, ending its regular-season Big East journey with a whimper. The Orange have now lost four of their last five games, putting them in dire straits heading into the conference tournament.
Prior to the game, ESPN's College Basketball Twitter feed had a wonderful graphic honoring the last regular-season matchup between these two legendary sides:
ESPN College BBall @ESPNCBB
Syracuse. Georgetown. The last Big East regular season game between these epic rivals. Let's go! #CUSEvsGTOWN --> http://t.co/zPXhqtSwZE2013-3-9 17:03:35
As is usually the case with low-scoring games, plenty of folks took to social media to discuss their displeasure. Rich Cimini of ESPN was one of them, voicing concerns about the Orange's offensive progress and Carter-Williams in particular:
Rich Cimini @RichCimini
Can't remember the last time Syracuse had such a poor offensive team. MCW has talent, but has a lot to learn. #OrangeNation2013-3-9 17:53:26
Meanwhile, Markel Starks' performance drew rave reviews from those watching the game. CBS' Jeff Goodman made it clear more mainstream fans should be noticing the Hoyas guard:
Jeff Goodman @GoodmanESPN
Markel Starks is so underrated.2013-3-9 17:34:31
Ken Pomeroy agrees with Goodman's assessment:
Ken Pomeroy @kenpomeroy
Finally somebody is noticing. RT @GoodmanCBS: Markel Starks is so underrated.2013-3-9 17:47:09
ESPN's Dana O'Neil was complimentary of Porter's inability to hustle even in a blowout victory:
Dana O'Neil @ESPNDanaOneil
Watched Otto Porter on last Hoya possession. He didn't stand stil for one second. Not one.2013-3-9 18:20:50
Echoing the sentiment of many fans, Bonnie Bernstein hopes this isn't the last time we see these two schools play:
Bonnie Bernstein @BonnieBernstein
This should guarantee the continuation of the #Georgetown #Syracuse rivalry. A tradition this great shouldn't end with a debacle.2013-3-9 18:55:47
After such an underwhelming result, many Georgetown and Syracuse faithful likely feel the same way.