The look on Jim Boeheim’s face said it all.
With less than a minute remaining in the game, and in Syracuse’s final Big East regular season, the Orange’s Hall of Fame coach stood on the sideline watching as the Georgetown Hoyas began to celebrate their 61-39 victory.
Disgusted. Exasperated. Deflated. Furious.
Boeheim’s face wore all of those expressions and then some.
The Orange scored the fewest points ever during Boeheim’s long tenure. The list of what Syracuse did well during the game is almost non-existent.
Mistakes made by the Orange? That list is longer than the rap sheet of a career criminal.
On Feb. 23, in the first meeting this year between these two long-time rivals at the Carrier Dome—a 57-46 Georgetown win—Hoya forward Otto Porter Jr. was a one-man wrecking crew. The sophomore tallied 33 points, grabbed eight boards, and had five steals.
Porter didn’t have nearly the explosion this time around, although he did flirt with a triple-double by racking up 10 points, hauling down eight boards and handing out seven assists. All in a day’s work for the likely Big East Player of the Year.
The Hoyas didn’t need Porter to do the heavy lifting today. Guards Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera destroyed the Orange.
Starks had a game high 19 points (5-of-9 from beyond the arc) to go along with five assists while playing the entire game. Smith-Rivera was almost as good with 15 points (3-of-7 on threes), with five assists of his own. The freshman also had five rebounds.
The duo made 50 percent of their field goal attempts (13-of-26) and their three-pointers (8-of-16). Their 34 points combined was only five less than Syracuse scored the entire game.
Georgetown led 25-18 at the half. To put that in perspective, Syracuse scored only 19 first-half points in the early matchup. Starks and Smith-Rivera had 19 of the 25 points.
Syracuse’s box score for the first 20 minutes was abysmal.
Seniors James Southerland and Brandon Triche scored one total point, a free throw by Southerland.
The Orange committed nine turnovers (four by Michael Carter-Williams) while making only seven of their 24 shots, or, 29 percent from the field.
Syracuse connected on just one of its six three-point attempts while the Hoyas were hot, shooting 5-of-12.
Georgetown’s bench contributed 13 points, thanks mostly to Smith-Rivera, while Syracuse’s bench was shutout.
For the entire game, the Orange’s subs contributed two points, a pair of free throws by Jerami Grant.
The most alarming stat of the first half for Syracuse was the fact that it didn’t have a single assist. Not one. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
They didn’t fare much better in the second half, finishing the game with four assists—compared to 18 for the Hoyas.
The two rivals traded 7-0 runs to open the second half with the Hoyas using theirs to open up a 14-point lead before Syracuse crawled back to the halftime deficit of seven.
After that, Georgetown raced out to a 16-point margin, 43-27, thanks to an 11-2 spurt.
Given how poorly Syracuse’s offense had played, for all intents and purposes, the game was over at that point.
Syracuse’s two seniors, Southerland and Triche, gave their team nothing. The first-half free throw was Southerland’s only point on the day. Triche scored his only basket with 10:35 left in the game. Three total points.
It was fitting that with 4:03 left to go, Boeheim substituted for the two of them at the same time. Southerland returned to the court a couple of minutes later. Triche remained on the bench.
The Orange have struggled against zones in conference play. Most stunning was that Georgetown used a 2-3 zone to hold them to what was a season low 46 points in their first meeting—until they mustered a mere 39 today.
For a team whose trademark defense is the 2-3 zone, Syracuse was inept at attacking it—too much dribbling into traffic by Carter-Williams, whereas the Hoyas used quick, crisp passing to get open shots.
Far too many forced, quick shots. Georgetown used patience and penetration to get good looks at the basket.
And once again, Syracuse was awful shooting the ball. For the game, the Orange shot 31.9 percent (15-of-47) including an anemic 9.1 percent from beyond the arc (1-of-11). The lone triple came from C.J. Fair.
After nipping Cincinnati at home on Jan. 21, Syracuse was 18-1 and occupied first place in the Big East at 6-0. Their scalps included road wins at Arkansas (always a tough venue, just ask the Florida Gators) and at then-ranked No. 1 Louisville.
Syracuse is 5-5 in its last 10 games, a crucial stat always given heavy weight by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. It’s averaging 53.4 points per game in the five losses.
Worse than that, the Orange have dropped four of their last five games—averaging 52 points per game.
Once considered a probable No. 1 seed, this team will be no better than a No. 5 seed when its name is called on Selection Sunday. Certainly all the “experts” will dub them as a potential first-round upset candidate, and rightfully so.
The Hoyas got the last laugh when they “officially closed” Manley Field House. And now they’ve trumped their long-time rival again by being the doorknob in Syracuse’s backside on its way to the ACC.
Syracuse will limp into its final Big East Tournament next week in Manhattan. Beyond that, the Big Dance awaits.
Conventional wisdom says the Orange will fall flat again as their season grinds to a halt.
The only remaining question is whether the thud will be as loud as it was today against the Hoyas.