Syracuse and Georgetown have a rich history of Big East battles, but the Orange got the last laugh with a 58-55 overtime victory in the final conference tournament matchup between the two storied programs.
The surprising win sent Syracuse through to the Big East Tournament final after the team limped into the tournament by losing four of its last five regular-season games, including the finale at Georgetown.
The Hoyas came into the game with 13 victories in its last 14 games, but Syracuse got off to a far better start. The Orange's spacing was perfect and their passes were crisp, leading to open jump shots.
Orange forward James Southerland was in no mood to miss quality opportunities, and he hit four of 10 three-point attempts to contribute 13 points. Baye Keita came off the bench with 13 big points and Brandon Triche added 13 more.
Syracuse also did an excellent job defensively on Georgetown star Otto Porter, holding him to just 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting.
Still, the Hoyas managed to hang around in the second half and steadily crawled back into the game. Free throws from Jabril Trawick tied the game with just under two minutes left in the game.
The teams went back and forth as the clock wound down and the intensity magnified. Two more free throws from Keita gave Syracuse a two-point lead, and the game came down to one final possession for the Hoyas.
A questionable decision from C.J. Fair to foul Porter allowed the forward to sink two free throws, tie the game and send it to overtime.
The battle continued in the extra period and neither team was able to gain any breathing room until a monster dunk from Fair swung momentum Syracuse's way. The highlight-worthy slam put the Orange up four, and this cushion was enough to send the team through to the finals in its last Big East Tournament.
CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello noted that the crowd at Madison Square Garden was heavily behind the school from their home state, making this a virtual away game for the Hoyas:
Not surprisingly, Syracuse has quite the edge in the crowd. New York's team, indeed.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 15, 2013
To stack the deck against Georgetown a little more, ESPN Stats & Info pointed out that history was also siding with Orange:
Georgetown is trying to go 3-0 in a season vs Syracuse for the 1st time since 1987.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 15, 2013
However, recent results suggested the Hoyas should be the better team. Syracuse lost to Georgetown in February and then dropped three of the next four games to end the regular season. This is why Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer would like to see the Orange take control in the first half:
Don't know who these new guys are in Syracuse's unis, but they're up 10 on the Hoyas #lastdance— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) March 15, 2013
James Southerland stayed hot from distance in this game and was able to tie the Big East Tournament record with his 16th three-pointer, as Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune reported. NBA.com's Adam Zagoria noted that Gerry McNamara, who is now an assistant coach with the Orange, previously held the record:
James Southerland ties Big East tourney record with 16th 3-pointer of event, #Syracuse extends to 13-point lead. G-Town then cut it to 10.— Brian Hamilton (@ChiTribHamilton) March 16, 2013
James Southerland is 16-of-23 from the arc in 3 days here. McNamara went 16-of-35.— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) March 16, 2013
ESPN's Dana O'Neil pointed out that Southerland was not the only Syracuse senior with a hot hand, and the veteran leadership was huge for the Orange in this game:
Brandon Triche and James Southerland essentially taking turns doing the second-half scoring— Dana O'Neil (@ESPNDanaOneil) March 16, 2013
Even with Syracuse's excellent start, Borzello correctly points out that the circumstances surrounding this game demanded a thrilling finish:
Is there any way this wasn't going to come down to the final minutes? Written in the stars!— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 16, 2013
Although the Orange are surely elated over the victory, The New York Post's Lenn Robbins points out the bittersweet nature of this exciting contest due to the Big East's impending breakup:
One day someone will have to explain to Syracuse fans why they left this all behind @bigeastmbb— Lenn Robbins (@LennRobbins) March 16, 2013
Georgetown has nothing left to do now but sit and wait to find out its fate on Selection Sunday.
Syracuse is on to the Big East Tournament finals to face the winner of the semifinal matchup between Notre Dame and Louisville.