A year ago John Thompson III finally achieved a win on hallowed ground, guiding his Georgetown Hoyas to a victory over rival Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, his first victory under the teflon dome in six tries.
On Wednesday night, he almost made it two in a row in what may have been the last game in the building between the foes while they're both in the Big East. Tied at 55-all after regulation, the 12th-ranked Hoyas were undone by Kris Joseph's clutch 3-pointer with 29 seconds left in overtime, losing 64-61 to the second-ranked Orange.
Georgetown shot 33 percent (21 of 63) for the game, hitting just 5 of 21 (23.8 percent) from beyond the arc against the Syracuse zone. The Hoyas entered the game shooting 36.4 percent on 3s.
"They have a terrific defense. Their defense keeps you at bay," Thompson said. "I thought with a few exceptions we executed our game plan of getting the ball into the middle of the zone and then having that guy find who's open. We got decent looks. The ball didn't go in."
Syracuse (24-1, 11-1 Big East) remained unbeaten at home at 16-0. Georgetown (18-5, 8-4) had won five of six entering the game.
Freshman Otto Porter scored the first four points of overtime for the Hoyas, swishing two free throws and hitting a baseline jumper to give Georgetown 61-59 lead with 2:19 left.
Dion Waiters tied it with a pair of free throws for the Orange, and after Porter lost the ball out of bounds at the other end, Scoop Jardine fed Joseph in the left corner, and he buried his final 3 of the game with 29 seconds left.
"Obviously, he was having a terrific night," Thompson said. "We had some type of breakdown in communication. He ended up wide-open and banged the shot."
Joseph scored a career-high 29 points to lead the Orange.
Thompson's dad became persona non grata around here when he guided the Hoyas to a 52-50 upset of Syracuse in the last game at old Manley Field House on Feb. 12, 1980. It snapped the Orange's 57-game winning streak in the intimidating building and the elder Thompson boldly declared in his postgame press conference: "Manley Field House is officially closed."
The Hoyas were poised to deprive Boeheim of that milestone win on this night, but their last chance of sending the game into a second overtime ended when Scoop Jardine forced a turnover by Jason Clark with 4.9 seconds to go.
"They played well," said Clark, who finished with 12 points. "Knocked the ball out of my hands."
Joseph finished with a career-high six 3-pointers on 11 attempts after going 0 for 8 in the previous three games.
"I was getting open shots. I was just taking them," Joseph said. "I wasn't trying to force the issue or do anything out of character. I was just playing ball."
Boeheim, a master of the 2-3 zone defense, took sole possession of third place all-time in wins in Division I, one more than North Carolina's Dean Smith, but it wasn't easy against the Orange's rival. Syracuse shot 34.9 percent, a tick better than it did in its only loss of the season at Notre Dame.
"Kris bailed us out," Boeheim said. "Nobody else looked really comfortable shooting the ball. We really struggled offensively. We just didn't attack their zone. We couldn't really make much. We haven't seen a lot of zone, but that's not a good excuse. We play it every day in practice."
Fab Melo had 11 points, seven rebounds and six blocks for Syracuse in his second game back after missing three because of an academic issue. The 7-foot Melo logged a career-high 39 minutes and was a force down low as usual. Whether intimidated or not, 6-10 Henry Sims had an awful game, going 1 for 12 from the floor and finishing with six points and eight rebounds.
"The ball just wouldn't go in," Thompson said. "He was getting the ball in pretty good position right under the basket. At the end of the day, he got it right there and the ball didn't go in. It happens sometimes. Fab played a role in it, but a lot of them I don't think Fab was anywhere around."
Syracuse won again despite being dominated on the glass 52-35. The Orange have been beaten on the boards 12 times on the season, seven in conference, a concern as the season winds down.
"We know that's a problem," Joseph said. "At the end of the day, we have to go get it. Rebounding and defense are going to win us a championship — we have to do a better job."
Porter led Georgetown with 14 points and Hollis Thompson had 10.
The 87th meeting between the staunch rivals — Syracuse leads 48-39 — had added significance with Syracuse's impending move to the Atlantic Coast Conference. It turned into one to remember for the crowd of 27,820.
Syracuse, which trailed 31-27 at halftime, scored the first eight points of the second to gain the lead. After that, neither team led by more than three points until Waiters energized the Orange. He fed Melo under the basket for an underhand layup, and after Melo blocked a shot by Mikael Hopkins, Waiters drove the lane and passed back out to Joseph, who drained a 3 for a 54-48 lead with 4:36 left.
Clark came right back for the Hoyas, hitting his first 3-pointer of the game 14 seconds later to make it a three-point game. After turnovers by both teams, C.J. Fair blocked Sims under the basket and Sims missed the follow.
Jardine missed at the shot clock buzzer with just under 2 minutes left and Clark struck again, hitting a long 3 from the top of the key to move the Hoyas within 55-54 with 1:36 left.
Greg Whittington's free throw tied it with 1 minute left and Melo's block on Sims gave the Orange the chance for the win in regulation, but Waiters missed from the top of the key.
Syracuse started the second half with that spurt as Sims and Clark each picked up their third fouls in a 26-second span. Jardine ignited the surge with a pretty layup high off the glass and over the outstretched arms of Sims. Jardine, who was fouled on the play, converted the free throw for a three-point play and Triche's 3 from the right wing gave Syracuse a 35-31 lead just over 2 minutes into the half.
Despite the fact that Syracuse leads the Big East in scoring at 78.1 points per game, a low-scoring affair was expected. Georgetown entered the game tops in the Big East in scoring defense, allowing 58.6 points per game, and tops in defending the long ball, allowing a conversion rate of just 27.6 percent. The Hoyas also had limited four Big East opponents to under 50 points, including their last two triumphs, over Connecticut and South Florida.