Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown Surpasses SU

MEN’S HOOPS Georgetown Surpasses SU By John-Paul Hezel Hoya Staff Writer

Dianne Hezel/For The Hoya Georgetown junior swingman Gerald Riley paces the hardwood at Syracuse’s Carrier Dome before 29,215 screaming fans. The floor was named Jim Boeheim Court in honor of Syracuse’s legendary head coach.

SYRACUSE, N.Y., Feb. 24 – In front of the nation’s largest and loudest college basketball crowd this season, Georgetown turned off the Syracuse volume, suppressed a late Orangemen uproar and produced its most resounding win of the season, a 75-69 silencing of its biggest foe.

In the Syracuse lair – a bubble-topped, concrete-slabbed, curtain-partitioned football arena turned basketball court – rested a hardwood floor dedicated before the game to Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim for his 26 years as the program’s head coach.

“We knew we had to come out and play today because everyone was coming back to see Jim Boeheim get the thing for the court,” Georgetown sophomore forward Mike Sweetney said.

Surrounding that court cheered and jeered 29,215 earsplitting fans, most of whom dressed in all manner of orange and rocked the aluminum bleachers at every dunk and during every time out. The handful of Georgetown faithful, relegated to the “long range view” in the upper recesses of the Carrier Dome, marked only a small blue patch in the quilt of Orange fans.

“We knew that it was going to be a tough game,” senior point guard Kevin Braswell said. “I came out there when we were warming up and looked around. I haven’t seen that many people since I’ve been playing.”

Amid the chaos, Braswell demonstrated the stellar leadership that has earned him the honor of team captain during his fourth and final season at Georgetown. Braswell scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, including five in a row at one point, and maneuvered the Hoyas’ press-break to help quell a late 14-4 Syracuse run.

“Kevin’s leadership has been crucial all season,” Georgetown Head Coach Craig Esherick said. “I think that without some of the things that he did against their press and without some of the big shots that he hit, I don’t think we would have won the game.”

Georgetown (16-10, 7-7 Big East) built its largest lead at 45-35 with 11:41 remaining before Syracuse sophomore guard James Thues hit one of his four three-pointers to cut the lead to seven. After two free throws by Sweetney, senior forward Preston Shumpert hit a trey for Syracuse (20-8, 9-5) that brought thunder to the stadium. The throngs, already deafening, sent shockwaves over Jim Boeheim Court.

Sweetney traveled on Georgetown’s subsequent possession, allowing freshman forward Hakim Warick to slice the Georgetown lead to four on a fast break dunk.

The Hoyas took their second time out to regroup and try to settle the booming masses, after which Sweetney got fouled and hit two more free throws to put Georgetown up six. The Orangemen responded with eight straight points to take a 51-49 advantage on a Shumpert jump shot that again brought the decibel level to a climax. It was the first Syracuse lead since 2-1 in the game’s opening minutes, and the fanatics responded appropriately.

But unlike previous games when the Hoyas wilted under the opponents’ pressure, Georgetown did not throw the ball away or miss critical free throws in the waning minutes.

“This time we kept our composure at the end of the game,” Sweetney said. “A lot of games this year, toward the end of the game we didn’t play smart; we made bad decisions, and this game we just kept our focus.”

Braswell played a large role in maintaining that focus.

“When they tied the game up at a crucial point, [Braswell] brought everybody together and told [us], `you need to concentrate, you know what happened the last couple games, [we] gotta pull this one out,'” Sweetney said. “[Braswell] showed good leadership bringing everyone into the huddles with the crowed yelling.”

Braswell’s calming presence relaxed his teammates to set up the most important play of the contest. With the Hoyas up 65-63 with 58.2 seconds left, junior swingman Gerald Riley, who scored a game-high 18, spotted up from the left corner and sunk a three to put Georgetown up five.

“I thought [it was] the biggest play of the game for us,” Esherick said. “I thought it gave us the confidence that I thought we needed because of all those tough games we’ve had down the stretch. I thought that play gave all the other guys that were out on the floor the confidence that we could do this, and we did.”

Riley, who had eight points in the game’s first 10 minutes, attributed the play to effective zone-breaking on the part of Georgetown. The team emphasis on passing the ball around the perimeter rather than forcing it through double teams allowed the Hoyas to find open shots, none more important than Riley’s.

Officially “Jim Boeheim Day,” the game was reminiscent of Feb. 13, 1980, when the Hoyas closed Manley Field House, Syracuse’s prior arena, by beating the Orangemen 52-50. Afterward, then-Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson boldly declared that Manley was “officially closed.”

Though Esherick had no “pithy comment” to match Thompson’s, he did express his pleasure at winning on such a meaningful day.

“As much respect as I have for Jim, and as much respect as I have for anybody that’s won over 600 games at the institution where he played and where he started out his coaching career, I think that, selfishly, I wanted to win this game more than do something for him right now,” Esherick said. “We needed this game more than Syracuse did.”

With Georgetown’s NCAA Tournament fate now resting solely on its performance in next week’s Big East Tournament, the win leaves open the slim possibility that with a final week charge and a strong showing in the tournament, the Hoyas could sneak into the Big Dance.

“I told them with the remaining regular season game and the Big East Tournament that we control our own destiny,” Esherick said. “We have made the job more difficult, but we have the ability with how we play at the end of the season and in the tournament to make the selection committee take notice.”

It was the Hoyas’ second victory over Syracuse in the past month and improves Georgetown’s record to 34-35 in the all-time series. The Hoyas, who defeated the Orangemen 75-60, on Jan. 28 at MCI Center, have won four of the last five meetings.

Georgetown took a 35-30 lead to the locker room, in part because of 54.5 percent shooting from the field and in part because the Hoyas held Shumpert to a quiet seven points on only 2-of-11 shooting. Shumpert finished with 14 points on a 5-of-17 performance from the field, while junior guard DeShaun Williams shared Shumpert’s shooting woes, connecting on only 4-of-15 for 11 points.

The Hoya freshmen also contributed despite the intimidating atmosphere. Guard Tony Bethel showed the fewest effects, scoring eight points in 31 minutes, while forward Harvey Thomas helped give Riley a rest and defend Shumpert. Georgetown, which shot 50 percent for the game, held Syracuse to 38.5.

“Defense,” Riley said. “When we play good defense, the offense will come.”

The only Syracuse player that Georgetown could not contain consistently was Thues, who kept his team close with a career-high 17 points in 36 minutes.

“When no one else was making anything, he hit a couple early and he felt comfortable and he made a couple huge shots that got us back in the game,” Boeheim said. “We were out of the game twice, and he got us back in the game once.”

Sweetney’s 13 points and 10 boards could not take the spotlight off of Braswell’s general-like direction in leading his team to a most crucial victory, the first in Braswell’s career at Syracuse.

“I can’t be more happy for this group of guys that I’m coaching this year, because we’ve lost an awful lot of close games this season, games that we had an opportunity to win,” Esherick said. “These guys have never hung their head, they’ve never had a practice that I thought was a practice that they mailed it in, and they’ve done just everything that I’ve asked them to do the entire season.”

“I thought that they deserved to have some good things happen to them, and I’m happy it did happen today.”

The Hoyas travel to face West Virginia tomorrow at 7 p.m. They previously beat the Mountaineers 84-77.

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