After a three-year hiatus, Georgetown (4-3) and Syracuse (6-2) renewed their storied rivalry in front of a packed house at Verizon Center on Saturday afternoon. Led by senior center and co-captain Bradley Hayes, who scored 21 points and pulled down eight rebounds, the Hoyas defeated the Orange by a final score of 79-72. Syracuse was without its head coach, Jim Boeheim, whose nine-game suspension for NCAA violations was pushed up to begin with Saturday’s game against Georgetown. The Hoyas led by as many as 21 points in the second half and led for almost the entire game, but the Orange kept it close, coming alive in the second half to cut the lead down to eight.
Senior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera had another quiet game for Georgetown, scoring just 11 points on 3-of-9 shooting, but the Hoyas received offensive contributions from several other players. Hayes was the catalyst for Georgetown, and Syracuse could do nothing to stop him. He was key in stopping the Orange’s comeback in the second half, and his scoring in the low post was essential to breaking Syracuse’s zone defense.
“For the last three years, [Hayes] has worked extremely hard. … He cares about this program and when people care as much about the program as he does, you want them to have success,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said.
Syracuse Assistant Coach Michael Hopkins, who is taking over while Boeheim serves his suspension, was lavish in his praise of Hayes after the game.
“Bradley Hayes was unbelievable. … He’s got to be one of the most improved players in the country. He had a great game tonight. He killed us,” Hopkins said.
Senior forward Michael Gbinije keyed the Orange’s run in the second half and had 23 points overall with five rebounds and five assists. Senior guard Trevor Cooney — one of the few players on either team that played in the last Big East game between the two teams in 2013 — was kept mostly in check by his childhood friend Smith-Rivera, scoring just 11 points on 3-of-9 shooting.
“I just wanted to take up his space and not let him get too many open looks,” Smith-Rivera said.
The Orange shot just 38.1 percent from the field and were 7-of-27 from three-point range, compared to the Hoyas’ 48.1 percent shooting from the field and 8-of-21 shooting from beyond the arc.
Georgetown freshman forward Marcus Derrickson notched his second straight double-double, scoring 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting and adding 10 rebounds. Sophomore forward Isaac Copeland had a strong performance as well, scoring 14 points and grabbing four rebounds. Copeland had a monstrous baseline dunk over Syracuse’s 6-foot-8 freshman forward Tyler Lydon in the second half.
The Hoyas started off strong in the first half, trading buckets with the Orange initially, but extended to a 26-12 lead midway through the half. Syracuse started to close the gap thanks to the play of junior forward Tyler Roberson, who had 15 points and eight rebounds. After a Gbinije three-pointer to cut the lead to 31-24 with 2:22 remaining in the half, Copeland hit two free throws, and on the next possession, junior forward Reggie Cameron hit a three-point shot to make the lead 36-24 at halftime.
The second half was much like the first half, with the Hoyas coming out of the gates fast and then withstanding an Orange run that put pressure on Georgetown. The Hoyas’ lead ballooned to 21 after Hayes was fouled by Gbinije while hitting a layup off his own missed shot. However, the Orange made a more spirited run in the second half, making a 7-0 run at the 10-minute mark that was sparked by a Cooney three-point shot. Georgetown could not get anything going on offense at times, with the Syracuse zone defense forcing some bad shots and a couple of shot-clock violations.
“We had the success getting it in, then I think everyone that received the ball was trying to make that penetrating pass and we got stagnant,” Thompson said.
After Thompson called timeout, Smith-Rivera went on a 5-0 run by himself to bring the lead back to 63-48. Cooney hit another three later on to bring the lead down to single digits at nine, but Hayes responded with two big free throws.
“We were able to cut it close, we just couldn’t get that one more stop or make that one more shot,” Hopkins said.
The Georgetown lead hovered around 10 until there was one minute was left, when Gbinije scored to make it 74-66 with 42 seconds remaining. The Hoyas had a lot of trouble against the Orange’s full-court press, and that led to two straight turnovers that afforded the Orange a glimmer of hope. However, free throws from sophomore guard Tre Campbell and Derrickson ensured that Georgetown would stay ahead, and Syracuse ran out of time to complete the comeback.
“It is still a big rivalry game,” Smith-Rivera said. “Me and Bradley both came in here knowing it would be our last time playing and wanted to capitalize on it.” Hayes added, “It’s a big time win. … We all understand how much history Georgetown and Syracuse have.”
Next, Georgetown will face Brown (3-5) Monday night at 7 p.m.