With nearly 14,000 fans packed into Capital One Arena, first-year guard Aminu Mohammed’s double-double led the Georgetown men’s basketball team to an upset 79-75 victory over Syracuse.
Saturday Dec. 11, Georgetown (6-4) faced off against rival Syracuse Orange (5-5) for the 97th time in university history. The Hoyas took the court hot off a 100-point offensive performance against UMBC on Wednesday, Dec. 8, whereas the Orange hoped to rebound from a 53-67 loss to No. 9 Villanova on Tuesday, Dec. 7.
To start the game, Georgetown attacked Syracuse’s infamous zone defense from the perimeter. After an emphatic slam from junior center Malcolm Wilson, graduate forward Kaiden Rice hit three straight 3-pointers, tipping the game 11-7 in Georgetown’s favor.
Scoring then went back and forth, but with 7:16 left in the first half, the Orange, led by guard Buddy Boeheim and guard Joseph Girard III, appeared to pull ahead. They finished the half shooting 8-of-9 from the field, shifting a close, two-point lead into a double-digit ballgame.
While the Hoyas shot 46% from beyond the arc in the first half, they converted on just 11 of their 30 shots inside the arc and were unable to muster a string of successful offensive possessions against the stingy Syracuse defense heading into the half.
While Head Coach Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85) talked things over with players at halftime, the university honored the late coaching legend John Thompson, Jr., naming the court after him in a star-studded ceremony. Famous Hoyas of the past, from Dikembe Mutombo (SLL ’91) to Alonzo Mourning (CAS ’92), were in attendance for the game and the halftime event.
In the second half, Mohammed took over. Georgetown went on a 17-7 run to start the period, with the five-star recruit scoring 12 of those points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field and perfect shooting from the free throw line.
Throughout the second half, Georgetown fed the ball to Mohammed in the paint. Every time he got the ball, he was unstoppable, either scoring in the zone’s soft spots or finding an open teammate for a better look. Mohammed put up eight more points after the Hoyas’ momentum-shifting run, racking up 20 points in the second half alone.
Georgetown fans, who had been loud all game, were especially rambunctious following this run. In the final moments of the game, a deafening rumble of cheers and chants could be heard during every possession. Mohammed applauded this support.
“I think the atmosphere helped a lot,” Mohammed said in a postgame press conference. “I hope and think that we will continue to have that atmosphere every time we play.”
In the final minutes of the game, Georgetown and Syracuse traded blows, with neither team pulling ahead of the other.
The game remained close until 1:11, when Mohammed passed out to Rice, who hit a deep three in front of the Georgetown bench and made it a 75-73 game in favor of the Hoyas. This was Rice’s 5th 3-pointer of the night, and he finished with 15 points.
Following two clutch free throws from Georgetown graduate guard Donald Carey, Syracuse’s Girard III scored a layup through contact for the and-one with 10 seconds left. He missed his free throw and Mohammed got the rebound. The hero of the game for the Hoyas then sunk both of his shots from the line, sealing Georgetown’s 79-75 win.
Coach Ewing had nothing but good things to say about Mohammed’s performance.
“They say cream rises to the top,” Ewing said in a press conference. “Well, he is rising. He continues to get better every day.”
The team was aided by strong performances from their sharpshooters Rice and Carey, who finished with a combined 33 points. Georgetown also saw excellent performances off the bench from first-year guard Tyler Beard and sophomore forward Collin Holloway. Beard stepped in when sophomore guard Dante Harris was off the floor and facilitated the offense with four assists. Holloway showed no fear against far larger defenders in the paint and scored 10 gritty points.
At the end of the day, a win is sweet, but a win against the Orange is even sweeter.
Coach Ewing said it best after the game: “To beat Syracuse means a lot … this rivalry is one of the biggest rivalries in college sports.”
After forfeiting their first conference game versus the Providence Friars (12-1, 2-0 Big East) due to COVID concerns, Georgetown (6-6, 0-1 Big East) will take on the Creighton Bluejays (9-3, 2-0 Big East) Tuesday, Dec. 28 at 9:00 p.m.