I. Renko is an RTC correspondent based in D.C. and the author of the weekly column, The Other 26. He filed this report after Saturday’s game between Georgetown and Syracuse. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.
Three Key Takeaways:
- “Kiss Syracuse Goodbye” — Georgetown vs. Syracuse is always a high-intensity battle, but this last Big East regular season game between the two carried an unusual amount of emotional weight. The game has captivated D.C.’s attention all week, and today’s crowd of 20,972 was the largest in the history of college basketball in the D.C. metropolitan area. The building was electric from start to finish, never moreso than when the Hoyas’ sealed the 22-point beatdown. The win undoubtedly propelled Hoyas’ fans into a state of mass euphoria, perhaps unlike anything they’ve ever felt after a regular season win. They not only secured a share of the Big East title but completed an epic season sweep of their hated rival, giving them a swift kick in the butt as they head out the Big East door to the ACC. This storied rivalry began in earnest 35 years ago when John Thompson, Jr. famously declared that “Manley Fieldhouse is officially closed,” after snapping Syracuse’s 57-game home winning streak in their last contest before moving to the Carrier Dome. Today, Thompson, Jr., bookended that moment after the game, offering one final quip from the back of his son’s press conference: “Kiss Syracuse goodbye.”
- You Can’t Stop Him, You Can Only Hope to Contain Him — Coming into the game, all eyes were on Otto Porter. The Hoyas’ star has leaped into contention for National Player of the Year honors after carrying the Hoyas to 11 straight victories, a stretch that included an epic 33-point performance in a win at Syracuse. In the first half, the Orange gave Porter little room in their zone and doubled him when he got the ball, as he often did, near the elbow. As a result, Porter scored just two first-half points. But demonstrating his high basketball IQ and versatility, he was happy to pass the scoring load — literally — as he notched seven assists, tying his career high, including four in the first half. Syracuse’s grip on him loosened a bit in the second half, and Porter was able to finish with a total of 10 points. His quarterbacking of the offense from the center of Syracuse’s zone, including textbook free throw line jumpers, high-low feeds, and more, showed just why he has become such a strong candidate for NPOY honors.
- Georgetown’s Defense Won The Game — Porter gets the well-deserved headlines, but what has made this Georgetown team a Big East champion is its lockdown team defense, which stifles opponents with a mix of zone and man looks. The Hoyas completely shut down the Orange’s three leading scorers — Brandon Triche, James Southerland, and C.J. Fair — holding them to 12 total points on a combined 4-of-27 field goal shooting. And although Michael Carter-Williams scored 17 points, the Hoyas harassed him into five turnovers. Almost every one of the 39 points that Syracuse did manage to score was hard-fought and contested. The Orange got some offensive traction when they pounded it down low to Rakeem Christmas, but it was not enough to overcome an otherwise stifling defensive effort from the Hoyas.
Star(s) of the Game: It would be cliché to use this space to note that Porter was the most important player on the floor for his leadership on both ends, so let’s talk instead about the outstanding play of Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. The diminutive guards picked up the slack for Porter’s reduced scoring output, powering the Hoyas with 19 and 15 points apiece on a combined 13-of-26 field goal shooting, including 8-of-16 from three-point range. They also added five assists apiece and wreaked havoc on the defensive end, with each of them grabbing three steals and helping to force Syracuse into a turnover on more than 24 percent of its possessions.