Syracuse beats Georgetown in OT to reach Big East final
New York — They went nose-to-nose one last time, Syracuse and Georgetown in a throwback struggle at the Big East tournament.
Of course, 40 minutes wasn’t enough to decide it.
And that was only fitting.
Brandon Triche scored the go-ahead basket early in overtime and No. 19 Syracuse advanced to the Big East championship game with a 58-55 victory over No. 5 Georgetown on Friday night in the final conference clash of their storied heavyweight rivalry.
The fifth-seeded Orange (26-8) will make their 15th appearance in the tournament title game and go for their sixth crown Saturday night at Madison Square Garden against fourth-ranked Louisville, the defending champion.
Triche, James Southerland and backup center Baye Moussa Keita all had 13 points for Syracuse, trying to close out its Big East tenure with one more championship before bolting for the ACC next season. The last Orange title came in 2006, their second in a row.
The Orange held top-seeded Georgetown (25-6) to 22 percent shooting from 3-point range (4 of 18) with their trademark 2-3 zone and got a big game from their bench to avenge a pair of double-digit losses to the Hoyas this season.
“Just us losing last time by 20, that meant a lot for us to even get to play against them again,” Triche said. “Just reading comments from them, talking trash about us, it made it even more important to win a game like this.”
Georgetown is one of seven basketball-focused Catholic schools splitting off from the conference to create their own league, which will begin play next season and keep the Big East name. Syracuse already was headed to the ACC, as are several other schools.
“This is just to do with football. You know that. It’s just where everything is going,” Orange coach Jim Boeheim said when asked why the school would walk away from this event. “Just wait a few more years. Everything will be gone.”
There’s an interest on both sides to resume the rivalry as nonconference foes, but no deal has been completed.
The teams ended up splitting 14 meetings in the Big East tournament, another appropriate conclusion.
Two original Big East titans toe-to-toe on the New York stage for one final time. It certainly delivered.
“It’s a shame they’re heading down to Tobacco Road for a few dollars more,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “This is a rivalry that meant a lot to our program and to their program and to this conference.”
Boeheim earned his 50th win at the Big East tournament, by far the record. The Orange had lost four of five coming into the tournament, all to ranked teams, before knocking off Seton Hall, Pittsburgh and Georgetown the past three days.
Blown out 61-39 at Georgetown last Saturday, Syracuse took charge this time with a 13-0 run in the first half, holding the Hoyas scoreless for nearly eight minutes. But they later erased a 12-point deficit, tying it at 49 with 1:47 left in regulation on two free throws by Jabril Trawick.
Keita hit a pair of foul shots to put the Orange back on top at the 1:23 mark, but Big East Player of the Year Otto Porter Jr. drew a blocking foul on C.J. Fair and calmly canned both ends of a 1-and-1 to tie it at 51 with 7.3 seconds to go.
Michael Carter-Williams had a chance to win it for Syracuse, but he missed a shot just before the buzzer and the fiercest rivalry in Big East history was extended for another 5 minutes.
Triche scored on a driving layup to start the extra session, Keita put the Orange up by four with a putback and they held on from there — thanks in part to an emphatic, soaring dunk by Fair over multiple outstretched arms.
Down by three, Georgetown got the ball with 18.4 seconds remaining. Syracuse trapped Porter near the sideline and he threw an off-balance pass into the middle of the court that was intercepted.
“They played it well,” Thompson said.
Fair had a chance to seal it at the line, but he missed both free throws. Trawick’s heave from halfcourt banged off the backboard, and the jubilant Orange held on.
“It hurts,” Georgetown point guard Markel Starks said. “We felt like we made some plays down the stretch, some positive plays. We did some good things. But that doesn’t mean anything with the outcome.”
When it was over, a Syracuse fan dressed in an orange t-shirt behind the baseline held up a sign that read, “This rivalry is officially closed.”
Decades ago, former Georgetown coach John Thompson drew the ire of Syracuse fans forever when he proclaimed “This building is officially closed” after the Hoyas won the final game at Manley Field House, the old home for the Orange before the Carrier Dome opened.
The bitterness goes both ways.
“It’s Syracuse. Anybody from Georgetown will tell you that they don’t like them,” Porter said. “It’s the best rivalry in college basketball.”
Georgetown lost for only the second time in 14 games and fell to 6-2 against ranked opponents this season.
Porter finished with 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Starks scored 13 before fouling out with 3:36 to go in overtime and Mikael Hopkins led the team with 15.
“Otto Porter, I hate to say this in some ways, but I was talking today before the game, I think he’s the best all-around player I’ve seen in this league,” Boeheim said. “The guy plays defense.”
The loss could be costly to Georgetown’s chances at a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs. The Hoyas dropped to 15-2 as the top seed in the Big East tournament.
Led by Keita and Trevor Cooney, Syracuse’s bench outscored the Hoyas’ reserves 23-5. Georgetown went 11 for 20 at the free throw line (55 percent).
Southerland hit a pair of 3s early in the second half to extend Syracuse’s lead to 12, but Hopkins kept the Hoyas in it by scoring their first seven points after halftime.
“We didn’t execute when we really needed to,” Starks said. “It was an excellent game. Both teams were playing hard. The fans were into it.”
The Hoyas own seven tournament championships, tied with Connecticut for the most among member schools. They won the first one 33 years ago in Providence, beating Syracuse in the final, of course, and wanted to put a bow on this era of Big East basketball by ending it with one more.
The sellout crowd buzzed in anticipation as the teams lined up for the opening tip, Georgetown in traditional all gray and Syracuse in its signature Orange.
Starks had five straight points to pull Georgetown within five before Triche, yanked by an angry Boeheim moments earlier after a turnover, stemmed the tide momentarily with a three-point play and a 3-pointer.
A fired-up Triche screamed as he hopped down the court to the delight of a loud pro-Syracuse crowd that included former Orange greats Dwayne “Pearl” Washington and Derrick Coleman sitting behind the baseline.
Georgetown had an early five-point edge before a three-point play by backup center Keita started a 19-4 spurt for the Orange that pushed them in front. Southerland hit a 3-pointer to tie it and Syracuse’s first lead came on a 3 by Cooney that put the Orange up 20-17 with 6:25 remaining in the first half.
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