Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas lost to the Syracuse Orange in a heartbreaker that went down to the last possessions. Syracuse’s Tyus Battle had an incredible second half largely due to an emphasis on driving, making 8 of 11 free throws, and transition buckets off of Georgetown turnovers. Blowing a double-digit lead, late game turnovers, and allowing the opponent’s prolific scoring guard to take over made this game feel all too familiar.
However, a new wrinkle to the Georgetown-losing-a-late-game-lead narrative was added when Ewing kept his starting freshmen backcourt on the bench for an extended portion of the closing 8 minutes. After last season’s turnovers revealed issues in the backcourt, one wonders why Jahvon Blair and Jagan Mosely had vital second-half minutes over recruited point guards Mac McClung and James Akinjo. Regardless of how the two performed earlier in the game, Akinjo’s heroics in Illinois should have solidified Ewing’s confidence in the young leader over anything he’s seen from other guards during his tenure as head coach. Combined with overuse of a soft 2-3 zone defense and a failure to call timeout before the infamous charge, Ewing’s culpability in this collapse is inexcusable.
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Georgetown took its largest lead of the game, 37-22, on a jumper by Trey Mourning when Syracuse stormed back on a 14-2 run. Battle scored 10 during the surge to bring the Orange to within three at 39-36. The Orange closed to 47-48 on a short jumper by Battle with 11:51 left.
The Orange took its first lead since a 5-3 margin, 50-48, on a 3 by Hughes and extended it to a six-point advantage on a floater by Brissett. Two consecutive 3s by Hughes kept the margin at six with under seven minutes to go. Malinowski’s third straight 3 brought the Hoyas to 60-59, and a free throw by Josh LeBlanc tied the score at 60. A 3 by Jahvon Blair and two free throws by Malinowski gave the Hoyas a 65-62 cushion with 4:50 remaining.
The second string of Blair and Jagan Mosely combined to go 1 for 8 leading many to wonder why McClung was not on the floor when it counted.
Ewing’s moment of indecision may be the worst of its kind since Craig Esherick opted to let UConn run down the shot clock in a 75-74 loss in 2002. Sixteen years later, this one will hurt about as much, perhaps even moreso at NCAA selection time.
RECAP: The Hoyas held a 15-point lead at one point, but Syracuse roared back with 50 second half points https://t.co/w2ldhPpl1B— Voice Sports (@GUVoiceSports) December 9, 2018
Syracuse and Georgetown went toe-to-toe Saturday afternoon at the Carrier Dome in what surely prompted some feeling of nostalgia for fans of the old Big East. With Patrick Ewing coaching the Hoyas, Jim Boeheim coaching the Orange and a game settled in the final seconds, Cuse came out on top 72-71.
There were five lead changes in the final 159 seconds of game action and nine for the game between the two former conference rivals, but Syracuse star Tyus Battle, who came alive in the second half, fittingly drove home the dagger with 2.5 seconds left to seal the win for the Orange. Battle finished with a game-high 26 points.
The first half of this year’s matchup was one to forget for Syracuse. The Hoyas used a packed-in defense and forced the Orange to beat them via the long ball. It was a smart strategy, considering SU is among the worst 3-point shooting teams in the NCAA. “The first half, Georgetown was more physical,” Boeheim said. “They got up in us, we ended up shooting more difficult 3s.”
Syracuse shot 7.1 percent from 3 in the first frame. Battle himself, missed a pair from beyond the arc. He had just one basket — an offensive rebound and lay-up off a missed free throw — and shot 1-for-8. Then, in the locker room during halftime, with Syracuse trailing by double digits, Boeheim “challenged” him. He told Battle that the team cannot win with the way he was playing. He had to take over the game. “I can’t repeat all the stuff,” Battle said with a smile. “It woke me up and got me going. That’s why he’s a Hall of Famer.” Walking out of the tunnel, Battle changed his mindset, he said. Focus on transition buckets. Get to the free throw line more. Attack. Once he did that, the rest of his game would follow.
“You knew they were going to come out with a better effort than they did in the first half,” Georgetown Coach Patrick Ewing said. “I thought that we got back on our heels little bit, but on the road, 10 seconds to go, that turnover hurt us. Of all the turnovers we had, that one hurt us.” ...
In an unexpected move, Ewing deployed a zone defense with roughly nine minutes left in the second half, catching Syracuse off guard. The Orange eventually adjusted, though, and continued to get to the rim, scoring 16 of its 26 points in the paint during the second half.
Between that misfire and Howard’s foul out, less than two minutes of game time later, SU assistant Gerry McNamara spoke with Carey. He told the freshman that the next shot he’d take would “be a big one.” And McNamara told Carey, “I know you’re gonna knock it down,” Carey said.
After Carey checked back in, he didn’t have to wait long for his shot. With about 2:35 to go, the ball was kicked to Carey in the left corner. Just like McNamara said, it was a big one. Just like McNamara said, Carey drained it, with a little help from a friendly home rim. “It’s so crazy,” Carey said. “It’s like he saw what was gonna happen before it happened … After the game he came up to me and said, ‘I told you.’”
After struggling to buy a bucket in the first half, Battle had one of his classic second half takeovers, scoring ten quick points to cut the Georgetown lead down to 39-36. He wasn’t settling for threes anymore, as Battle tenaciously attacked the rim and finished plays inside.
How's the 2nd half going, Patrick Ewing? pic.twitter.com/cdTERv6rKN— Dylan Finer (@dfines31) December 8, 2018
Battle made a 3-pointer with 1:32 left before Govan marched down the court and drained a three with 1:08 left to give the Hoyas a 71-70 lead. After Battle missed a jumper with 40 seconds left, Georgetown got the ball back, but Jagan Mosely committed a charging foul with 10 seconds left to give Syracuse back the ball. Elijah Hughes had 15 points and Oshae Brissett added 12 for Syracuse, which was without starters Frank Howard and Paschal Chukwu down the stretch as both fouled out.
Greg Malinowski had 11 points off the bench for the Hoyas, who shot just 39.7 percent for the game and made just 11 of 17 free throws. Georgetown starters Trey Mourning, Jamorko Pickett and James Akinjo combined for just nine points.
I took a look at the last four plays of Syracuse-Georgetown and broke it down. Check out how Syracuse finished its win: https://t.co/IsKkZrh6cI— Billy Heyen (@Wheyen3) December 9, 2018
But to have come so close to a road win against a rival is painful just the same. As with any one-point game, Georgetown can look to any number of wasted possessions and opportunities and wonder, what if. A second-half dry spell that, combined with Syracuse’s offensive awakening, erased a double-digit Hoya lead. A series of over-eager heaves from McClung and James Akinjo, who combined to shoot just 8 of 23 on the day before riding the pine down the stretch. Another quiet day from Jamorko Pickett who continued a monthlong slump by scoring just 3 points. The decision to leave in Mosely and Jahvon Blair in the game’s waning moments, who had help stabilize Georgetown down the stretch but might not have been ideal candidates to make a play on a short clock.
Shout-out to Patrick Ewing and the ESPN crew for giving us a wonderful new GIF: pic.twitter.com/aIj1RYta6Y— Claudia Ceva (@c_squared_93) December 9, 2018
Failed Late Game Execution Hits Georgetown Again - Ewing found a lineup that he liked in the final minutes and stuck with it. Mosely, Blair, Malinowski, LeBlanc and Govan did well to grab the lead late, but there was some confusion among them about how to approach the penultimate possession. Syracuse not fouling with such a small difference between the clocks likely played a role, as did the fact that such a lineup has rarely, if ever, seen the floor this season. Ewing elected not to use his final timeout when Georgetown held the one-point lead, and Mosely’s charge gave Syracuse plenty of time to operate. The Hoyas have struggled to maintain late leads for the past several years, and that trend reasserted itself on Saturday.
Freshman Guard Duo Subbed Out Late - James Akinjo and Mac McClung, who have started every game for Georgetown this season, didn’t play in the final ten minutes of action... Akinjo and McClung played down the stretch in the Hoyas’ other close road game this season, a win at Illinois, but weren’t on the floor in the deciding moments of this one. There’s going to be growing pains whenever freshmen play significant minutes, but removing the duo from the game entirely marks a distinct break from Ewing’s typical strategy of letting them learn on the fly.
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”That league’s over,’’ Boeheim said, referring to the Big East. “We’re done with that league. We’re in our league. We have to be concerned with what’s best for Syracuse.’’ ...
“I think it’s great for both schools,’’ Ewing added. “It’s great for us to play against Syracuse. It’s great for them to play against us so I would love to see it continue.’’
Earlier this week, SU athletic director John Wildhack said the two schools had begun “preliminary discussions’’ on a new series.
2019 Flint Hill (VA) Center Qudus Wahab will announce his college decision next Thursday. He's down to Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, UConn, & Virginia Tech.— Shoot The Jay (@SportsManCave) December 6, 2018