A rivalry game wasn’t enough to shake the issues that have plagued Georgetown of late, as the Hoyas ventured to the Carrier Dome Saturday only to return with a 74-69 loss to Syracuse. The defeat was Georgetown’s fifth straight, and kept the Hoyas winless on the road.
From the tip, this game lacked the trappings of a normal Georgetown-Syracuse game. There was no manic Syracuse home crowd, ramping up the pressure on the visitors from the tip. Gone were the shots of Derrick Coleman or whatever hated Orange legend wore an ankle bracelet to that day’s game. Instead, as with the rest of this season, Georgetown competed in front of empty stands and scarcely more noise.
Also empty were the stakes. This season feels like it’s barely holding on, with teams pausing and re-pausing play, the health of amateur athletes and graying coaches at risk. Off the court, thousands die each day from the pandemic while the President may or may not have suggested the assassination of his Veep, and a coup was attempted, or maybe it was just fascist cosplay. So even if this were a clash between top-flight Hoya and Orange squads, it probably wouldn’t feel the same.
And this was no such showdown. Georgetown is below .500 and trending ever more so, occasionally showing flashes of competence before surrendering significant leads with surprising predicability. Meanwhile Syracuse has amassed a respectable record against a typically home-friendly schedule. March Madness might still happen, but Saturday’s game didn’t figure to be a prominent variable either way.
Even so, there’s still something hateable about Syracuse. The coach’s son, the guard with the beer-league build, that annoying 2-3 zone, the God-awful blaring orange, Jim Boeheim circumventing public health protocols so that his index finger can probe its one true love. Even when the Hoyas aren’t good and the Orange really aren’t, either, the pulse still quickens when the two teams meet.
Saturday, Georgetown came out with some promise early. The Hoyas looked good enough navigating the Orange zone early, with Donald Carey hitting a pair of jumpers and Qudus Wahab converting a pair of early looks at the rim. But a team lacking a dead-eye shooter, an on-a-string ball-handler, and hey, even an above-average passer will endure offensive slumps. One came soon enough, with Georgetown going five straight minutes without a point midway through the opening half. Just when the Hoyas seemed to have righted the ship, the offense again stalled out, managing just one basket over nearly six minutes before intermission as the Orange pulled to a double-digit advantage.
The second half was valiant, but flawed. Even as Syracuse’s lead grew to 16, the Hoyas fought back, perhaps learning from their own squandered advantages this season. T.J. Berger brought in instant offense, burying a triple and smoothly feeding Carey on the break. Jamorko Pickett (17 points, 9 rebounds) and Jahvon Blair (16 points, 10 assists) sprang to life, with the latter setting up a couple of buckets by the former before canning a three of his own. A game that seemed to be getting out of hand was instead stumbling toward competition.
But whether by mistake or just by miss, Georgetown couldn’t quite close the gap. The Hoyas trailed by four when Blair got out in transition, only to have a lay-in blocked, immediately followed by a Buddy Boeheim three. Down just three after Dante Harris set up Jamari Sibley in transition, Georgetown managed to sandwich a pair of crunch-time turnovers around a transition Orange dunk, abetted in equal parts by one of the turnovers and half-hearted transition defense. After the second turnover, a Joe Girard essentially put the game away.
Depending on the degree to which you find yourself relating to Wile E Coyote running off the cliff, you may have found yourself punching the nearest hard surface, or maybe just slowly exhaling. (This blogger’s son, for one, tried on a new expletive for size.) Even as the Hoyas benefited from Syracuse’s inability to ice the game from the line, they missed a couple of last-gasp three-pointers that could have brought new hope.
It’s too late, the causes of this defeat were too familiar, and the circumstances in the rest of the world are too dire, for us to dwell too much on this loss. Hopefully we’ll get more basketball on Wednesday, when Georgetown is scheduled to host DePaul. If we do, we should be glad for it, even if we hope for a better outcome.