WASHINGTON — If you wanted to put an over-sized red bow tie on the last regular season of the Big East conference as everybody has come to know it these last 30 or so years, that season would end with a meaningful Georgetown – Syracuse match-up.
Just for good measure you would also want former players such Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Michael Graham and a host of others scattered around the Verizon Center to witness the event.
And, of course, John Thompson Jr would have to be there to watch his son – John Thompson III – take on his former adversary Jim Boeheim for possibly one final time and provide a memorable catch phrase in the process.
Well, that’s exactly what happened on Saturday afternoon as No. 5 Georgetown employed a smothering defense in crushing No. 17 Syracuse 61-39 to capture its first Big East regular season crown in five years.
“Kiss Syracuse goodbye,” Thompson bellowed from the back of the press room as his son tried to frame the moment at the podium.
Georgetown (24-5, 14-4) swept Syracuse for the first time since the 2001-02 season in closing the Big East as champions, just as they opened the league in the 1979-80 season as champions.
In a bit of a role reversal from the first meeting between the long time rivals, conference player of the year front runner Otto Porter Jr scored just 10 points while playing the role of facilitator by matching a career high with seven assists.
Porter Jr posted a career-high 33 points on Feb. 23 in the Carrier Dome, more than half as the Hoyas pulled out a 57-46 win.
The Hoyas (24-5, 14-4) were able to wrap up the No. 1 seed at the Big East Tournament in New York next week thanks to its hot shooting back court of Markel Starks (19 points, 5-of-9 from 3-pt range) and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (15 points).
Both guards also notched five assists as Georgetown as a team assisted on 18 of 21 made field goals in picking apart the Syracuse zone. Conversely Syracuse managed just four assists to go along with 14 turnovers.
Michael Carter-Williams led the Orange (23-8, 11-7) with 17 points but turned the ball over a team high five times.
Although on Spring Break, Georgetown students camped out overnight outside the Verizon Center for a chance at the best seats in the house as ESPN’s College GameDay show made its first ever appearance.
With so much fanfare surrounding the event for weeks, the game proved to be a dud early on – for both teams. Georgetown managed to take a 25-18 lead into the halftime break despite Porter Jr failing to connect on a shot from the field.
The Hoyas doubled its halftime lead six minutes into the second half on a Smith-Rivera jumper to push the score to 41-27 giving Georgetown its biggest advantage of the game.
Syracuse couldn’t get back on track the rest of the afternoon in finishing with its fewest point total since 1962.
With a chance to think about his team’s fourth loss in five games, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was much more relaxed than his normal feisty persona in the post game talk with the media.
In fact it sounded a bit like a retirement speech as the last remaining original Big East coach is being forced into the Atlantic Coast Conference after building up the Big East.
“Well, you know, I’m pretty much ready to go play golf somewhere,” said Boeheim.
“If was 40 years old, I’d be real upset. I’m not 40 years old. That should be obvious, though.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Boeheim’s long time nemesis – Thomson Jr – was looking on the bright side despite giving numerous sound bites earlier in the day indicating just how upset he was that the league he helped create was changing mightily before next season.
“We got the name, we got the Garden, that’s all we need,” Thompson Jr said in an impromptu press conference just outside the Verizon Center’s normal media room.
Georgetown will remain in the same conference with original members St. John’s, Seton Hall, and Providence as well as current members Marquette, DePaul, and Villanova. Several reports indicate that Xavier and Butler will also be joining, with as many as three other schools.
Notes: The Hoyas are 14-1 with four championships as the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament. Georgetown had never made the NCAA Tournament after starting a Big East season. That will surely be changing this year after the Hoyas won 14 of 16 to finish the season. Said Thompson III: “Told the guys last year after the season, at the beginning of this school year, and when we were 0-2 in Big East, that I expected us to win the regular season. They listened.”
Up Next: Georgetown will play at noon on Thursday March 14 in the first Big East quarterfinal of the day at Madison Square Garden.