SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The headache-inducing, eye-watering din that shook the Carrier Dome like an out of control bass drum was gone.
John Thompson III stood in a quiet room with white cinder block walls and faded blue curtains late Wednesday night. The Georgetown basketball coach’s tie was undone, his cuffs rolled up and a stack of white play cards protruded from his chest pocket.
He looked ready to head back to the court he exited minutes earlier.
Instead, Thompson wrestled through the defensive mistake with seconds left in overtime that gave No. 2 Syracuse a 64-61 victory over No. 12 Georgetown.
“We had some type of breakdown, some miscommunication,” Thompson said, searching for an answer that wasn’t there. “I’m not exactly sure what or why.”
For 44 minutes and 31 seconds, Georgetown (18-5, 8-4 Big East) gave Syracuse (24-1, 11-1) fits.
Never mind Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim’s trademark 2-3 zone. Georgetown’s version hassled and harried Syracuse into 34.9 percent shooting from the field. Georgetown pulled down 17 more rebounds than Syracuse, too, including eight more on the offensive end.
Even Boeheim, who earned his 880th career victory to pass former North Carolina coach Dean Smith for third on the all-time list, was hotter than the unseasonably warm 33 degrees outside after the game. Listening to Boeheim, you’d think Syracuse lost.
The coach’s even voice variously described the game as “a disaster” and “disappointing.”
Kris is Kris Joseph, Syracuse’s 6-foot-7 small forward from Montreal who skipped the NBA draft to return for his senior season. He can shoot. He can take the ball to the basket. He’s projected to be a first-round pick. And, as Georgetown learned, if left open, Joseph shoots much better than his 33.7 percent from 3-point range this season indicates.
All the good things Georgetown did Wednesday night drifted away after one flick of Joseph’s wrist with 29 seconds left in overtime. As the shot clock ticked down, nervous murmurs swirled through the 27,820 fans wearing every imaginable orange accoutrement: jerseys, snow hats, sport coats, scarves, silk pocket squares, button-down shirts, canvas shoes, sweatshirts, polos, hoodies and, of course, the de rigueur T-shirts.
Solid as Georgetown’s zone defense had been, Joseph managed to slip free on the wing on a half-dozen possessions. The ensuing 3-pointers were wide-open, at best contested by a frantic defender’s last-second hand in Joseph’s direction.
One last time, Joseph slipped free. The ball kicked out from the key. Joseph was wide open in the right corner. The shot slipped through the net, his sixth made 3-pointer of the night that pushed him to a career-high 29 points.
The murmurs transformed into a roar that invited ear protection. Smiling police officers ambled into line in front of the student section to prevent court-rushing. Thousands of signs reading “880” in honor of Boeheim’s victory were produced.
“I really don’t know [what happened],” said freshman Otto Porter, who contributed 14 points and 13 rebounds off the bench. “There was just a lot of miscommunication.”
Added Thompson: “Yes, it’s disappointing.”
A chance for Georgetown to tie the game fizzled, too. Junior Hollis Thompson, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds, watched from in front of the scorer’s table because he wasn’t able to check in. Then senior Jason Clark tangled with pesky Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine and turned the ball over with five seconds remaining.
The idea was to get a pick for Clark at the top of the key and allow the guard to drive and dish to someone in the corner.
That didn’t happen. The noise continued.
In the quiet room, Clark spoke in a quiet voice.
“That’s heartbreaking,” Clark said of the final mistake-ridden seconds. “We’ve just got to move on.”
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