- Associated Press - Saturday, December 5, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) - The last time Georgetown played Syracuse, in the 2013 Big East tournament, Hoyas center Bradley Hayes was a freshman who did not get into the game at all.

Entering his season year, the 7-foot Hayes owned career highs of eight points and six rebounds.

Look at him now. Hayes scored a personal-best 21 points and added eight rebounds Saturday, leading Georgetown past No. 14 Syracuse 79-72 in the Orange’s first game without suspended coach Jim Boeheim, who began serving his nine-game NCAA ban.

“Well, I’ll tell you: He’s got to be one of the most improved players in the country,” said Mike Hopkins, an assistant to Boeheim for 20 years who filled in as head coach. “He’s big. He’s got a great touch around the basket.”

When those sentiments were relayed to Georgetown coach John Thompson III during his news conference, a baritone voice commented from the back of the room: “Amen to that.” It was Thompson’s father, the Hoyas’ former coach.

“He will have a lot more moments like today,” the younger Thompson said, “before this year is over.”

Hayes scored 19 point in a season-opening loss to Radford, signaling his larger role, then topped that Saturday.

“They found me when I was open,” Hayes said about his teammates. “I did the easy part. They did the hard part.”

Georgetown (4-3) led by as many as 21 points and moved above .500 for the first time this season, thanks to four victories in five games after an 0-2 start.

Michael Gbinije scored 23 points for Syracuse (6-2), which has dropped two straight games, including being beaten at home by Wisconsin on Wednesday.

This was the first meeting between the schools since Syracuse left the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference after the 2012-13 season - and Boeheim was nowhere to be found, because of his punishment.

A white piece of tape ran down the back of a black folding chair on the Syracuse sideline Saturday, with the words “COACH” and “BOEHEIM” written in black ink. That seat remained empty throughout the game. And instead of the suspended Hall of Fame coach yelling at his players or pleading with officials, Hopkins was in charge.

“He’s always with us, at the end of the day. He built us. Built the program,” Hopkins said about his boss, then paused, eyes red and welling with tears. “I wanted this one for him tonight.”

Georgetown coach John Thompson III said about Hopkins: “He’s prepared. He knows what to do.”

Other than Hopkins’ role, not much looked different about Syracuse. There was the familiar 2-3 zone, for example, except when some full-court pressure helped trim the deficit as low as six points in the final minute.

“They were moving fast, man. They were covering a lot of ground,” Hoyas senior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera said about the Orange’s press. “I felt like as soon as I caught the ball, everybody was just all over the place.”

NO BOEHEIM

The game was played two days after the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee upheld the suspension of Boeheim but decided he would begin serving it immediately - during non-conference action. He cannot be around his team during the suspension. “Imagine, all of a sudden, someone came and said that you can’t talk to your father for a month,” said Hopkins, who in June was designated as Boeheim’s successor.

A LOT OF OFFENSE

Four Hoyas scored in double-figures, including Isaac Copeland with 14 points, and Marcus Derrickson with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

RENEWING RIVALRIES

In addition to facing Syracuse again, the Hoyas’ loss to Maryland on Nov. 17 was those nearby schools’ first regular-season meeting since 1993. “We all understand how much history Georgetown and Syracuse has,” Hayes said.

TIP-INS

Syracuse: G Trevor Cooney was held to 11 points on 3-of-12 shooting. … The Orange have lost five of their past seven games against Georgetown.

Georgetown: During its 4-1 stretch, Georgetown’s only loss came against defending national champion Duke.

UP NEXT

Syracuse hosts Colgate on Tuesday.

Georgetown hosts Brown on Monday.

___

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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