- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2004

Georgetown played its best defense of the season yesterday against Syracuse — until the last five seconds, that is. Then Orangemen guard Gerry McNamara made a miraculous 3-pointer as time expired to give Syracuse a thrilling 57-54 victory before 15,389 at MCI Center.

With the score 54-54 and 8.3 seconds left, Syracuse forward Josh Pace inbounded to forward Hakim Warrick, who haphazardly brought the ball upcourt and nearly lost it on the right wing.

Warrick regained control and found McNamara, who was on the left wing but slipped away from Darrel Owens and moved to the top of the key. McNamara caught the ball between Georgetown’s Brandon Bowman and Owens and, despite being off balance, fired with six-tenths of a second left.

“The shot clock and the clock were going to zero, so obviously it was [a desperation shot], but it’s not like I didn’t shoot it,” McNamara said. “I didn’t throw it underhand. I shot it regular, but it looks so awkward when you’re rushing it.”

Said Bowman: “I thought we played good defense, there were about three of us on him … that was a great shot.”

McNamara, who came into the game leading the Big East with 3.27 3-pointers a game, struggled with his shooting and ballhandling most of the day. He made just one of seven shots from the floor and had three turnovers in the first half. However, in the final 5:34, which Georgetown started with a 47-41 lead, McNamara heated up.

McNamara, who averages 16.4 points and is one of the best pure shooters in college basketball, nailed two 3-pointers a little over a minute apart to cut Georgetown’s lead to 49-48 with 4:20 left.

He was fouled on his second 3-pointer by Hoyas point guard Ashanti Cook, and the Big East’s career free throw percentage leader (.943) converted a rare four-point play that was a major momentum swing in Syracuse’s favor.

“When we went up six on them, McNamara was the one that made the plays to get them back and tied up with us,” Georgetown coach Craig Esherick said after his team fell to 13-10 and 4-8 in the Big East. “McNamara is a very good player, and he’s made plays like that before. That was the ballgame.”

The 6-foot-2 guard finished with 13 points and was 3-for-4 from behind the arc in the second half.

The Hoyas rebounded from Wednesday’s dismal effort — a 65-58 loss to undermanned St. John’s in New York — and played with renewed vigor yesterday against the defending NCAA champions. However, they lost their fourth consecutive game and the 10th in their last 13.

Georgetown’s defense forced Syracuse (17-6, 7-5) into a season-high 25 turnovers and held the explosive Orangemen, the Big East’s second-highest scoring team at 76.6 to its third-lowest offensive output of the season.

The Hoyas played a lot of 2-3 zone against the Orangemen, which should have opened up more opportunities for McNamara.

“I think Gerry started to worry about [missing shots],” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “He made some turnovers I’ve never seen him make, he made some bad decisions that I’ve never seen him make, and he can’t play that way. He’s got to play free and loose. Finally at the end, he hit that one and you know he’s going to hit the next one, and then the last one that is incredible.”

Georgetown’s superlative defensive effort was negated by a horrid offensive showing. The Hoyas shot 27.7 percent (18 of 65) for the game, their worst game of the season. Leading scorers Gerald Riley (13 points) and Bowman (seven points) made just six of 29 shots.

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