- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 25, 2006

Georgetown’s seniors have one last shot at Syracuse.

Senior day is typically defined by sentimentality. But for three Hoyas playing their last game at MCI Center today, animosity is likely to be the overriding emotion.

That’s because a trio of Georgetown seniors — Brandon Bowman, Ashanti Cook and fifth-year sniper Darrel Owens — is 0-5 against Syracuse. And when you are in danger of becoming the first Georgetown class in more than three decades to leave the Hilltop winless against the program’s archrival, there’s little time for reflection and appreciation.

“I really want to beat Syracuse,” said Bowman, who will be making his 120th consecutive start today as the No. 23 Hoyas (18-7, 9-5 Big East) plow toward the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2001. “We’ve never beaten them before, and that would top everything off completely and make us feel good about our last home game.”

Nobody has suffered more at the hands of Syracuse than Bowman, whose apparent game-winning 3-pointer against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome last season was ruled a 2 after review, sending the game to overtime. Bowman’s size-17 shoe just touched the line, and the Hoyas lost 78-73 in the extra session.

“If they were [size] 16s or 15s, we would have been A-OK and come away with a victory,” Bowman said. “I’ve relived that shot a lot, maybe like 1,000 times. It was heartbreaking, because I thought we had won. But we’ve got another crack at them on Saturday. They played pretty well against West Virginia the other night. They seem to be coming into their own at the right time of the year. That’s going to make us play even harder. We’ve just got to come out and take care of our business.”

Bowman — one of six players in Georgetown history with 1,400 points and 700 rebounds — enters today’s game off his two least productive performances of the season, a four-point, zero-rebound effort at Villanova and a zero-point, two-rebound showing against Rutgers.

“He’s going through a slump right now. And we need him to bounce out of it, because we need him to play well for us to have success,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said of Bowman’s recent struggles. “You just have to fight through it. You just have to work that much harder. And much like I’ve said to D.J. [Owens] and all of them, when you’re not scoring points, don’t worry about scoring points. It’s amazing how when you start working a little harder on defense, you score a few more points. And when you start really going after rebounds, you score a few more points.”

Bowman showed signs of life on that front, drawing a career-high two charges in the team’s win over Rutgers on Wednesday night. Perhaps he’s ready to join Cook and Owens, who each emerged from shooting slumps of their own over Georgetown’s last two games.

Outside accuracy from the trio will be critical today against the Orange (19-8, 7-6), who have the bodies and scheme (coach Jim Boeheim’s signature 2-3 zone) to frustrate Georgetown’s interior tandem of Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green.

“It’s a typical 2-3,” Owens said. “Their guards take a lot of chances. They go for steals a lot, so we’ve got to play smart. It’s going to come down to making shots, because we know they’re going to try and take away Roy. When you play Syracuse, you know you have to have a good shooting night. A lot of teams have been successful against their zone this year, and we just have to be one of those teams.”

If the Hoyas are successful today, it will be a perfectly fitting homecourt finale for the ultimate better-late-than-never senior class. Bowman, Cook and Owens, and to some degree senior walk-ons Amadou Kilkenny-Diaw and Ryan Beal, have endured one of the most chaotic stretches Georgetown’s history, surviving the program’s nadir under former coach Craig Esherick and assisting Thompson in its resurrection.

“We came in, and it was kind of rough, because we struggled for a couple of years,” Cook said. “But, you know, we hung in there, got through it, made the transition, and senior year we’ve been playing real well. Hopefully, we can finish out strong, get into the NCAA tournament and do some damage. We’re all just looking to go out on top.”

That postseason future is why Thompson refuses to get sentimental about his seniors now.

“Hopefully, there is a lot that this senior class can still accomplish,” Thompson said. “Yes, it’s senior day, and it’s the last time they’re going to play at the MCI Center. But I don’t want to give the grandiose spiel about my seniors, because hopefully that’s six weeks from now. … and then I’ll have a lot more nice things to say.”

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