- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 26, 2006

Senior days don’t come any sweeter.

No. 23 Georgetown smothered Syracuse 68-53 yesterday at MCI Center as the team’s five seniors celebrated their first victory against the Orange in their final homecourt appearance.

“The Duke win was nice. This was nicer,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said after watching his senior class snap an 0-for-5 skid against Syracuse. “This is Georgetown-Syracuse. That’s what it’s all about. To be able to beat Syracuse when you are at Georgetown is important. … I feel glad for our seniors. As we were walking into the locker room, Amadou [Kilkenny-Diaw] came up and hugged me and said, ‘That’s one more thing off my checklist, coach.’ I feel good about that.”

With the program’s first NCAA tournament bid since 2001 all but officially tendered, the Hoyas (19-7, 10-5 Big East) now have six days off before closing the regular season Saturday night at lowly South Florida (6-20, 0-13).

“We really wanted this one as a class,” fifth-year senior D.J. Owens (12 points) said. “Beating Syracuse for the first time as a group on senior day is pretty special. But we’re far from satisfied. We’ve got a week to get ready for South Florida, the Big East tournament and beyond.”

If the Hoyas play with the intensity they showed yesterday against the Orange (19-9, 7-7), their first trip to the NCAA tournament in five seasons could be more than a one-weekend dalliance.

While the Hoyas didn’t shoot the ball up to their usual standard (40 percent), they played perhaps their best game of the season in a number of other respects.

Offensively, they cut apart the Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone, attacking it in textbook fashion from the high post, where sophomore forward Jeff Green (18 points, seven rebounds, four assists) turned in another outstanding performance as the triggerman in Thompson’s Princeton offense. Time and again, either Green, center Roy Hibbert (seven points, eight rebounds) or senior forward Brandon Bowman (six points, four assists)would flash to the high post, collect an entry pass in the soft spot of the zone and then either shoot, drive or distribute to a cutting teammate or open wing man.

The result was serious foul trouble for Syracuse’s starting frontcourt of Terrence Roberts (two points, two rebounds), Demetris Nichols (nine points, two rebounds) and Darryl Watkins (12 points, eight rebounds), a shot-blocking trio always seemingly a step slow against the efficient Hoyas.

“Their big men are very active shot-blockers who tend to leave their feet, and we used that against them,” Bowman said. “We went right at that zone inside to control the game.”

Both Nichols and Roberts (who later fouled out) picked up their third fouls in the first half and sat for massive stretches of the action, while Georgetown earned 24 free throws (converting 19), chased down 17 offensive rebounds and dissected the zone from the inside out while committing a season-low six turnovers.

And defensively, the Hoyas were equally impressive. Georgetown locked down on Syracuse gunners Gerry McNamara (eight points) and Eric Devendorf (13 points), holding the pair to just 8-for-25 shooting. And after clawing out to a 33-30 lead at halftime, the Hoyas held the Orange to just 23 points in a second half that was basically a methodical Georgetown run.

It was the most anemic second-half output for the Orange all season, and the Hoyas took charge behind Green shortly after senior guard Ashanti Cook took a nasty spill biting on a McNamara fake with 16:55 left in the second half.

“When ‘Shanti went down, I got kind of mad,” said Green, who took a charge immediately following the Cook fall and then scored five unanswered points in the paint to stake the Hoyas to a 43-35 lead that was never again seriously threatened. “I get riled up when my teammates get hurt, so I had to take it out on [Syracuse]. It came out as an and-one and a banker, but [the anger] was coming out.”

Owens then cemented the victory with a solo spurt of his own, scoring seven points in two minutes, the final three coming on a 3 with 8:06 left that gave the Hoyas a 58-46 lead and sent Georgetown into stall-ball mode down the stretch.

“This was a nice way to go out at home,” Owens said. “I’m proud of my fellow seniors because it’s been a roller-coaster ride. But ever since coach Thompson got here, we’ve been on an upswing, and beating Syracuse is just the latest step.”

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