WASHINGTON DC – A little more than two weeks ago, Georgetown went into Syracuse and picked up John Thompson III’s first career win at the Carrier Dome. Down 51-47 with just eight minutes left in the game, the Hoyas made every play down the stretch, closing the game on a 17-5 run.
Playing in front of 20,276 at the Verizon Center on Saturday, the roles were reversed. No. 11 Georgetown made a terrific comeback, using a 20-6 run to take a 45-43 lead on the Orange with nine minutes left. But today it was No. 20 Syracuse outscoring the Hoyas 17-6 down the stretch as they were the ones making the plays that won the game, allowing Syracuse to escape DC with a 58-51 win.
The hero today was Scoop Jardine. He finished with 17 points, seven assists, and two steals while committing just one turnovers. He also hit the two most important shots of the game, a tough, fade-away jumper that made the score 49-46 and then a pull-up 23 footers on the very next Syracuse possession.
“Scoop made two plays that were tough plays,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said in his post game press conference. “They were almost no-no-no-no-yes plays, and that was the difference in the game.”
The fact that he hit those two shots on the road in front of the biggest home crowd that has ever attended a Georgetown game at the Verizon Center makes the two shots all the more impressive.
Thompson agreed. When asked how impressed he was with Jardine’s performance, the first word out of his mouth was “very”.
“He made some big shots,” Thompson continued. “He managed the game for them, he controlled the game for them, and when we made a run he answered with a couple of key baskets.”
It isn’t always that way with Jardine. He’s a guy with all-Big East talent that thinks he’s an all-american and, at times, displays the decision-making skills of a back-up point guard on a middle school team. When asked if Jardine has permission for those no-no-no-no-yes type plays, Boeheim responded simply “well, you know, it depends.”
And therein lies the biggest problem with Syracuse.
This is not a consistent basketball team. Kris Joseph, the most talented player on their roster, was a complete non-factor* this afternoon, finishing with just four points and two boards on 2-7 shooting. Brandon Triche had just five points on 1-7 shooting before hitting four clinching free throws in the final 23 seconds. James Southerland, who was a huge factor earlier in the season, had nine big points in the first half, which was seven more points than he had in the month of February coming in.
*(Well, complete isn’t the correct word. With the Orange up 54-51, Georgetown on a 5-0 spurt, and just 45 seconds left in the game, Joseph came up with an enormous offensive rebound. But Jardine missed the front end of a one-and-one, leaving the Hoyas with a chance to tie the game. Again, inconsistency.)
This was a big win for Syracuse in their quest to earn a top four seed and a double-bye in the Big East Tournament.
But it was also an example of why it is so difficult to trust this team heading into March.
Georgetown better hope that Chris Wright is healthy enough to return at some point this season.
The past two seasons, it hasn’t been a secret that as Chris Wright goes, so go the Hoyas. Without him on the floor, this team just doesn’t have enough creativity on the offensive end.
This afternoon was Exhibit A.
The Hoyas had one of their worst offensive performances of the season and were coming off of a second half against Cincinnati where they managed just four field goals with Wright on the bench.
They shot just 36% from the field. Half of their field goal attempts were from beyond the arc. They turned the ball over 16 times and managed to score just 0.88 PPP. The fact that they were in this game down the stretch is a testament to just how tough and experienced this group is.
Playing against a bigger Syracuse front line, the Hoyas dominated the glass with an offensive rebounding percentage of 38% and a defensive rebounding percentage of 76%. They rallied in the second half to take the lead despite being thoroughly whipped for the first 25 minutes of the game. Nate Lubick and Henry Sims battled inside while Markel Starks well for a freshman bench player seeing the most significant minutes he’s played all season long.
But without Wright on the floor, there simply is not enough offensive creativity on this team. If the Hoyas don’t get a good shot within the flow of their offense, they don’t have anyone capable of breaking their man down off the dribble and creating. Even within their offense, losing a kid like Wright makes them much more reliant on long, sometimes contested jumpers.
Wright isn’t the best player on the team, Freeman is.
But he is without a doubt their most valuable and irreplaceable.
Without him, this is a thoroughly mediocre basketball team.