Rivalry renewed: Georgetown wins, but it wasn’t the same without Boeheim

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s no longer a conference game, and given the fact that both teams are likely bound for the NCAA tournament regardless of the outcome, it’s now a relatively meaningless December non-conference game between a team that probably won’t win the Big East and a team that probably isn’t going to win the ACC.

Good luck explaining that to Georgetown and No. 14 Syracuse.

Or their fans.

It was business as usual for them, a sea of Orange flooding the bars of D.C.’s Chinatown neighborhood prior to the first game between the two arch-rivals since the Orange took down Georgetown in overtime during the 2013 Big East tournament. As has become commonplace for when these games get played in the District, the upper deck of the Verizon Center was a sea of orange and navy blue. Meanwhile, the Georgetown season-ticket holders that meander to their seats in the middle of the first half when teams like Bryant and Maryland-Eastern Shore visit the Phone Booth were there, beer already in hand, before the lights went down for Georgetown’s introductions.

The rivalry was officially renewed, the 33-month hiatus doing little to quell the healthy dislike between the two programs. The Verizon Center was packed, the atmosphere was awesome, and, as always, John Thompson Jr. — the man responsible for sparking this rivalry — was perched on the baseline, watching over his son, who now runs the program Pops built into a national power.

The only thing that was missing was the bespectacled curmudgeon himself.

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48 hours before Syracuse was to tip off in the Verizon Center, the NCAA finally ruled on a Syracuse appeal of the punishment that was handed down earlier this year for violations that were committed within the program. Jim Boeheim’s nine-game suspension was no longer going to be put off until the start of ACC play.

It was going into effect immediately.

That’s why Boeheim wasn’t on the sideline on Saturday afternoon, instead watching the game at home on the couch by himself. That’s why longtime Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins was coaching his first career game, a moment that he’s been waiting for for a long, long time. Hop has been with the Syracuse program for more than half of his life. After playing for Syracuse for four seasons, he’s been on Boeheim’s staff for two decades. He bleeds Orange as much as anyone in Upstate New York, a region that cares about their college hoops almost as much as Kentucky cares about their’s.

Hop has long been a named that pops up during the coaching carousel. He’s been in the mix for more than a few jobs, but has yet to make it past the interview stage. Why hire someone you know is going to be gone the second the 71-year old Boeheim decides to call it a career?

“I’ve been preparing myself to be a head coach for 20 years,” Hopkins said. “It’s always what I wanted to be and I always visualize myself doing it. I was really excited to go out there. First game ever is one of the greatest rivalries in college basketball was kind of surreal.”

But it was more than that, too.

You see, during Boeheim’s suspension, not only is he not allowed on the sidelines during games or at practices while he’s away, he’s not allowed to speak to anyone on the team. Not the players, not the coaches, not the managers. He can’t even send Hop a text telling him he did an admirable job as a Division I head coach for the first time in his life.

He’s completely isolated.

And for Hop, that’s the toughest part.

“Imagine all of a sudden someone came and said you can’t talk to your father for a month and they live down the street,” Hop said, struggling to hold back tears for the second time during his press conference. “That’s tough.”

The first time?

It was when he explained that the Orange had left a seat open on the bench, a message to the coach that they cannot contact that he’s still with them now.

“I wanted this win for him tonight,” Hop said.

“I think it’s getting to him a little bit,” senior guard Trevor Cooney said. “It’s a tough situation to be in but I think he’s handling it well.”

Boeheim played as much of a role in making this rivalry a thing as John Thompson Jr. did. He built the program into a national title contender the same way Big John did the Hoyas, but he, too, was unafraid of creating a firestorm with what he said publicly about the Hoyas. Big John told us that Manley Fieldhouse was officially closed. Boeheim told us that Michael Graham punched his player, and that the better team didn’t win.

Unlike Boeheim, Big John’s coaching career came to an end, but he is omnipresent within the Georgetown program, forever perched on the Verizon Center baseline, posted in the back of every press conference, unafraid of piping up and letting an unwitting reporter know how he feels about a dumb question.

I’m not here to stand up for Boehiem or to say his punishment was wrong. His program cheated under his watch and he opted, last February, to impose a postseason ban in the middle of the season, meaning his seniors would never get to play in an ACC or NCAA tournament game again.

That’s despicable.

I’m not here to fight a public relations battle for him.

But I will lament the fact that the NCAA couldn’t have held out on their ruling until Monday.

Georgetown students will probably disagree. The “Where is Boeheim?” chants started during warmups. The Georgetown Stonewalls, a group of fans that sit in the lower bowl near the visitor’s bench, put together a tifo with pictures of Boeheim looking embarrassed and the NCAA’s statement on his violations. They enjoyed taking their shots at him almost as much as they enjoyed the win.

(Almost)

But this game — this rivalry, this event — just wasn’t the same without Boeheim stalking the sidelines. The renewal of the rivalry deserved to have both of the men that ignited it there.

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The game itself wasn’t much to speak of.

Senior big man Bradley Hayes led the way with 21 points and 10 boards and Isaac Copeland chipped in with 14 points and four boards of his own as Georgetown knocked off No. 14 Syracuse, 79-72.

“He’s a senior at Georgetown playing against Syracuse,” John Thompson III said. “If he’s not fired up for this game we made a lot of mistakes he last four years.”

The Hoyas jumped out to a 26-12 lead midway through the first half on the strength of their front court, as Marcus Derrickson and Copeland were able to pick apart the Orange 2-3 zone from the high post. JT III is known for a Princeton-style offense that makes man-to-man defenses pay for being overaggressive, but on Saturday afternoon, his Hoyas put on a clinic in how to run zone offense.

Derrickson was the unsung hero. Not only did he finish with 13 points, ten boards and a pair of assists, but he also took three key charges, two of which came early in the second half as Georgetown was able to extend the lead out to 20 points. “I love it when Marcus rebounds like he did today,” JT III said. Syracuse made a run late in the game, cutting the lead to single-digits with time left on the clock and getting as close as six points late, but the Hoyas made just enough free throws to avoid a complete collapse late.

The Orange really struggled on the offensive end of the floor in the first half, shooting just 2-for-13 from beyond the arc as the Hoyas made a concerted effort to run them off the three-point line. Hopkins credited Georgetown’s ball-screen defense. Cooney said it was due to the way that the Hoyas help on the weak side, but regardless of why, the point remains the same: This Syracuse team relies heavily on the three-ball, and their struggles to get good looks from deep is why they found themselves in a huge hole early.

The biggest issue for the Orange is when they face teams with powerful front lines. Their best offensive lineup features Tyler Lydon at the five and Tyler Roberson at the four, but that leaves them susceptible to guys like Hayes, big men that can establish post position and score on duck-ins. DaJuan Coleman is really their only option at center, but he finished Saturday afternoon’s game without a single defensive rebound and takes away their ability to stretch the floor offensively.

The bottom line is that the Hoyas outplayed Syracuse.

Thoroughly.

This wasn’t just a result of Boeheim not being on the sideline.

“Mike, he’s been sitting on that bench over half his life,” JT III said, a statement meant as a compliment that also drove home a point: There should be no asterisk next to this game. Georgetown didn’t win because Boeheim was gone. “[Hop]’s not going to try to reinvent he wheel. It is what it is.”

“He’s had a lot of input in what they do as time has gone on.”

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Big John has never been afraid of taking a shot at the Orange publicly.

In a moment of honesty, he may actually tell you it’s his favorite this to do. In addition to closing Manley Fieldhouse, Big John also said to a room full of reporters, after Georgetown’s 61-39 win over the Orange in their last regular season Big East tilt, “Kiss Syracuse goodbye!”

Did he have anything planned for today?

“I like to make him mad,” Big John, never one to shy away from verbal battle, said of Boeheim, with a laugh. “He’s already mad.”

No. 9 Kansas blows lead, then holds off No. 5 Texas, 88-80

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Dajuan Harris Jr. was willing to acknowledge that Kansas was facing something rare when fifth-ranked and Big 12-leading Texas arrived at Allen Fieldhouse.

The defending national champs played like it.

Gradey Dick scored 21 points, Harris had 17 points, six rebounds and five assists, and the ninth-ranked Jayhawks held on after blowing a 14-point first-half lead to beat the Longhorns 88-80 and tighten the league race.

Kevin McCullar Jr. added 16 points, Joseph Yesufu scored 14 off the bench and KJ Adams finished with 10, helping the Jayhawks (19-5, 7-4) overcome an off night from Jalen Wilson. The league’s leading scorer at 21.5 points per game battled foul trouble and was held to just two, ending his streak of 25 straight double-figure games.

“We knew we had to come in here and get a win,” said Dick, who had the Jayhawks’ only two 3-pointers. “The big thing, just in preparation for the week, was coming out with energy. When we do that, we’re a scary team.”

The Jayhawks needed everyone’s help holding off the Longhorns’ Marcus Carr.

The Minnesota transfer, who had a game-high 29 points, kept answering Kansas baskets down the stretch. His 3-pointer got the Longhorns within 77-68 with 2:25 left, three free throws made it 78-71 with 1:31 to go, and his three-point play got the Longhorns (19-5, 8-3) within 86-80 with 23.5 seconds remaining.

Texas quickly fouled Dick at the other end, and his free throw with 18 seconds left helped to put the game away.

“It was as close to a must-win as you could have this early in the season to win the league,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “You go down three games with seven left, you’d have to win out and get a lot of help from others. Now, we still have as hard a schedule as everybody, but we can kind of control our own destiny where if we play well, we have a shot.”

Timmy Allen finished with 18 points for the Longhorns. Sir’Jabari Rice had 12 before fouling out.

“It was their night tonight in terms of what they got done,” Texas interim coach Rodney Terry said.

The Longhorns have made a habit of overcoming double-digit deficits: 18 down to beat TCU, 12 down to beat Texas Tech and 14 down to beat No. 12 Kansas State last Saturday in a game played just down the road.

So it wasn’t that surprising when Texas dug another 14-point hole Monday night.

Just like the Longhorns did in Manhattan, though, they began to rally. Texas shook off 10 first-half turnovers to get within 42-35 by the break, then kept coming in the second half. Hunter hit a 3-pointer, Carr added a couple of buckets and it was 43-all when Self called a timeout to slow Texas’ momentum.

Unlike the Horned Frogs, Red Raiders and Wildcats, the Jayhawks rose to the challenge.

McCullar’s three-point play while they were clinging to a 49-48 lead gave them a boost, and Dick added a couple of free throws. But it was back-to-back buckets by Harris, who is known more as a distributor than as a scorer, that pushed the lead to 58-50 with about 12 minutes to go.

Texas closed within 66-60 but, after the Jayhawks pulled down two offensive boards, Dick hit another 3-pointer. And when Yesufu bookended a couple of free throws by Harris, the lead had stretched to 75-62 with 3 minutes to go.

The Jayhawks were able to fend off Carr and the Longhorns from there.

“Give those guys credit. They came in and played at a very high level,” Terry said, “and we knew that would be the case.”

BANGED-UP BIRDS

The Jayhawks were missing several backups. Zack Clemence has a hurt knee, Bobby Pettiford Jr. is dealing with a hamstring injury and Zuby Ejiofor a foot injury. Kyle Cuffe Jr. (knee) and Cam Martin (shoulder) also were out.

“I thought the bench was great. As good as they’ve been all year,” Self said. “We had nine guys we could put in the game.”

BIG PICTURE

Texas has struggled to get off to good starts this season, and it seemed the energy the Longhorns expended climbing back into Monday night’s game was missing by the end. Carr tried to carry them but he needed more help.

Kansas got the production it needed from the bench. Yesufu provided the scoring pop but big man Ernest Udeh Jr. and guard MJ Rice, both seldom-used freshmen, also provided important minutes for the Jayhawks.

UP NEXT

Texas heads home after its Sunflower State swing to play West Virginia.

Kansas has a two-game trip next with Oklahoma on Saturday and Oklahoma State.

No. 19 Miami rolls past Duke 81-59, moves to 13-0 at home

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CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Miami guard Isaiah Wong pointed to the crowd, waving his arms, asking for noise, asking for the celebration to start.

The lead, at that point, was 3-0.

Didn’t matter. From start to finish, the Hurricanes were in total control — and got a rare rout over Duke.

Norchad Omier had 17 points and 10 rebounds, Jordan Miller added 16 points and No. 19 Miami never trailed on the way to a 81-59 win over Duke on Monday night.

Wooga Poplar scored 14 and Wong scored 11 for Miami (19-5, 10-4 Atlantic Coast Conference). The Hurricanes led by as many as 26 and improved to 13-0 at home.

“That was a great performance, from start to finish,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “There was a lot of energy. And all I can tell you is, everybody who came tonight’s game is invited back – because that’s the kind of environment that we’d love to have every night.”

Ryan Young and Dereck Lively II each scored 11 points for Duke (17-7, 8-5), which saw its three-game winning streak snapped. Jeremy Roach added 10 points for the Blue Devils, who were outrebounded 38-31 and committed 21 turnovers.

It was the second game this season where Duke never led, and the 22-point loss was its second-worst this season. The Blue Devils lost to N.C. State by 24 on Jan. 4.

“Congratulations to Miami. There’s a reason they haven’t lost here at home,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said. “They’re really good. They obviously had it clicking on all cylinders right away.”

It was the second-biggest Miami victory margin in the series between the schools, topped only by the Hurricanes’ 90-63 win over then-No. 1 Duke on Jan. 23, 2013. Miami also enjoyed huge edges in points off turnovers (23-9), second-chance points (24-9) and fast-break points (17-7).

And Miami got payback for a 68-66 loss at Duke earlier this season.

“We had something to prove,” Miller said. “They beat us last time. We were revved up for this game and we got it done.”

Duke fans started leaving with 4:24 left and Miami up by 26, the Hurricanes’ student section serenading them as they departed.

Miami ran out to a 13-1 lead and stretched it to 34-17 later in the first half, putting Duke in unfamiliar territory quickly. The Blue Devils had trailed by more than 15 in just two other games – by 29 to N.C. State, and by 19 to Purdue.

“When you have 21 turnovers, you can’t expect yourself to have a good game,” Lively said.

It was 40-26 at the half. When Miami opened the second half on a 9-0 run to build a 23-point lead, the outcome quickly became academic.

“The crowd fueled us to keep it going,” Larranaga said.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: Maybe it’s too difficult to quickly reset after a rivalry game. This is the third consecutive year the Blue Devils have lost the game immediately following their first matchup of the season with North Carolina. “It’s tough. It’s not easy. But it’s what you have to do. … It’s part of playing in the ACC,” Scheyer said.

Miami: The Hurricanes remained one of six teams from major conferences to be unbeaten at home – the others being Alabama, UCLA, Providence, Iowa State and Duke. Across Division I, 20 teams entered Monday with perfect home marks.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Miami has been in the poll for nine straight weeks, the program’s longest such run since being ranked in each of the first 11 polls of the 2017-18 season – and figures to stay there if it tops Louisville on Saturday. Duke has been out of the AP Top 25 for the last four weeks; the Blue Devils were two slots away in the poll released Monday, behind only Florida Atlantic on the “also receiving votes” list.

BARRY HONORED

Basketball Hall of Famer Rick Barry, Miami’s all-time leading scorer, was presented with a customized basketball during a first-half stoppage of play.

UP NEXT

Duke: Visits No. 8 Virginia on Saturday.

Miami: Hosts Louisville on Saturday.

Minnesota-Illinois postponed for COVID-19 in Gophers program

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MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota’s game at Illinois that was scheduled for Tuesday has been postponed because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols within the Gophers’ program.

The announcement was made Monday by Minnesota, which didn’t specify how many players would have been unable to play.

The Gophers (7-15, 1-11) had only eight available scholarship players for their last game, an 81-46 loss to Maryland on Saturday. Dawson Garcia (ankle) has missed the last four games, and Braeden Carrington (leg) has missed the last six. Parker Fox and Isaiah Ihnen will not play this season while recovering from knee injuries.

The game will be rescheduled by the Big Ten, with input from both schools.

Minnesota is next scheduled to host Iowa on Sunday. Illinois (16-7, 7-5) will host No. 24 Rutgers on Saturday.

Purdue stays No. 1 in AP Top 25; NC State in at No. 22

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Purdue’s unquestioned grip on No. 1 in The Associated Press poll is gone after a weekend loss. That didn’t stop the Boilermakers from remaining at the top anyway.

The Boilermakers earned 38 of 62 first-place votes in the poll to remain at No. 1 for a third straight week and seventh time this season. Purdue was the unanimous choice last week, the first for any team this season, before falling at Indiana over the weekend for only its second loss.

The Boilermakers (22-2, 11-2) have a leading candidate for national player of the year in Zach Edey and KenPom’s No. 1-ranked offense (121.1 points scored per 100 possessions) to go with a top-25 defense. But they got down big, committed 16 turnovers and allowed the Hoosiers — up to No. 18 this week — to shoot nearly 53% in a 79-74 loss Saturday.

“When we go to Zach and we make some perimeter shots, the defense gets better sometimes when the offense flows,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said at his postgame news conference. “And you can’t do that. You can always rebound, you can always take care of the ball, you can always make your free throws, those things there.”

The loss meant Houston collected 22 first-place votes as it rose one spot to No. 2, followed by No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 Arizona in each claiming one.

THE TOP TIER

Texas jumped five spots to No. 5, shooting past Tennessee, which fell four spots to No. 6 after losing last week at Florida.

UCLA, Virginia, Kansas and Marquette rounded out the top 10, with Shaka Smart’s Golden Eagles cracking the top 10 for the first time since 2019.

RISING

The Longhorns’ jump marked the biggest of the week, followed by Marquette and Miami each rising four spots. No. 13 Xavier, No. 15 Saint Mary’s and No. 21 UConn joined Indiana in each moving up three positions.

In all, 12 teams rose from last week’s rankings.

SLIDING

Kansas State took the week’s biggest tumble, falling five spots to No. 12 after losing at Kansas and at home to Texas last week. No. 16 Gonzaga joined Tennessee in falling four spots after its overtime loss at Saint Mary’s.

In all, nine teams fell from last week’s rankings.

STATUS QUO

Purdue was the only team to remain in the same position this week.

WELCOME

North Carolina State earned its first AP Top 25 ranking in four years, checking in at No. 22.

The Wolfpack (19-5, 9-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) spent six weeks in the poll during the 2018-19 season. N.C. State already has surpassed the win total for each of the last two seasons and is in contention for the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2018.

Creighton and Rutgers joined N.C. State as this week’s new additions to the poll, though both were ranked earlier this season. The Bluejays were No. 9 in the preseason poll and peaked at No. 7 before falling out by mid-December, while the Scarlet Knights spent a week at No. 23 in mid-January.

FAREWELL (FOR NOW)

Florida Atlantic (No. 19), Clemson (No. 20) and Auburn (No. 25) fell out of this week’s poll.

CONFERENCE WATCH

The Big 12 leads all leagues with six ranked teams, including No. 11 Iowa State, No. 14 Baylor and No. 17 TCU. The Big East is next with five ranked teams, followed by the Big Ten and ACC with three each.

The Pac-12, Southeastern and West Coast conferences each have two ranked teams, while the American Athletic and Mountain West each have one.

Indiana reaches No. 2 in women’s AP Top 25; South Carolina still No. 1

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South Carolina beat a top opponent to remain No. 1 in the women’s poll and now has a showdown with another one looming this weekend.

The Gamecocks (23-0) topped then- No. 5 UConn 81-77 to remain unbeaten and stay the unanimous choice atop the poll from the 28-member national media panel. After facing Auburn, South Carolina will play No. 3 LSU in a matchup of the last two unbeatens in Division I women’s college basketball.

Dawn Staley’s team has won 29 consecutive games and has been No. 1 in the poll for 33 consecutive weeks. That’s one week short of tying the Huskies for the third-longest streak atop the poll. Only UConn (51 weeks) and Louisiana Tech (36) have had longer runs at No. 1.

While South Carolina has had a stranglehold on No. 1 for more than a year, Indiana is making its first appearance ever at No. 2 after Stanford lost to Washington.

“I’m going to relish this for a minute, knowing where the program was to where it is,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. “We’ve made a lot of history since we’ve been here in our nine seasons and it’s one of the more historical things we’ve been able to accomplish. Give our players credit, I don’t want to discount what a big achievement this is. We’re more than humbled to be No. 2.”

Indiana has won 10 straight since suffering its lone loss of the season to Michigan State. The Hoosiers have a tough stretch coming up, starting with a home game against No. 5 Iowa. Indiana, which hadn’t been ranked higher than fourth, then plays No. 13 Ohio State and 12th-ranked Michigan.

“That’s why we take it one game at a time, but you understand the magnitude of what’s ahead of us. I tell the kids all the time we’re in control of our own destiny,” Moren said.

LSU remained at No. 3 after close wins over Tennessee, Georgia and Texas A&M. The Tigers have a week to prepare for the Gamecocks.

UConn moved up one spot to fourth after its close loss to the Gamecocks and Iowa was fifth.

The Cardinal fell to sixth with Utah, Maryland, Duke and Notre Dame rounding out the top 10. The Blue Devils beat the Irish to take over sole possession of first in the ACC and vault up six spots in the poll. It’s Duke’s best ranking since the team finished the 2017 season ranked ninth.

FALLING CYCLONES

It was a rough week for Iowa State, which lost to Kansas by one point and Baylor by six. The Cyclones fell nine spots in the poll from 12th to 21st.

RE-ENTRY

Colorado came back into the poll at No. 25 after beating Oregon and Oregon State over the weekend. The Buffaloes were ranked for four weeks before falling out last week. Middle Tennessee dropped out of the poll after losing both its games last week.