SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) If only Syracuse had the “Pearl” – on the court instead of in their hearts.
On a day the Orange paid tribute to the late Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, L.J. Peak and Rodney Pryor put a damper on the day, combining for 43 points as Georgetown held off Syracuse 78-71 on Saturday.
Peak had 23 points and 11 rebounds and Pryor added 20 points to key the victory in the renewal of a once-fierce Big East rivalry, which Washington was a big part of.
“Whenever Georgetown wins in the Carrier Dome, it’s a big win for the program,” Hoyas coach John Thompson III said. “This rivalry, these two institutions, when you think about the Big East you think about Pearl, Patrick (Ewing) and Chris Mullin. When you come up here and it’s Pearl weekend, it’s like they need some extra incentive? Without a doubt, he’s one of the pillars of the Big East.”
Syracuse (6-4), which has struggled to form any kind of consistency so far this season, didn’t find much again. Tyler Lydon was the bright spot with a career-high 29 points, missing only 1 of 13 shots, but where Washington once worked his magic, the Orange guards continued to struggle.
John Gillon had 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting in his first start of the season and Frank Howard had four points, four assists and a game-high six turnovers. Andrew White, who has started in the backcourt six times this season, had 12 points on 3-of-11 shooting in 40 minutes.
“We’re just not playing well at the guard spot I don’t think at all,” Orange coach Jim Boeheim said. “We’re making too many mistakes. We’re not getting the ball in the basket from the guard spot. We haven’t in any of our four losses and we’ve got to play better there.”
Georgetown (7-4) has won five straight, the first four coming against teams from the lower echelons of Division I.
The Hoyas matched the largest lead of the game when Jonathan Mullmore drained a 3 to give Georgetown a 67-60 lead with 2:36 left. The Hoyas hung on at the end after Lydon’s follow slam and baseline hook moved the Orange within 69-66 with 64 seconds left.
Georgetown has lived at the free-throw line this year and that helped the Hoyas survive this one. They were 22 of 25 from the line, nine coming in the final 38 seconds, while the Orange was 14 of 25.
It was Pearl Washington Day inside the Carrier Dome and the former Syracuse star, who died in April of cancer at age 52, was celebrated on a snowy, wintry day. Syracuse University is establishing the Pearl Washington Endowed Fund for Continuing Education and set a $1 million endowment goal. The fund will support student-athletes who leave the university and later return to pursue their degrees.
A framed photo of Washington and a piece of the basketball court were presented to Washington’s family at center court during a halftime celebration. A No. 31, Washington’s number at Syracuse, also was unveiled and adhered to the wooden surface at center court.
“This is a very special weekend. Very special, especially since it’s the Georgetown game,” said Rafael Addison, a teammate of Washington in the 1980s. “It’s hard to talk about him. Pearl would be very pleased with the outpouring of love. (When the 31 peeled off) it felt like he was in the building. He loved this building. He loved this community. He had so much life, so much charisma.”
White hit his first two 3-pointers as Syracuse rushed to an 11-4 lead in the first 5:08, giving the Orange the biggest lead of the first half, 11-4. The Hoyas clawed back behind Peak’s 12 points in the opening period, and when Peak hit a follow shot to tie the game at 31-all in the final two minutes, it almost seemed like an Orange omen.
“We need to improve, take care of business,” White said. “That kind of puts a sour taste in the whole theme of the night. It happens sometimes.”
Georgetown: Hoyas entered the game averaging 28.5 trips to the free-throw line and that’s been a huge factor. They were shooting 77.5 percent on free throws before the game. … Hoyas have won six of their last eight meetings with Syracuse.
Syracuse: A video montage of Washington highlights was shown before the game. .. The Orange leads the series with Georgetown 49-43 but is 7-11 against John Thompson III. Hoyas are 13-30 on the road against Syracuse. … Seven-foot-2 center Paschal Chukwu, a transfer from Providence, had retina surgery on Saturday and is out indefinitely. He’s played 108 minutes in seven games and had not played in two of the previous three games but still led the team with 14 blocks.
ONE FOR PEARL: “We just wanted to make sure that Pearl was honored. He was,” Boeheim said. “We’re just happy we could do that. We had a lot of support from a lot of people.”
Georgetown: Hosts UNC Greensboro at the Verizon Center next Thursday.
Syracuse: Hosts Eastern Michigan on Monday.