Saturday afternoon, Syracuse found out that turnabout is indeed fair play. Longtime practitioners of the 2-3 zone defense, the #8 Orange were befuddled when #11 Georgetown used that tactic to shut them down and leave the Carrier Dome with both a 57-46 victory and sole possession of first place in the Big East. SU (22-5, 10-4 Big East) simply could do almost nothing right against the zone defense of the Hoyas (21-4, 11-3), leaving a crowd of 35,012 (an NCAA-record for on-campus attendance) stunned.
Along with an offense marred by poor decisions (16 turnovers) and sloppy execution (34 percent field goal shooting, including 20 percent from three-point range), Syracuse also could not stop Otto Porter, Jr., who was a one-man wrecking crew for Georgetown, scoring 33 points in the game.
The Orange got off to a solid start, including finishing a 10-2 run with a pair of three-pointers to seize a 12-4 lead just under eight minutes onto the contest. Georgetown opted to switch to a zone defense and the SU offense promptly went into the tank, missing their next eight field goal attempts, including a half dozen shots from beyond the arc, and adding three turnovers for good measure.
Fortunately for SU, their defense kept the Hoyas at bay and a jump shot that ended the dry streak gave them a 15-12 lead with just over seven minutes left in the half. That lone jumper did not reignite the Orange offense, though, as Syracuse missed their next six shots and turned the ball over three more times. Georgetown exploited this dry stretch, however, by running off nine unanswered points for a 21-15 lead with just over three minutes left until the half. SU did right the ship, closing the half with an 8-0 burst for a 23-21 advantage at the break.
The second half started poorly for Syracuse, as the Hoyas notched the first two scores and took a 26-24 lead. Three free throws briefly gave SU the lead and a deuce after a Georgetown three made it a 29-29 contest just over six minutes into the session. That was when the roof caved in on the Orange. The Hoyas scored on their next four trips on offense, including getting a pair of triples, to take off an a 10-2 run for an eight-point lead.
Syracuse clawed within four, but Brandon Triche foolishly fouled Otto Porter, Jr. on a made three-pointer. The free throw pushed the Hoyas out front by a 45-37 margin with under five minutes to play. Georgetown nudged the lead out to ten, but SU got it within 49-42 with just over 90 seconds to go. The Hoyas, however, scored the next five points to go up by a dozen with under a minute on the clock and eased to the final horn from there.
For the second consecutive outing, C.J. Fair and James Southerland posted the top point totals for SU, this time with 13 points apiece. Fair also was credited with three blocked shots and Southerland did his offensive damage in clusters, hitting three treys. Brandon Triche was the only other Syracuse player in double digits, dropping in ten points.
The Orange aim to get back into win column on Monday when they take on Marquette in Milwaukee. The Golden Eagles (19-7, 10-4), who are part of a three-car pileup for second place in the Big East along with Louisville and Syracuse, were upset at Villanova on Saturday. ESPN will televise the game, which tips off at 7 p.m.Jim Stechschulte (Follow on Twitter @dsafetyguy)