Two of the least likely suspects came through on Friday night in a big way for #19 Syracuse, as both Trevor Cooney and Baye Moussa Keita came off the bench to score in double figures to help the Orange (26-8) outlast #5 Georgetown in overtime in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament, 58-55. Although the two combined to average under seven points per game during the season, Cooney provided ten points, all in the first half, and Keita tallied 13 points in a contest where SU needed every point they could muster to get revenge against the Hoyas (25-6), who swept the regular season series.
It was not all bench performers in the game, as James Southerland made four three-pointers in the game, giving him 16 in the tournament, which ties the record set by former Syracuse player and current assistant coach Gerry McNamara in 2006. McNamara needed four games to set the mark while Southerland has Saturday’s final to try to take sole ownership of the mark.
Georgetown jumped out to an early 6-2 lead, but James Southerland made a four-point play to wipe out the deficit. The Hoyas replied with five straight points for an 11-6 lead under eight minutes into the game. Syracuse scored six of the next seven points to get within a single point, but Georgetown held them off to take a pair of three-point leads, the latter with 8:32 left in the half. The Orange defense put the clamps on at that point, forcing ten consecutive missed shots and collecting three turnovers in a span of nearly eight minutes. The SU offense kicked into gear, rattling off 13 consecutive points for a 27-17 lead. Trevor Cooney was the driving force, knocking down a pair of threes as part of his eight points during the span. The Hoyas got a three to stem the tide, but a pair of Syracuse free throws gave them a 29-20 halftime lead.
The two squads alternated scores in the opening minutes following the break, but with Southerland hitting three-pointers to offset a Georgetown bucket and free throw, the Orange held their biggest lead at 37-25 less than four minutes into the half. The Hoyas showed fortitude, however, scoring the next seven points to get within five. Brandon Triche rose to the occasion, scoring six points in 22 seconds to boost SU to a 43-32 lead with 11:32 on the clock. Georgetown turned the tables on Syracuse, going on a 13-4 run to narrow the gap to 47-45 with just over four minutes to play. A pair of Orange free throws put the Orange up four, but a jump shot and a pair of free throws by the Hoyas knotted the score with 1:45 remaining. Two more SU free throws gave them the lead with 1:23 on the clock. Syracuse withstood one Hoya possession, but not the second, as a pair of free throws made it a 51-51 game with seven seconds left in regulation. Michael Carter-Williams launched a 19-footer with three seconds left, but it clanged off the rim and overtime beckoned.
Ten seconds into the extra session, Triche sliced past the Georgetown defense for a lay-up that gave the Orange a lead they would not relinquish. A pair of free throws put SU up 55-51 just over two minutes into overtime. A Georgetown basket halved the lead, but on the ensuing possession, C.J. Fair threw down a contested dunk that gave him 1,000 points in a Syracuse uniform and the Orange a 57-53 lead with just over two minutes on the clock. SU kept Georgetown off the board for their next two possessions, but could not stretch their lead. A pair of Hoya free throws clipped the margin to 57-55 with 40 seconds to play. Georgetown opted to foul with 18 seconds on the clock and Triche connected on the first free throw, but missed the second, keeping it a one possession game. As the game’s final seconds leaked off the clock, Fair swiped the ball away and was fouled with three seconds remaining. With two chances to ice the game at the stripe, Fair missed both. Without any time outs, Georgetown was forced to hurry and got a fling from midcourt before the horn sounded, but the ball caromed off the backboard and fell harmlessly to the hardwood.
It was a balanced scoring effort for the Orange as three players paved the way with 13 points. Baye Moussa Keita, James Suotherland, and Brandon Triche all achieved that mark, but in different ways. Keita, who came into the game shooting 48.6 percent from the free throw line, connected on all seven of his tries from the stripe in the game and posted a team-high eight rebounds, including a half dozen on the offensive end. Southerland made four shots from behind the arc, including one where he was fouled and converted the free throw, while Triche scored 11 of his points after halftime. Southerland also blocked three shots in the game. Trevor Cooney’s ten points all came in a nine-minute span of the first half.
Saturday night, the Orange will try to collect their sixth Big East title when they face top-seeded #4 Louisville in the tournament championship game on Saturday. The Cardinals (28-5) split the season series with Syracuse with each team winning on the other’s home floor and the margin of victory in the two games totaled seven points. The action will start at 8:30pm and be televised by ESPN.