NEW YORK — Syracuse forward CJ Fair wasn’t taking any chances.
With 2:04 left in overtime, Fair was in the midst of one of the worst games of his college career. To that point, he was 2-15 from the field and a footnote in the final meeting between Georgetown and Syracuse as conference rivals.
But with one pump fake near the free throw line, Fair put his stamp on the game.
Georgetown forward Otto Porter, who had harassed Fair all game, bit ever so slightly on the fake, allowing Fair to go to his trusted left hand drive. Instead of pulling up for his patented left hand floater or attempting a layup that could get blocked, Fair rose and threw down an emphatic left-handed jam over the outstretched arms of Porter.
The pro-Syracuse crowd at Madison Square Garden erupted, and any chance of a Georgetown trifecta against Syracuse on the season disappeared.
Fair let out a primal yell, venting his frustration on the rim. It gave SU a four point lead, and more importantly, the final swing of momentum in a hotly contested back-and-forth game.
“I missed everything else I tried,” Fair said, with a self-depreciating laugh. “Going to the basket, I had made up my mind, I was going to go up strong and try to dunk it.”
It was a signature moment in a rivalry filled with them. And it made up for Fair’s otherwise pedestrian night. He finished with 6 points and 5 rebounds.
But it was hard to blame Fair, who was being guarded by one of the elite defenders in the Big East.
“Otto Porter, I hate to say this in some ways, but I think he’s the best all around player I’ve seen in this league,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “CJ is a great player and we were going at (Porter), and he really couldn’t get much accomplished against him.”
When it wasn’t Porter, it was a slew of help defenders, as Georgetown planned their defense around stopping Fair.
“It was a struggle for me to get the ball in the basket,” Fair said. “They did a good job bringing help defenders to make my job hard.”
Then again, Fair was able to return the favor, as SU employed a similar strategy against Porter. After Porter torched the Orange for 33 points in the teams’ first meeting in February, Syracuse was determined to stop the reigning Big East Player of the Year.
Porter finished with numbers similar to Fair’s, with 12 points on 4-13 shooting.
“CJ got some good opportunities, but he just couldn’t finish,” Boeheim said. “But our defense hung in there.”