Orange defense folds in final minutes

This one stings. This one stings worse than any other loss this season. It’s not just because it was to Georgetown. It’s not just because it’s a home loss (third in a row). It’s not just because the loss has huge ramifications in Big East standings. It’s because the Orange played a great basketball game for the first 35 minutes and then completely fell apart. Syracuse led 53-49 with 5:45 remaining before the Hoyas closed out the game on a 15-3 run to post their first win in the Carrier Dome since 2002.

Throughout the telecast they mentioned it was Rivalry Week. Not many are bigger than Syracuse versus Georgetown. No matter the rankings, every game is a physical battle between these two. With the Big East being the best conference in basketball (top to bottom), every game is a physical battle. Someone should’ve told the refs this last night.

I’ve never seen a Big East game called that closely, and it greatly benefited the Hoyas. Rick Jackson was called for three offensive fouls, two on charges. Credit Nate Lubick and Julian Vaughn for some fine acting in the post, flailing to the floor when Jackson bumped them with his shoulder on the block. Is this what this rivalry has come to? Dikembe Mutombo, Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning must be shaking their heads at the Hoya “big” men.

“I didn’t really think the refs would go along with that strategy,” said Jackson following the game. “It hasn’t really worked all this year. And a rivalry like this – Georgetown, Syracuse – you don’t think that it would work. You’d think the refs would let you play. They blew the whistle a lot. And I mean what can you do? There’s nothing you can do.”

The fouls caused Jackson to sit for nearly nine minutes in the second half, and it’s no coincidence Syracuse was out-rebounded 19-10 after the break. The calls were a black mark on an otherwise well-fought game.

Georgetown moved the ball well against the zone. It used the high post to kick out for 3-pointers, fed the ball along the baseline and remained patient all night long. There’s no bigger statistic that illustrates this than the fact that it assisted on 20 of its 24 field goals. That almost never happens against the Orange’s 2-3 zone.

But Syracuse’s defense nearly matched Georgetown’s offense. For the first 35 minutes SU had one of its best defensive performances all season. It protected the baseline, jumped out on shooters and was able to recover, stopped most penetration, and allowed few easy buckets…And then the final five minutes happened.

Here are the plays that killed the Orange: 4:59 – Georgetown pushes it up court, and despite all five defenders getting back, they weren’t set and Scoop wasn’t in position to stop Chris Wright from penetrating, leaving the baseline defenders to commit and leave Nate Lubick alone for the dunk (Georgetown trails, 52-53).

-3:50 – Georgetown gets it into the high post, Rick Jackson is a little late to get back along the baseline so Kris Joseph comes all the way over from the far side to help out, and that’s when Vaughn finds Hollis Thompson wide open for the 3. Joseph should have never strayed that far from his position, especially when Vaughn shoots nearly 45 percent from 3-point range (Georgetown takes the lead, 55-54).

-3:11 – Following an ill-advised pass from Scoop Jardine to Baye Keita, Jason Clark forces the turnover and outlets to a streaking Austin Freeman for a layup. Scoop compounded the error by hanging his head and letting Freeman run right by him (Georgetown leads, 57-55).

– Jason Clark made layups on the next two possessions: one on a great feed along the baseline and another in which he was able to hold on to a pass and split two defenders.

On the offensive side of the ball, with Jackson in foul trouble, the Orange relied on 3-pointers but missed its last five attempts. The end result was a 15-3 run in the final 5:45 that doomed Syracuse. The loss drops the Orange to seventh in the Big East at 7-5 as opposed to Georgetown, which now sits in third at 8-4. The only positive from last night was at least SU didn’t lose the way Villanova did.


-CJ Fair continues to impress. He went 6-for-9 for 12 points and added five rebounds and two blocks.
-Kris Joseph was also the victim of offensive fouls. He was called for three charges (though two were clearly charges and the other could’ve gone either way). He played the entire game but only managed to grab a single rebound. That’s simply unacceptable.
-Why are we still starting Fab Melo? He fumbles pass on great pick and roll. Keita comes in and immediately blocks a shot.
-If the shot clock were 30 seconds Syracuse would be so much better.
-There is one other positive to take away from the game. The Orange, yet again shot well from the free throw line. It made 14 of its 18 attempts. That makes two games in a row shooting over 75 percent. It’s heating up and one more and it’ll be on fire.