Two kinds of fans filled Madison Square Garden this afternoon. Half wore Orange, and stood in stunned silence. The other half wore just about anything else, and cheered as loud as they could for the top seed to fall. They got their wish.
Six minutes into the second half, Syracuse watched their lead dwindle from a game high nine points, to one point in under two minutes. And with a 2-point field goal by Vee Sanford, Georgetown took the lead and never lost it.
The loss came with a weak defensive performance from Syracuse who allowed 91 points, more than the Orange have allowed all season.
Georgetown coach John Thompson III praised Syracuse’s zone defense, and the pressure they put on Greg Monroe after his impressive performance in the rivals’ last meeting, though it wasn’t enough.
“We’re fine because [Monroe] did a good job of finding his teammates,” Thompson said. “Everyone knows Greg is an unselfish player. He had a terrific game without getting a lot of shots.”
Turnovers continued to plague the Orange, but Coach Jim Boeheim found the defense more of a concern.
“I thought we played well on offense. We just didn’t get any stops defensively when we needed to,” he said. “We had 10 turnovers in the post. That was part of it, but it was more I think on the defensive end.”
Towards the end of the second half, as Georgetown worked to maintain its six-point lead, Orange center Arinze Onuaku fell to the floor and doubled over, after fouling Monroe. Orange fans remained silent as they watched Onuaku limp off the court with the help of two trainers, their Big East hopes waning, and their NCAA hopes in danger. After the game, Boeheim remained characteristically tight lipped about the injury.
“He has a strain. We don’t know for sure if it’s any more than that,” he said. "They are planning an MRI when the team returns tomorrow. We hope that he’ll be fine. We don’t know.”
A small consolation for Orange fans, Wes Johnson had one of his best games since injuring his hand against Providence, Feb. 2, as he put up 24 points and seven rebounds.
While the loss ended Syracuse’s hopes for a Big East tournament championship to add to their Big East regualar season championship, their year is not over. The NCAA tournament begins next weekend, with Syracuse still a likely one-seed. And Boehiem wants to see some new opponents.
He said, “Teams in our league at this stage of the year know how to attack us. We’re looking forward to getting out and playing somebody that hasn’t seen us.”
Kris Joseph (32) goes up for the basket on Thursday in Madison Square Garden as the Orange battle agains the Georgetown Hoyas in thier first game of the Big East Tournament. Syracuse lost to Georgetown 91-84, and was eliminated from the tournament in the quarterfinals. PHOTO: Zach Ornitz