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Saturday, Dec 16, 2017 at 8:58 pm

Men’s Basketball Presses Georgetown in Overtime Thriller

By Chris Thomsen

Syracuse’s rivalry with Georgetown hasn’t felt the same since the Orange left the Big East — until today.

“It was a lot like it used to be,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “Just that there wasn’t any blood on the floor.”

Tyus Battle led SU with a career-high 29 points as Syracuse overcame a 13-point deficit in the second half to defeat the Hoyas, 86-79. While it wasn’t a major comeback, the win seemed remarkable as the Orange found itself struggling on both sides of the floor for the majority of the game.

Syracuse’s defense held the Hoyas to five points in the first seven minutes of action. But its offense was just as stagnant as Georgetown’s: the Orange scored ten points in the first 12 minutes of the half.

There are many things to explain Syracuse’s poor shooting performance. The most significant one may have been Georgetown’s 2-3 zone, a defense the Hoyas had rarely played this season, which limited the Orange’s ability to drive inside. This year’s SU squad has struggled hitting shots from behind the arc, and the strategy worked well in the first half: Syracuse shot 37 percent from the field while giving up seven turnovers.

Foul troubles in the second half prevented a chance at an early comeback. Paschal Chukwu, Bourama Sidibe and Marek Dolezaj had all picked up four fouls with seven minutes left in the game. As a result, the Hoyas’ offense got an early Christmas gift: a wide-open paint. Georgetown’s Marcus Derrickson, Jessie Govan and Kaleb Johnson all had easy lay-ins as it extended its lead to 13 with 10:58 left in the second half.

To prevent it, Jim Boeheim called for a full-court press midway through the second half. The Hoyas continued to get easy baskets down low when they could successfully navigate through SU’s defense. But that didn’t always happen.

“We don’t expect us to get turnover after turnover,” guard Frank Howard said. “Buckets and stuff are always kind of expected. I think it just picked up the pace of the game and opened the court.”

It certainly sparked the SU offense. Oshae Brissett dropped 21 points, including four threes, in the final 20 minutes, finishing with a career-high 25 points. Howard consistently got into the paint and knocked down layup after layup, totaling 19 points.

Battle took over in the final minutes of regulation. He knocked down his third three-pointer with just under four minutes left in the second half. Another triple with 90 seconds left brought the Orange within two.

Then Howard sent the game into overtime. The junior stole the ball off a pass from Govan and hit a layup that tied it up at 69.

The Orange had a few chances to win in regulation but couldn’t execute, which changed in the five-minute overtime period. Battle hit two more three-pointers while he, Brissett and Dolezaj all converted crucial free throws to seal the win.

To Boeheim, it all came down to one factor: the press, which opened up the game for Syracuse.

“Sometimes, you go for the press and you just hope,” Boeheim said. “It was just one of those days.”