On the Road to Syracuse, Hoyas Have No Time to Rest

The Orange snapped the Hoyas' winning streak last season.
The Orange snapped the Hoyas' winning streak last season. "We remember that," Roy Hibbert said. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 21, 2008

The players and coaches for fifth-ranked Georgetown had little time to savor their 19-point blowout of Notre Dame on Saturday, a victory that put the Hoyas atop the Big East standings. They had to quickly move on to their next game, which comes tonight against Syracuse at Verizon Center, and as the Hoyas learned last week, having to play twice in three days isn't easy.

"The quick turnaround, is it difficult?" Georgetown Coach John Thompson III asked. "Yes. It is a hurdle, and we've done it twice this year now. At the end of the day, it's the opposition, not the time. We have to come ready to play against Syracuse."

The Hoyas (14-2, 4-1) were flat in a 69-60 loss at No. 15 Pittsburgh on Jan. 14, two days after beating Connecticut at home. They will face this situation -- games on Saturday and Monday -- two more times this season.

It's one of the things that comes along with being one of the best teams in the Big East; the top teams receive more appearances on ESPN's "Big Monday" telecast. Georgetown and Louisville, the preseason co-favorites, each will make three appearances, more than any other team.

Last year, two of the Hoyas' three conference losses came on "Big Monday"; they lost to Villanova two days after upsetting No. 17 Notre Dame, and later had their worst performance in a 14-point loss at Syracuse, two days after pulling off a comeback win over No. 10 Pittsburgh.

This year, Thompson tried to prepare his team by scheduling two nonconference games within a span of three days; the Hoyas played American on Dec. 29, and then hosted Fordham on Dec. 31.

"We did the one out of league intentionally to get somewhat used to the routine," Thompson said. "But I don't know if you ever can."

The Hoyas began preparing for Syracuse (13-6, 3-3) and its 2-3 zone earlier in the week. The most important thing in between the games, according to senior center Roy Hibbert (21 points against Notre Dame), is getting as much rest as possible.

Thompson did not rest his starters in the second half against the Irish, even though Georgetown held a double-digit lead throughout the period; with less than five minutes remaining, the Hoyas were up by 19 and all five starters were still on the court. Thompson was focused on winning the game at hand.

"Literally the two-minute mark is when I started to think [we're] okay," Thompson said.

"I've been involved in and seen too many games, when all of a sudden you're up 19 [points] with five, six minutes left, and you're like, 'Let me take little Billy out to rest him for Monday,' and you never get to Monday."

The Saturday-Monday turnaround is tougher, obviously, when the second game is on the road. That is the challenge that Syracuse -- which relies heavily on four freshmen and two sophomores -- faces. The Orange, like many teams in the Big East, have struggled on the road this season; they've lost at Cincinnati and at West Virginia.

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