By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 26, 2010; D01
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- On the same day the Georgetown Hoyas stormed into the nation's top 10, they got stomped by Syracuse, 73-56, in the latest installment of the Big East's most heated rivalry.
Monday's game at the Carrier Dome marked the first time in 20 years that both teams have boasted top-10 rankings when they met, with Syracuse No. 4 and Georgetown No. 7. And both were riding a wave of well-deserved acclaim: Syracuse, off to a 19-1 start; Georgetown, coming off its biggest victory of the season, having toppled ninth-ranked Pittsburgh six days earlier.
But the outcome, to the delight of a deafening crowd of 26,508, revealed there is a considerable gulf between this season's edition of the familiar foes -- particularly in athleticism, defensive intensity and depth.
Georgetown (15-4, 6-3 Big East) bolted to a dazzling start, taking a 14-0 lead on the three-point heroics of guards Austin Freeman and Jason Clark -- the only Hoyas to manage double figures, finishing with 23 and 15 points, respectively.
But Syracuse (20-1, 7-1) erased that lead by closing the first half on an 11-0 run and extended its lead as the game ground on, steamrolling to a 17-point victory.
After quickly doing the math in his head, Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim didn't bother hiding his satisfaction. "That's a 31-point turnaround," Boeheim said. "That's pretty good."
Georgetown Coach John Thompson III hailed Syracuse as "a really good team" but added that the Orange hadn't met the Hoyas at their best.
"We had one of, if not our worst game of the year," Thompson said. "And you can't come up here and do that against this team."
Georgetown did not make any of its players available for postgame interviews. Asked why not, a university spokesman said that it had been "a tough loss."
Boeheim used his vaunted zone defense to great effect throughout, denying Georgetown easy access to the basket and its sophomore center Greg Monroe, who was reduced to an error-prone after-thought.
Monroe fouled out with 6 minutes 27 seconds remaining, his eight points undercut by six turnovers.
At that point, Syracuse led 59-45.
But the contours of the script had taken shape well before then.
In effectively shutting down Monroe and junior forward Julian Vaughn, who took only nine shots and scored 11 points between them, Syracuse dared Georgetown to win on the perimeter.
There, the Hoyas' hot hand didn't last. Georgetown's 50 percent shooting from long range in the first half plummeted to 27.3 percent in the second half. Chris Wright, who scored 25 in Georgetown's last visit to Syracuse (98-84 overtime loss last February) was held to seven points on 3-of-10 shooting.
Moreover, Georgetown's young bench was no match for its Syracuse counterpart. Syracuse used even fewer players (eight) than Georgetown (nine). But its two-man bench -- sophomores Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine -- outscored Georgetown's reserves, 24-0.
And too many turnovers (19) undermined the Hoyas' cause.
Syracuse's Andy Rautins, whose father played for the Orange in the early years of its rivalry with Georgetown, had six steals. Rautins and Joseph each scored a team-high 15 points.
With the victory, Syracuse reached a 20-1 mark for only the third time since Boeheim was named head coach in 1976. And the Orange extended its home winning streak against Georgetown to six and its edge in the series to 45-37.
With Syracuse students and boosters on their feet and bellowing much of the night, the game had the air of a title fight -- only one in which every corner was orange.
Georgetown opened with a barrage of three-pointers, with Freeman hitting from the left corner, right corner then center of the court. Clark swished from long range, too. And with a layup by Monroe, the Hoyas led 14-2, before Syracuse, which boasts the Big East's highest shooting percentage (.534), had hit a field goal.
The Hoyas' early surge sucked a bit of enthusiasm from the arena. But the roar was full song again as Georgetown turned the ball over in fits, allowing Syracuse to reel off 11 consecutive points and take a 34-29 lead into the break.