By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 10, 2011; D06
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Chris Wright, Julian Vaughn and Austin Freeman gathered at the center of Carrier Dome's court and did something they had waited their whole careers to do: The Georgetown seniors shared an emotional embrace as sour Syracuse fans streamed toward the exits.
Wright handed out nine assists, Vaughn grabbed a critical rebound late and Freeman scored a team-high 14 points to lead No. 11 Georgetown to a 64-56 victory that ended a nine-year drought in this building. It also stretched the Hoyas' winning streak to seven games, their longest run in the conference since they won 11 in a row in the 2006-07 season.
"This game was big for us," Wright said. "It's a big rivalry. It has a lot of history and tradition. We just wanted to come here and execute and get a win in a hostile environment."
It was also the first victory at Syracuse for Coach John Thompson III, who acknowledged seeking some divine intervention this week.
"February 13, 1980, was one of the defining moments for this conference, and definitely for this rivalry, when my Dad said, 'Manley Field House is officially closed,' " Thompson said. "So this is my seventh year in the Big East and this is my first win up here. I've been thinking the last couple of years that some kind of way, the man upstairs said, 'Okay, you closed down Manley [so] no one in your lineage is going to win at the new place.'
"Me and the man upstairs had a whole lot of talks this week," he added with a smile. Thompson is now 1-5 here.
But it might have been what Thompson said during a late timeout that sealed the win. With a few choice words, he challenged the Hoyas (19-5, 8-4) to out-hustle the No. 12 Orange (20-5, 7-5), particularly on the glass.
And they responded.
Hollis Thompson sank a three pointer with 3 minutes 47 seconds remaining to knot the score, 55-55. Moments later, Thompson found Freeman for a layup that put the Hoyas ahead for good.
The turning point, though, actually came on the next two Syracuse possessions, missed jumpers by Kris Joseph and Brandon Triche. Vaughn grabbed the first rebound and Jason Clark came down with the other, and the Hoyas parlayed each into a pair of points at the other end. In the span of 28 seconds, Georgetown's lead had swelled to 61-55.
In all, the Hoyas held a 34-28 edge on the glass. Orange Coach Jim Boeheim said his team's rebounding woes were, in part, the result of 6-foot-9 senior Rick Jackson picking up his fourth foul less than six minutes into the second half.
"The difference in the game was we didn't do a good job rebounding the ball in the second half," Boeheim said. "Part of that was Ricky was out a long time. That hurts us a lot."
Said Thompson: "We did a good job at the end of getting the rebounds we needed to get. We had a few timeouts where all we talked about - if you can call it talking - was, 'That's the game. That is the game.' We're causing them to miss. Are we going to get the rebound or not? Do we want to win or not?"
Thompson also singled out Wright for praise afterward. The point guard's assist total established a career high in conference play and his hustle in the final moments outweighed his 2-for-8 shooting performance.
Wright blocked a layup attempt by Jackson with under two minutes left and later came up with one of the game's most important rebounds. After he missed a three point attempt with 59 seconds to play and the Hoyas clinging to a 61-56 lead, he out-ran Scoop Jardine into the back court to track down the loose ball.
"I was upset that I missed the three," Wright said. "I just ran the ball the down."
It's doggedness and determination such as that that will be remembered years from now when the three seniors talk about getting the big win.
"It's a big honor to be a part of the team that got [Thompson's] first win," Vaughn said. But before the center could finish his thought, Thompson jumped in with a correction.
"Here," he interjected. "Let's not get carried away."
Thompson and his players were all smiles after filling a void on their otherwise distinguished resumes. But when asked how personally he had taken the drought, Thompson turned serious again.
"This is Georgetown-Syracuse," he said. "This is big for this conference. This is big to me. This is big to our school. So did I know that I hadn't won in this building, absolutely?"