In a controversial finish to one of the most exciting college basketball games this season, Georgetown came from 17 points back in the second half, tied the game at 64 with 19 seconds left on Eric Smith's layup, then lost, 66-64 on Syracuse guard Marty Headd's layup with five seconds to play tonight.
The Syracuse triumph in the Carrier Dome ended Georgetown's four-game winning streak. It also broke the Hoya's five-game domination of the Orangemen and avenged last year's GU victory. Just a year ago this week, the Hoya's broke the Orangemen's 57-game Manley Field House streak.
Georgetown, Syracuse and Villanova are tied for fifth in the Big East at 5-4. St. John's and Boston College (6-3) lead the league.
The Hoyas played their poorest basketball of the season the first half, shooting 30 percent and getting burned defensively by an Orange team inspired by the 17,092 screaming spectators.
Georgetown trailed, 37-24, at the half but never panicked, even when the Syracuse lead reached its biggest margin, 41-24, on Tony Bruin's two baskets to start the second half.
The Hoyas (15-8 overall) put together a methodical comeback. Their defense held Syracuse without a field goal for more than six minutes while the shooting of Smith and Eric Floyd cut the deficit.
The Hoyas tied at 64 when Smith wriggled through a maze of bodies in the lane for a layup with 19 seconds remaining. Then the fun started.
Syracuse guard Eddie Moss dribbled upcourt. He passed to Headd, who dribbled right and forced his way into the lane. Headd was beset by several Hoyas under the basket and threw up an off-balance shot that dropped with five seconds left.
A whistle was heard, indicating a foul. But the three officials stood looking at each other in the middle of the court. They went to the scoring table, where they began arguing. Soon coaches John Thompson and Jim Boeheim joined in.
After about two minutes of debating, one official appeared to begin to signal a charging foul, which would have negated Headd's basket, but stopped when another official motioned him off. They decided to leave the five seconds on the clock, call no fould and award Georgetown the ball out of bounds.
Headd knocked the ball out of bounds after the inbounds pass. Two seconds remained. And Floyd's desperation jumper with one second left hit the rim and fell into a tangle of players. Syracuse had its first victory over Georgetown since 1967. It was also the first time in 16 tries that the Hoyas had lost a February game, dating back to 1979.
Georgetown's Thompson was irate. Even for him.
"I have a problem when three officials are on the floor, getting paid the kind of money they are, standing in the center of the floor looking at each other on a final call," Thompson said, fuming.
"I don't know what happened, but they don't either. But if an 18-year-old ballplayer can explain to me what happened at the end of a game, then certainly you would expect a grown adult, being paid no less, to explain what happened on the court."
"There was no whistle," said Al DiStaola, a conference officials' supervisor. "And there was no question about Headd's winning basket. The the officials were checking to make sure as to whether the clock was stopped too soon and which Syracuse player called timeout."
Even Headd and Bruin said they had heard the whistle and thought a blocking foul was being called against Georgetown.
The only thing for sure is that the ending spoiled a scintillating contest that saw Syracuse center Danny Schayes get 23 rebounds, a conference record, and score a game-high 19 points.
Floyd led Georgetown with 16 points, but made six of 22 shots as the Hoyas shot poorly for the second straight game. Georgetown also made but 56 percent of its free throws while the Orangemen made 81 percent from the line and 52 percent from the field. Considering the Hoyas were outrebounded, 43-32, it was a miracle they were ever in the contest.