Inspired by 25,623 screaming fans and an orange-clad masked man called the "Dome Ranger," Syracuse could do little wrong in the final 10 minutes and defeated Georgetown, 75-70, in a physical Big East Conference game at the Carrier Dome today.
There is a heated rivalry between these teams, and Syracuse (3-1 in the conference, 10-4 overall) reacted as if it had won the national title.
Not quite, but the Orangemen were content with ending Georgetown's 13-game winning streak, a loss that left the seventh-ranked Hoyas 14-3 overall and 3-1 in the conference.
"Believe me, we wanted to win this one," said Syracuse forward Leo Rautins, who played a major role with 10 points and 10 assists. "It was a game we needed, a game we wanted badly. We had two strategies--go right at (Pat) Ewing and to be patient against their press. Both worked."
Syracuse played perhaps its finest game of the season, shooting 56 percent from the field and making 26 of 34 free throws. It limited Georgetown, a good shooting team, to three baskets during a key 10-minute period in the second half.
In addition, the officiating crew of Joe Silvester, Terry Stoudt and Jay Evans called 45 personal fouls. Ewing picked up two within the first four minutes and his fourth with 17:38 remaining in the game.
Ewing had six points and six rebounds in 16 minutes before getting his fifth foul with 1:40 remaining. "We expected them to come right at me and I made a couple of fouls," Ewing said.
His coach, John Thompson, added, "He has to learn to play with fouls. We missed him inside."
Despite being outplayed much of the afternoon, the Hoyas, getting three consecutive baskets from Ed Spriggs (14 points, seven rebounds), were holding a 55-54 lead with 10:18 left.
The crowd then got Syracuse going, the noise level becoming almost unbearable at times. Baskets by Erich Santifer and Tony Bruin (17) and two free throws by Rautins pushed Syracuse ahead, 60-55.
"Playing in front of a crowd like that is part of the challenge," said Thompson. "Give me those 25,000 screaming and it makes a tough situation. Maybe we'll create the same kind of situation in Washington."
Over the last 10 minutes, the Hoyas missed 11 shots from the floor and five free throws, and had two turnovers on 21 possessions. Syracuse made six of seven free throws in the final 100 seconds to clinch the victory.
Despite the noise and the bad bounces, Georgetown still managed to creep back, trailing, 66-65, after a follow by Ewing with 1:51 remaining. But the 7-foot freshman was called for his fifth foul 11 seconds later after trying to block a shot by Bruin. Ewing, the target of heavy booing for most of the game, got a nice round of applause from the crowd after he trotted over to shake hands with Bruin.
The 6-4 forward made both shots for a three-point Orange advantage with 1:40 to play. Syracuse's quick-reacting 2-3 zone then caused a turnover on a pass by Gene Smith, and Bruin's dunk after a fine lead pass from Santifer gave the Orange a 70-65 lead with 1:18 left.
"That was a key play right then," said Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim. "He made several good plays for us in the last few minutes. This was a physical game, but then that's the way the game is supposed to be played.
"When we needed some rebounds, we got in there and dug them out. Rautins just played a great game. He didn't shoot well but he did everything else."
What the versatile forward did best was handle the ball against the Hoyas' full-court press. "He's 6-8 and caused us some matchup problems back there," Thompson said. "He is a great pressure releaser and an unbelievable passer."
Rautins also had eight second-half rebounds and three steals. When he crossed half court, he constantly found an open teammate under the basket. Ten of his passes were converted into layups or short jump shots.
In the first half, he had six assists and reserve Ron Peyton scored 10 points as the Orangemen took a 38-37 lead at intermission.
Eric Floyd had 14 points in the first half, but Syracuse stopped the senior all-America guard in the second half. He had three baskets and finished with 20 points.
"We missed a lot of chippies and didn't convert enough transition baskets," Thompson said. "Give Syracuse credit--they rebounded well and played good defense. We had scoring opportunities. We just missed them."