With 31 points of clever and cool tonight, Georgetown freshman guard Michael Jackson led the No. 17 Hoyas to a 97-92 victory over No. 9 Syracuse, before 31,327 at the Carrier Dome.
With this NCAA on-campus record crowd forming a high-decibel Orange Crush, Jackson scored one point for every 1,000 people. Further, he scored the basket and free throws in the final critical moments that guaranteed Georgetown would improve to 10-4, 1-1 in the Big East, and that Syracuse would trip to 11-2, 2-1.
Most eminently, Jackson broke the Big East freshman scoring record and tied all those vocal cords in the process.
So with Hoya humility Jackson (nine of 13 from the field, 13 of 15 from the line), said bashfully, "I have never played before a crowd like that."
Jackson's performance, however, camouflaged the fact that the Hoyas let escape a 21-point lead (57-36) that they held early in the second half. In fact, Syracuse rallied behind a full-court press that caused the Hoyas to commit 24 turnovers tonight, to take a 92-91 lead with 1:28 left.
All those Orange folks started singing the Georgetown blues. But Jackson, cool as ever, sank a 20-footer from the right side, giving Georgetown a 93-92 lead.
When Erich Santifer, who scored a Syracuse-high 19 points tonight, then missed a shot, the Hoyas rebounded and played keep away. Jackson was fouled with 31 seconds left.
Jackson, an 87-percent free throw shooter, made both free throws, giving Georgetown a 95-92 lead. After Syracuse turned the ball over without taking a shot, Georgetown's David Wingate took a long feed and scored on a slam in the final seconds.
And to think, some people were beginning to doubt these Hoyas.
"I still feel we have a long way to go," said John Thompson, Georgetown coach. "A 21-point win would have hidden all that."
Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said, "We didn't play defense for almost 25 minutes. Then we played defense for 15 minutes and it was almost enough to win."
Georgetown shot 61 percent from the field tonight. Wingate scored 16 points, Patrick Ewing had 15 points, 10 rebounds and Bill Martin scored 14 points.
All of this sugary stuff, though, almost disappeared through the Carrier Dome roof when Syracuse exploded on a 20-3 second-half tear. The whole affair took only three minutes and made a 57-36 Hoya lead shrink to 60-56 with 14:26 to play.
Mostly, it was the Syracuse press that cause a once-stoic tempo to become so temperamental. Also, Santifer scored seven points and center Andre Hawkins scored five in the streak. The crowd added one vociferous boost, too.
Thompson recalled of the frenzy, "I called timeout and I said, 'We've shown we can play against Syracuse. Now we're playing against the crowd and not doing well.' "
With the Hoyas leading, 65-60, with 12 minutes to play, Ewing was charged with his fourth foul. Thompson replaced him with Ralph Dalton.
Even though Dalton produced his most impressive performance of the season (nine points, three rebounds), Thompson later admitted, "I can't ever not feel a letdown when Patrick is sitting next to me."
But the Dalton Gang held sturdy, please note. When Ewing returned to replace freshman David Dunn with 5:25 left, Georgetown still led, 80-76.
After several more minutes of equilibrium, the Orangemen inched forward. At last Sean Kerins' 15-foot jumper tied the score at 82 with 3:49 to play.
Then, with 1:56 left, Georgetown leading, 88-86, Wingate drove the lane and scored a basket while colliding with Syracuse forward Leo Rautins. A foul was called on Rautins, who thereby fouled out.
Wingate completed the three-point play, making Georgetown's lead 91-86.