The Hoyas ended a two-game skid against their former foil from the original Big East Conference. Syracuse (5-5) is off to its worst 10-game start in Coach Jim Boeheim’s decorated career.
Georgetown (7-3) continued to click despite the dwindling numbers and off-court turmoil. It won its third consecutive game by making 11 of 25 three-pointers; outrebounding the Orange 41-29, including 14-5 offensively; and finishing plus-11 in second-chance points.
“It has been a difficult week,” Hoyas Coach Patrick Ewing said. “A lot of things have happened. A lot of things were swirling around, but I thought my guys stepped up. They played extremely well. We had a little bit of lull, but I thought for the most part we fought hard, defended well and were able to come away with three great wins.”
Roughly 24 hours before tip-off, Georgetown lost two more members of the roster when Myron Gardner and Galen Alexander announced they would transfer.
Their departures came 11 days after the university announced sophomore point guard James Akinjo, a starter, and sophomore forward Josh LeBlanc, a top reserve, would transfer.
Following that Dec. 2 announcement, a public records search revealed two Georgetown students filed separate complaints against members of the basketball team. The first was filed Nov. 5 against LeBlanc and Alexander and includes allegations of burglary, threats of bodily harm and verbal threats.
The second, filed against LeBlanc, Alexander and Gardner on Nov. 12, was mutually resolved Monday without the admission of or finding of guilt. The complaint included allegations of sexual harassment and assault and was resolved when Gardner, Alexander and LeBlanc agreed to stay at least 50 feet away from the complainant under a civil protection order, according to court documents.
The circumstances preceded Georgetown’s 95th game against the Orange, an opponent linked with the Hoyas as seminal programs leading the ascension of the Big East as college basketball’s premier conference during the 1980s.
“I think that’s what happens when you face challenges,” said McClung, who made 7 of 16 shots from the field and 9 of 10 free throws. He did not commit a turnovers in 35:45. “You either break apart or come together, and I think we’ve come together.”
Over the past decade, the game continued to retain its throwback appeal particularly when contested in the nation’s capital, with legendary former Hoyas coach John Thompson Jr. normally sitting in his customary seat along the baseline by the Georgetown bench.
Thompson, however, has not attended a game this season while dealing with a recent health scare that required a hospital stay over Thanksgiving. Thompson, according to several people familiar with the circumstances, has left the hospital and is on the mend.
“I haven’t talked to him in a couple of days,” Ewing said of his former coach, with whom he won the national championship in 1984. “He’s doing better, but I’ve been so focused on the stuff that’s been going on, and also to try to get these guys to play together as a team.”
Even without Thompson, 78, observing a rivalry in which he and Boeheim regularly clashed in must-see matchups, Saturday’s iteration in front of an energetic crowd, including Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer, featured emotionally charged sequences.
With less than four minutes to play in the second half, for instance, Syracuse’s Jalen Carey, a reserve guard likely out for the season with an injured thumb, was ejected for tripping Hoyas guard Terrell Allen in front of the Orange bench.
Moments later, McClung was called for a technical foul.
In the first half, officials had assessed the Syracuse bench with a technical foul for overexuberance in voicing displeasure with a blocking call charged to Orange forward Marek Dolezaj, who had been trying to stay in front of McClung along the three-point arc.
McClung closed the first half with a pair of highlight-worthy plays, first stealing the ball near midcourt and finishing with a finger roll, much to the delight of the student section. Seconds later he sank a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer to give the Hoyas a 48-36 lead.
“I think the last three games is the team they are,” Boeheim said of the Hoyas. “They got rid of a guy [Akinjo] who wouldn’t pass the ball to anybody and just shot it every time. That’s why they’re good.
“I think [Ewing] is a very good coach, and I think he’s got seven guys as good as anybody. Two guys really weren’t contributing at all, and another guy was just throwing the ball up all the time. I know Patrick can’t say that, but I can.”
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