A few minutes before tip-off Saturday afternoon at Capital One Arena, the crowd of 15,418 roared as Georgetown Coach Patrick Ewing and Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim embraced tightly at midcourt, and there was a sense that this game would be different.
It was, in many ways, a standout matchup for the Hoyas and the Orange, with Syracuse's 86-79 overtime win handing Ewing his first loss and giving the Orange its first win against its archrival since the 2013 Big East Conference tournament. For the first time this season, the atmosphere was electric at a Georgetown game. More than 2½ hours after Boeheim walked onto the court to a healthy chorus of boos from Hoyas fans, he walked off it with a small smile.
"It was a lot like it used to be; there just wasn't any blood on the floor," Boeheim said.
For all the ways Saturday's game was different, the Hoyas suffered from the same major flaw they have exhibited many times this season: They let slip a double-digit lead in the second half.
Georgetown (8-1) led by 13 with 10:58 to play and by seven with 5:15 to go when forward Marcus Derrickson fouled out on an offensive foul, forcing the Hoyas to run a small lineup against the lengthy Orange (9-1).
"His last two fouls were bad calls to me, and it did change the nature of the game," Ewing said. "We had to play small, and that also hurt us on the glass. It was a game that we should have won."
After Derrickson fouled out, the Hoyas' offense came to a screeching halt. Georgetown made just one field goal in the final five minutes of regulation as Syracuse surged to force overtime.
In the extra period, Orange guard Tyus Battle hit two of his six three-pointers to complete the comeback. The crowd, which made Capital One Arena feel more like a neutral site than the Hoyas' home court, sprung to its feet with both made threes.
"I'm proud of the way our guys came back in that game. It was not looking too good there for a while," Boeheim said. "Sometimes you go for the press and just hope. This was one of those days."
More than luck, Boeheim had Battle, whose game-high 29 points included a 7-for-7 performance from the free throw line. Freshman forward Oshae Brissett added 25 points and a game-high 14 rebounds — helping Syracuse outrebound Georgetown 44-37 — and guard Frank Howard added 19 points.
Junior center Jessie Govan led four Hoyas in double figures with 21 points and eight rebounds. Jagan Mosely, stepping in at times for point guard Jonathan Mulmore, added 20 points, and Derrickson had 14 points and eight rebounds. Freshman guard Jamorko Pickett added 12 points.
Georgetown's defense, which switched from man to zone coverage for much of the game, bothered Syracuse enough that it shot below 40 percent until overtime, during which it made 3 of 4 shots from the field. The Orange ended the game shooting 40.6 percent but hit 10 of 23 three-pointers compared with just 2 of 17 by the Hoyas.
Despite struggling from the perimeter, the Hoyas' offense looked comfortable, too, after taking the first few minutes to adjust to Syracuse's zone defense.
Georgetown shot 45.6 percent and looked particularly smooth in the second half when Govan and Derrickson worked well together down low. The Hoyas made 66.7 percent of their shots in the second half and took their largest lead at 53-40 with just under 11 minutes left.
Georgetown's shift to a smaller lineup — 6-foot-3 guard Jahvon Blair subbed in for the 6-7 Derrickson after he fouled out — gave Syracuse a window to bully the Hoyas on the defensive end. A three-pointer from Battle with 1:32 left in regulation got the Orange within 69-67, and a Howard layup tied the score with a minute left. Syracuse missed three shots in the final 10 seconds of regulation but entered overtime holding momentum nonetheless.
"I think any loss is a missed opportunity," Govan said. "It's definitely one that slipped through our hands."
Before the second-half slide, Mosely and Govan delighted the crowd by pounding dunk after dunk. It was by far the biggest crowd Georgetown had drawn all season, and the noise lent the game just a touch of the feeling of the Georgetown-Syracuse games from the 1980s, when Boeheim faced off against Ewing when he was a player.
Boeheim praised Ewing's coaching after the loss.
"They did everything right," he said before indulging reporters who asked about the games the teams played decades ago and whether Saturday's felt anything close to the same.
"There's a lot of memories there," Boeheim said. "It'll never be duplicated in any league, in my mind. I know North Carolina-Duke have had that, and I give that, but Georgetown-Syracuse was — if you were there, you know what I'm talking about. If you weren't there, you missed something.
"This was a great game today. It was like a firecracker compared to a bomb compared to those games. . . . But, you know, I was proud to be a part of that."