G'town leans on defense to rout Syracuse, tie for Big East

WASHINGTON -- Georgetown coach John Thompson III was noting all the ways -- and there were many -- in which his team's lopsided, Big East-closing victory over Syracuse was significant, when a familiar baritone voice rose from the back of the interview room.

"Kiss Syracuse goodbye!" interrupted Thompson's father.

John Thompson Jr. coached Georgetown to a regular-season title in 1979-80, Year 1 of the Big East, and his son took the Hoyas to a share of the final regular-season title before the conference undergoes massive changes, emphatically ending the rivalry against Syracuse with a 61-39 win Saturday.

On an afternoon that Otto Porter Jr. didn't make a field goal until the second half, No. 5 Georgetown held No. 17 Syracuse to its lowest scoring total in 558 Big East games -- and its fewest points in any game since a 36-35 victory over Kent State on Dec. 1, 1962, back before shot clocks and 3-pointers. It also was the series' biggest margin since Georgetown beat Syracuse by 27 in 1985.

"It's special because the Big East, as we have known it, is ending," Thompson III said. "Georgetown won the first one, and now Georgetown's won the last. So that means a lot."

Porter finished with 10 points, but the national player of the year candidate contributed in plenty of other ways, as usual, with eight rebounds and seven assists. With Syracuse focusing on Porter, Markel Starks scored 19, and freshman D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera had 15 points, five rebounds and five assists for the Hoyas (24-5, 14-4), who will be the No. 1 seed at the Big East tournament next week in New York.

"I don't want anything to get clouded: It's not over. We hope to go up to New York and play well and win that. And then we hope to play well and win the NCAA tournament," Thompson III said. "I'm not saying we've accomplished our goals, by any stretch of the imagination."

Try telling that to Georgetown's fans.

When the game ended, they stormed the court -- even though the favorite won -- and it took a while to clear them away so Georgetown could have a brief ceremony celebrating its title in the last year of the league as it's currently constituted. Georgetown's players even cut down the nets.

The Hoyas have won 12 of their past 13 games, including two wins against Syracuse; Porter scored 33 in a victory at the Carrier Dome on Feb. 23. It's the Hoyas' first two-game sweep of a season series over the Orange since 2001-02.

Georgetown will share the Big East regular-season title with Marquette and Louisville, who each won later Saturday.

Syracuse (23-8, 11-7), which had been hoping for a double-bye in the tournament, was led by Michael Carter-Williams' 17 points. But the Orange shot only 32 percent from the field, including 1 for 11 on 3-point tries, and lost for the fourth time in their past five games.

"A blip," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim called it.

He waxed on and on about the history of the Big East and his school's storied matchups against Georgetown.

"It's been an unbelievable rivalry, and you don't remember one game or two, you remember the total package," Boeheim said.

This regular-season finale was the schools' 89th meeting overall (Syracuse leads 48-41) -- but the last time they will face each other in the regular season as Big East foes. Syracuse is heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Georgetown is one of seven schools splitting away to form a basketball-centric league that will get to keep the Big East name.

By game's end, Hoyas supporters were taunting the Orange with chants of "A-C-C!" Among the announced attendance of 20,972 -- the largest crowd at a Georgetown home game -- were members of Georgetown's past who helped turned games against Syracuse into events, including Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning.

Playing in what might have been his final home game -- he has not said whether he'll return to school for his junior year or declare for the NBA draft -- Porter was the center of attention. When spectators arrived, they found on their seats gray placards with blue type proclaiming, "Player of the Year Otto Porter Jr." During pregame warmups, some fans loudly chanted, "Ot-to! Por-ter!" One person held up a sign reading, "Porter for Pope."

More than 12 minutes into the game, Porter had yet to attempt a shot. But he made his presence felt in other ways at both ends of the court. On the game's opening possession, he blocked C.J. Fair's runner from behind. He later had a steal. He set the screen that freed up Starks for a 3, part of the junior guard's strong start in which he scored Georgetown's first eight points. Smith-Rivera scored Georgetown's next eight.

Porter didn't even try to shoot a field-goal until 7:46 was left in the half, missing a 3-pointer from the corner.

He shrugged off a question about his quiet, 0-for-2 role in the first half, saying: "We were up at the time."

It was apt that there would be lots of defense, given the Big East's reputation. Georgetown and Syracuse both allowed opponents under 60 points per game this season, and they showed why Saturday. With 2½ minutes left in the first half, they had combined for more turnovers (14) than field goals (13).

Porter's only points in the first half came on a pair of free throws with 23.9 seconds left that gave Georgetown its biggest lead until then, 25-18.

Porter got going a bit eventually, and his turnaround jumper made it 50-31 with under 8½ minutes left. That was pretty much that, as the Hoyas started milking the clock when they had the ball.

When Porter headed to the sideline in the final minute, he and Thompson III hugged.

Afterward, Boeheim said he thinks Porter should be the No. 1 overall pick in the next NBA draft.

"Normally people in this league start saying stuff like that when they want your best player to leave," Thompson III said with a smile. "Since they're leaving, I don't know why he's doing it now. But I agree with him."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.