WASHINGTON (AP)—Jeremiah Rivers spent the final seconds of overtime with a hand in Jonny Flynn’s face.
No surprise there. After all, Rivers had been making life rough for the Syracuse freshman for the last 15 minutes of the game.
Flynn had been on a roll, poised to lead the Orange to another upset win over No. 9 Georgetown, until he found himself unable to shake the Hoyas backup guard down the stretch.
A seven-point lead evaporated, and Rivers made the final big play when he forced Flynn to miss a tough 3-pointer at the overtime buzzer of the Hoyas’ 64-62 victory Monday night.
“We wanted to see if Jeremiah could do what he had done the whole second part of the game, stay in front of him, make him take a tough shot,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “You can’t stop him from getting shots off, you just have to make it a tough shot, and we made it a tough shot.”
Rivers and Patrick Ewing Jr.—defensive substitutes off the bench when the clock stopped at a change of possession—helped Georgetown (15-2, 5-1 Big East) rally from a seven-point deficit in the final 5 minutes of regulation. The Hoyas didn’t allow a field goal in the final 2 minutes of the second half or in overtime as they improved to 10-0 at home.
“Those two, just the effort and the work was terrific,” Thompson said. “‘Spark’ would be an understatement.”
Roy Hibbert scored 15 points for Georgetown, including the only field goal of overtime. The 7-foot-2 center, who has made the first two 3-pointers of his college career in recent games, was left open for a 13-footer that gave the Hoyas a 64-60 lead with a minute remaining.
Donte Greene then made two of three free throws—he was fouled attempting a 3-pointer—to cut the Orange’s deficit to two with 44 seconds left. But Flynn, who missed his last eight shots and went 0-for-3 in overtime, missed the chance to win while shadowed by Rivers. Flynn finished with 24 points on 9-for-23 shooting and played all 45 minutes.
“I tried to put my hand up and make the shot as difficult as could be,” Rivers said.
Jonathan Wallace scored 15 points for the Hoyas, who were outrebounded 43-33 and shot only 35 percent in the second half. Still, they avoided the upset that happened last season under almost identical circumstances. Syracuse beat then-No. 9 Georgetown 72-58 on a Monday night last season to stop the Hoyas’ 11-game winning streak. The Orange had won seven of the last eight in the series.
“We expect to win close games,” Thompson said. “We’ve done it a lot over the years, and when we get in what many would perceive to be tight situations I don’t think we tense up too much. I think we realize at that point is when we have to focus and execute.”
Syracuse (13-7, 3-4), which is down to nine scholarship players including five freshmen, has lost four of five overall. While not happy with the loss, coach Jim Boeheim said his young team played better after looking “scared” in its first two Big East road games.
“They just played like they were just young players in the first two league road games,” said Boeheim, who remains one victory shy of tying Henry Iba at for 10th all-time in Division I with 764. “And I thought today they just played hard. They expected to win. They made enough plays to win the game.”
Greene finished with 15 points on 5-for-19 shooting and was suffering from cramps in overtime. He was 1-for-13 from the field at one point before his layup gave the Orange their first lead of the second half, 45-44, with 10:34 to play.
Greene’s 3-pointer gave the Orange a 58-51 lead with 4:31 remaining, and his wild bank shot made it 60-55 with 2:02 remaining, but Jessie Sapp hit a 3-pointer and converted a Syracuse turnover into a layup that tied the game at 60 with 1:14 left.
Greene missed a jumper that would have given the Orange the lead, but Arinze Onuaku grabbed the rebound and called a timeout. Dribbling down the shot clock, Flynn missed a tough 18-footer with Rivers in his face with less than 10 seconds to play. Georgetown’s Austin Freeman missed an off-balance 3-pointer at the regulation buzzer.
With neither defense willing to relent, the only points in the first 3 minutes of overtime came on two free throws by Sapp. Onuaku went to the line twice but missed all four attempts. The Orange went 0-for-6 from the field and 2-for-7 from the free throw line in the overtime.