WASHINGTON (AP)—The rivalry between Syracuse and Georgetown has featured dozens of games that have gone back and forth, seven that went to overtime and a handful of blowouts.
Then there was the one played Thursday night, which stands in a class by itself.
Andy Rautins scored a season-high 26 points, and the fifth-ranked Orange blew most of a 23-point lead before escaping with an exhausting 75-71 victory over No. 10 Georgetown.
Syracuse (25-2, 12-2 Big East) never trailed. The Orange led by 11 before the game was 4 minutes old, by 16 late in the first half and 60-37 with 12:37 left.
What happened the rest of the way will forever be part of this rivalry’s lore.
“You knew they were going to come back, and I think the reason they did is we just stopped scoring,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “You can never stop scoring, especially on the road. I thought that was the difference.”
Syracuse made only three field goals over the final 12 minutes. At the same time the Orange began clanging shots off the rim, the Hoyas (18-7, 8-6) finally found the range.
The result: a stunning comeback that wasn’t thwarted until the game’s final seconds.
First, came a 10-0 run by the Hoyas. Then, after Rautins connected from beyond the arc, two more Georgetown baskets made it 63-51 with 7 1/2 minutes left and brought the crowd in the Verizon Center to its feet.
Rautins made two foul shots, but the Hoyas followed with a 9-0 spree to close to 65-60. Minutes later, Austin Freeman converted a three-point play and added a dunk to make it 67-65 with 3:12 to go.
Georgetown closed to 71-70 with 1:10 remaining and had a chance to take the lead, but a shot by Jason Clark bounced off the rim. Kris Joseph then scored on a drive for the Orange with 8.4 seconds left, and after a free throw by Clark, Rautins sealed the win with two foul shots.
“Kris just had a horrendous night. He kept missing layups,” Boeheim said. “That’s why I went to him at the end—because I knew he was due.”
Freeman scored 21 points for Georgetown, and Chris Wright and Greg Monroe had 20 apiece.
“After a loss there is nothing but misery and pain, but I’m proud of how our guys responded,” Hoyas coach John Thompson III said. “In no way does this program, this team, believe in moral victories. But I’m just proud of our guys.”
Then, in deference to Syracuse, which completed a regular-season sweep, Thompson added, “That is a very good team that played very well tonight. We dug a hole for ourselves and fought and had a shot to win, but that’s the way the ball bounces.”
Syracuse guard Wes Johnson, who suffered through a 5-of-20 shooting performance against Louisville, had 16 points and eight rebounds. Rick Jackson contributed 12 points and eight rebounds for the Orange, who improved to 7-0 in the road and 6-0 against ranked opponents.
The Hoyas, who lost at Rutgers on Sunday, are mired in their first losing streak of the season. But they certainly made it interesting against their longtime rivals, who won by 17 points at home last month.
“It’s a little rough to take right now because we came all the way back and we came up short,” Wright said.
Frustrated by a tight Syracuse zone defense, the Hoyas went 9 of 29 (31 percent) from the field in the first half.
The Orange made five of their first six shots to quickly go up 13-2. After a 3-pointer by Wright got the Hoyas to 15-6, Rautins followed with two free throws and a 3-pointer—giving him half of Syracuse’s first 20 points.
Things then temporarily unraveled for the Orange. Georgetown went on a 12-2 run, and with 9:35 left, Syracuse starting center Arinze Onuaku picked up his third foul.
Jackson took over in the middle, contributing a layup and two free throws to a 9-2 spurt that made it 31-20. Johnson scored Syracuse’s final nine points of the half, including a terrific follow-dunk, to increase the margin to 16.
The Orange kept up the pressure well into the second half.
“I thought for 30 minutes we played about as well as we could play,” Boeheim said.
Down the stretch, the Orange were merely good enough to win.