John Thompson III looked skyward and exhaled. Finally, a win on hallowed ground.
Austin Freeman had 14 points to lead four Georgetown players in double figures and the 11th-ranked Hoyas rallied late to beat No. 12 Syracuse 64-56 on Wednesday night, giving Thompson his first win in the Carrier Dome in six tries.
Now, he has something to talk about with his dad, who became persona non grata around here when his Hoyas upset Syracuse 52-50 in the last game at old Manley Field House on Feb. 12, 1980. It snapped the Orange's 57-game winning streak in the intimidating building, and the elder Thompson boldly declared in his postgame press conference: "Manley Field House is officially closed."
Those words created one of college basketball's most heated rivalries and they still ring in his son's ears.
"That's one of the most talked-about moments in this conference. This is my seventh year in the Big East and this is my first win up here," Thompson said. "I've been thinking the last couple of years, some kind of way the man upstairs is going to say, 'OK, you closed down Manley, but they're your ancestors. No one in your lineage is going to win at the new place.' Me and the man upstairs, I'm glad he lifted whatever he sprinkled over the top of us."
Georgetown (19-5, 8-4 Big East) extended its winning streak to seven games and handed Syracuse (20-5, 7-5) its third straight home loss, only the third time that's happened in coach Jim Boeheim's 35 years.
Georgetown trailed by six early in the second half, then rallied for a 44-40 lead on a 3-pointer by Freeman as the game went back and forth. But when C.J. Fair's layup with 6:36 left gave Syracuse a 53-49 lead and the Carrier Dome was rocking, the Hoyas weren't intimidated in the least.
They tied the game at 55 on a wide-open 3-pointer from the right wing by Hollis Thompson with 3:47 left and Freeman followed with a fast break layup after a Syracuse turnover.
Kris Joseph and Brandon Triche missed from 3-point range for the Orange, and Jason Clark sneaked inside twice in a row for layups to give Georgetown a 61-55 lead with 2:05 left and Syracuse couldn't rally. The Orange's last basket was that layup by Fair.
"They made their shots at the end and we had some miscues and they capitalized," said Joseph, who led Syracuse with 14 points. "We didn't get back on defense and they got a layup and a backdoor and a 3-pointer. We can get a lot better on offense."
Syracuse, which had won two straight after a four-game skid, shot 39.6 percent, 4 of 16 from beyond the arc, and was outrebounded 34-28. Georgetown finished 24 of 53 (45.3 percent) and had 20 assists.
"We missed some opportunites in the second half," Boeheim said. "We got around the basket, but we didn't do anyting on offense. We've got to make some shots. Sooner or later, that's going to catch up to you."
One of the keys to the Hoyas' winning streak has been the perimeter play of Freeman, Chris Wright, Jason Clark and Thompson. Entering the game, they had combined for 149 3-pointers and were shooting 40.3 percent from beyond the arc.
The Hoyas were 10-0 when they hit at least eight 3s and 15-0 when they shot at least 33 percent from long range. On this night, they kept that streak alive, hitting 9 of 21 (42.9 percent) as Thompson led the way with a 3-for-3 performance and 11 points. Clark hit two and finished with 12 points. Julian Vaughn also had 12 points and Wright had six points and nine assists.
Fair had 12 points and Triche 11 as the Orange struggled from the field, shooting 39.6 percent. Rick Jackson got in foul trouble in the second half and had a season-low four points.
Georgetown entered the game ranked second in the nation in shooting, hitting 50.5 percent, and had used the 3-pointer as a dagger all season. The Hoyas were on the mark in the first half. Five players hit from beyond the arc as the Hoyas drained 6 of 12 against the Syracuse zone but struggled inside, making just 5 of 15 shots.
But after a 3 from the top of the key by Wright gave Georgetown a 16-10 lead midway through the first half, the Orange responded with a 13-2 run.
A three-point play by Markel Starks with 2:11 left in the half and a 3 from the left corner by Thompson knotted the score at 29 before Dion Waiters made a runner at the buzzer to give Syracuse a two-point lead at the break.
Syracuse extended the lead to 37-31 on a steal and layup by Waiters before the Hoyas rallied to tie it on a 3 by Thompson.
But seconds after Scoop Jardine was knocked to the floor on a drive, Jackson, Syracuse's rock all season, was called for his fourth foul with 14:40 left as the game became a bruising affair in the paint.
With Jackson on the bench and three freshmen on the floor for the Orange, Fair responded with a pair of baskets off pretty passes from Jardine. Fair's underhand scoop caromed high off the glass and in at 12:20 and less than a minute later he converted a reverse layup to tie it at 44.
Joseph's three-point play broke the tie at 10:45 and when Vaughn was called for his fourth foul, a pair of free throws by Jardine put the Orange up 51-47 at 9:00.
Jackson returned with 5:37 left, but he was never a factor.
"The refs really took me out of my game," Jackson said. "After you've been sitting out and you come back in, you don't want to foul, so you play a little timid. In a game like this, a rivalry like this, you'd think the refs would let you play your game. They blew the whistle a lot. What can you do?
Wright fed Nate Lubick with a pretty pass through the lane for a dunk to pull the Hoyas to 53-52 at 4:58 and Thompson's 3 started a decisive 9-0 run.