Pick your poison time for Boeheim against Hoyas

Pick your poison time for Boeheim against Hoyas
March 15, 2013, 10:15 am
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In Georgetown's first game against Syracuse this season, Otto Porter scored 33 points, more than any other Hoya in the series' notable history.

Two weeks later, the starry sophomore who did not attempt his first shot until deep into the first half scored two points before halftime and 10 overall.

From the outside, one might belief that the Orange simply changed tactics, making stopping the eventual Big East Player of the Year their primary defensive objective.

Following the 61-39 rout, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim suggested it unwise to assume such notions.

"Our really only point of emphasis the last two days of practice was not to let their guard shoots," Boeheim said after losing to Georgetown for the second time this season. "We weren’t honestly concerned about (Otto) Porter, I just assumed he’d get 30 (points)."

That last part may not be completely accurate, but we get the point, especially since Georgetown's trio of guards - Markel Starks, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Jabril Trawick - combined for 45 points and all nine of the team's 3-pointers.

Eventually one scorching player cools off, even if Porter defied the theory in his Player of the Year defining performance. When a core group catches fire, there might not be enough water to douse their collective flame. That's the dilemma facing Syracuse heading into Saturday's third head-to-head meeting, this time in the Big East semifinals.

Fifth-ranked Georgetown (25-5) closed the season winning 13 of 14 games. With a win, the Hoyas will have defeated No. 19 Syracuse (25-8) for three times in the same season for the first time since the 1986-87 campaign.

Back on February 23 inside the massive Carrier Dome, Porter made 12 of 19 field goals including 5 of 10 from beyond the arc in Georgetown's 57-46 victory. The non-Otto's finished 7 of 35 overall and missed 13 of 15 three-point attempts.

In the March 9 victory, Starks tallied Georgetown's first eight points including a pair of 3-pointers against Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 zone defense. Smith-Rivera followed with his own personal 8-0 run and scored 11 of the Hoyas' final 17 points of the first half. As the game turned into blowout after halftime, the duo kept pouring in the outside production. Starks finished with 19 on five 3-pointers, Smith-Rivera had 15 on with three shots from beyond the 3-point arc and Trawick scored 11.

"We just didn’t do a good job defensively on their guards, we know they can shoot," Boeheim said during his postgame confessional."

Of course, Syracuse hardly ignored Porter. Eventually, the Hoyas found a way to deploy his varied skill set as Porter's passing fueled Georgetown's attack. With his teammates knocking down shots, the Hoyas' leading scorer turned facilitator and matched his career-high with seven assists.

“They know we wanted to get it to him in the middle and they did a good job of not letting us do that," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said of Syracuse's plan against Porter. "In the second half we found different ways to get it to him, and they started to match up man to man with him. That’s when he started to pick them apart and find other open looks”

In Georgetown's next game, Thursday's 62-43 win over Cincinnati in the quarterfinals, Porter led the Hoyas with 18 points, mostly coming on free throws. Once again, the increasingly potent backcourt contributed as Starks had 14 points, Smith-Rivera 13 and Trawick 11. All three guards each hit two 3-pointers.

Syracuse, which scored its fewest points in any game since 1962 in the previous rematch with Georgetown, won its first two games in this week's Big East Tournament over Seton Hall and Pittsburgh.

Neither of those squads has a player like Porter or such deep perimeter weapons like the Hoyas.