Georgetown took advantage of a controversial call to maintain its slight lead atop the crowded Big East its last time out. The Hoyas hope to build on that Saturday when they visit a Syracuse team they have only beaten once in the last eight road matchups.
The eighth-ranked Hoyas (20-3, 10-2) drew a foul 70 feet away from the basket with 0.1 seconds to play on Monday, and Jonathan Wallace made both free throws to secure a 55-53 win over Villanova. The victory, which came after Georgetown squandered a 12-point lead in the second half, helped the team rebound from a 59-51 loss at Louisville last Saturday.
“Phew! Phew!” Hoyas coach John Thompson III said. “Wins are hard to come by in this league, so to walk away with a win feels good.”
The Hoyas haven’t done much of that at the Carrier Dome, losing seven of their last eight trips there - including a 72-58 defeat last Feb. 26 as the No. 9 team in the country. Their lone road win over the Orange (16-9, 6-6) in that span came on Feb. 24, 2002.
Overall, these teams have split the last four meetings with Georgetown winning the most recent matchup, 64-61 in overtime at home on Jan. 21.
The Hoyas will be trying to win consecutive meetings with Syracuse for the first time since the 2001-02 season and create some breathing room in the conference race. Georgetown leads second-place Louisville - ranked 23rd - by one game, and has a 1 1/2-game advantage on Connecticut and Notre Dame, which are ranked 17th and 20th, respectively.
Roy Hibbert, Georgetown’s leader with 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, has been a key factor in the Hoyas’ strong defensive play, which has them ranked among the best in the nation in allowing only 56.7 points per game. The senior center is averaging 3.2 blocks in the last six contests, and he had two Monday while also adding 13 points and six boards.
“Overall, I feel I have to continue to be aggressive, take the ball to the basket, and get to the free throw line,” Hibbert said.
He was strong against Syracuse on Jan. 21, shooting 5-for-10 from the field and making 5 of 6 free throws for 15 points and nine rebounds. However, he wasn’t nearly as effective in the last meeting at the Carrier Dome, getting six points and two rebounds and failing to get to the line.
The Orange, meanwhile, are looking to avoid losing three straight for the first time since Jan. 21-30, 2007.
They are coming off a 89-78 loss to lowly South Florida on Wednesday which halted the Bulls’ 10-game slide and followed Syracuse’s 63-61 home defeat to Connecticut on Feb. 6.
Donte Greene, the team leader with 17.9 points per game and second with 7.4 rebounds, had 17 points and nine boards against South Florida after enduring one of his worst shooting performances of the season versus the Huskies. In that contest, the freshman forward made only 2 of 15 shots - 1-for-8 from 3-point range - and finished with eight points and three rebounds.
He had 15 points and nine boards in the last meeting with the Hoyas, but went 5-for-19 from the floor and 3-for-9 from beyond the arc.
That defeat was Syracuse’s fourth in a row to a ranked opponent, and its next two games are on the road against the Cardinals and the Fighting Irish.