When Syracuse and Georgetown met for the first time this season, the Big East rivals were seemingly headed for high seeds in the NCAA tournament.
One month later, both are in danger of being left out altogether.
Having gone from Big East title contenders to the middle of the pack, the 23rd-ranked Orange and the Hoyas meet Saturday at the Carrier Dome likely needing to string some wins together to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive.
On Jan. 14, then-No. 8 Syracuse was 16-1 when it visited then-No. 13 Georgetown looking to open Big East play with five consecutive victories. The Hoyas entered that game 11-3 - each loss came to a team ranked in the top 15 - and already had a league win over then-No. 2 Connecticut.
Georgetown (13-9, 4-7) won 88-74 to hand the Orange (18-7, 6-6) their first conference loss, but failed to build any momentum. The Hoyas lost their next five games by an average of 10.2 points, with three of those defeats coming to unranked Big East foes.
The skid ended Feb. 3 with a 57-47 victory over Rutgers, which is in 15th place in the 16-team Big East, but Georgetown followed that game with last Saturday’s 64-62 overtime loss to Cincinnati.
The Hoyas are tied for 11th place in the Big East and moving over .500 in conference play won’t be easy with games remaining this month versus fifth-ranked Louisville, No. 10 Marquette and No. 13 Villanova.
“I think we just have to find a way to get back to how we were earlier this season,” freshman center Greg Monroe said. “We just have to continue to fight back and make runs ourselves.”
The loss to Georgetown sparked the Orange’s current 2-6 slump, which has dropped them to eighth place in the conference.
Syracuse finished with season lows in points and shooting percentage (31.7) in a 63-49 loss to top-ranked UConn on Wednesday night.
After averaging 82.2 points on 51.8 percent shooting in their first six Big East games, the Orange have averaged 69.8 points on 41.0 percent shooting in their last six.
“Your defense can only go so long,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “Sooner or later you’ve got to make some plays on offense.”
Jonny Flynn led the Orange with 16 points on Wednesday but was 5-of-15 from the field. He averaged 26.3 points in his previous three games and scores a team-high 17.2 per game.
Starting backcourt mate Eric Devendorf, who finished with a team-high 20 points with four 3-pointers versus Georgetown, had 12 on Wednesday - snapping a string of four straight games scoring at least 20.
It’s Syracuse’s starting frontcourt, though, that has been the biggest detriment offensively.
Forward Arinze Onuaku has 12 points over the last four games after averaging 12.4 through his first 21 contests. Paul Harris, averaging 12.8 points, has failed to score in double figures in four of the past six games and was 2-of-8 from the field for five points against UConn. Forward Rick Jackson was held under five points for the third time in five games Wednesday, though he had a career-high 17 against Georgetown last month.
DaJuan Summers led all scorers in that game with 21 points and he tops the Hoyas with 14.2 per game, but he’s been held to seven or fewer in three of his last four games.
Monroe averages 13.0 points and has scored in double figures in 13 straight, and he’s been very good defensively of late with nine steals in the last two games.
Georgetown has lost nine of the last 10 meetings at Syracuse, including four straight at the Carrier Dome since a 75-69 win on Feb. 24, 2002. The Orange are 13-2 at home this season.