Hoyas roll versus Cincinnati
Big East semifinal: No. 1 Georgetown (25-5) vs. No. 5 Syracuse (25-8)
When and where: Friday, 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden
This season: Georgetown won both regular season meetings over Syracuse, starting with a 57-46 triumph at the Carrier Dome behind Otto Porter Jr.'s dynamic 33 points, eight rebounds, five steals, and five 3-pointers. In the rematch and the final regular season game between the storied rivals as members of the Big East, the Hoyas rolled 61-39 at the Verizon Center on March 9, holding the Orange to their fewest points in any game since 1962.
How did they get here: After receiving a double-bye into Thursday's quarterfinals, the fifth-ranked Hoyas started fast against Cincinnati, lost their way during the middle of the game and then closed out the Bearcats with a 31-10 run for a 62-43 win. Syracuse defeated Seton Hall 75-63 on Wednesday and then fended off No. 4 seed Pittsburgh 62-59 behind 20 points from James Southerland.
The stat(s): Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 matchup zone receives the headlines, but the Hoyas schemes proved most disruptive in the two meetings this season. The Orange shot a combined 32.9 percent (32 of 97) from the field and 5 of 31 from beyond the 3-point arc. Southerland and Syracuse guard Brandon Triche finished a combined 1 of 17 with three points at Georgetown.
Historical stat(s): The last time Georgetown defeated Syracuse 3 straight times, 2000-2002. Last time Hoyas had three wins over the Orange in the same season, 1986-87...While Syracuse holds the all-time series lead at 48-41, Georgetown is 7-6 in Big East Tournament matchups
Last time out: Against the Bearcats, Porter led Georgetown with 18 points, finishing 11 of 11 from the free throw line. Markel Starks had 14 points, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera 13 and Jabril Trawick 11 all three guards each hit two 3-pointers.
After Porter and Smith-Rivera drained consecutive shots from beyond the arc, Georgetown led 24-8 with 5:37 left in the first half. From there the Bearcats went missing to making 3's, sinking their final four of the half. Up only 29-24 at halftime, Georgetown found themselves down 33-31 with 16:23 remaining following a Cashmere Wright (14 points) jumper.
That moment was Cincinnati's last good one. The Hoyas tied the game, Smith-Rivera tacked on five straight points and Georgetown's defense rose up yet again. The Bearcats shot 36.8 percent from the floor, marking the 15th time in 19 conference games this season Georgetown has held the opponent under 40 percent from the floor.
The others: Porter's prolific profile receives plenty of publicity, legitimately so. The conference coaches didn't unanimously select Georgetown's leader in points, rebounds, steals and 3-point shooting as the Big East Player of the Year for nothing. Because so many observing eyes are trained on Porter, his fellow Hoyas have fallen under the radar - at least from those that don't follow the team on a day-to-day basis.
Georgetown's second-leading scorer and All-Big East third team selection, Starks (12.9 ppg) led Georgetown with 19 points and five 3-pointers in the recent win over Syracuse. The confident freshman known as DSR was selected to the All-rookie team. Over his last five games, Smith-Rivera has made at least two 3-pointers and scored at least 13 points four times in that span.
Following Thursday's win, a reporter asked the pair if they are receiving better looks now that Porter is garnering so much on-court attention.
"But we're all on the scouting report," said the always quotable Starks, drawing a smile and a pat back on the back from his coach. "But, sure, like I said, we all ‑‑ the attention Otto is getting is well‑deserved, but at the same time, knowing that going into games that he's going to have that attention, we have to step up. It's not ‑‑ we don't just say, hey, it's just Otto. No, we play as a team. We play as a unit. We're going to continue to do that, and we will continue to get better.
On deck: For the winner, the Big East Championship game on Saturday night. Seeing as we now have Georgetown-Syracuse Part 3, Saturday can wait.