Syracuse ends oldest Big East rivalry with OT win over Georgetown

Syracuse's Trevor Cooney celebrates after making a three-point

Syracuse's Trevor Cooney celebrates after making a three-point basket during the first half. (March 15, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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The final buzzer was one sad sound for all concerned, except hardly anyone could hear it. At least they weren't paying much attention to it. The Garden was too loud and the intensity too thick in this last-ever Big East game between Georgetown and Syracuse.

When it did, as Jabril Strawick's desperation three-pointer for Georgetown missed, an era came to a close, a day before this last Big East Tournament will. The record will show that Syracuse won in overtime, 58-55, to reach the final championship game Saturday night. But records can't reflect what was going through people's hearts.

"It's a shame," said John Thompson III, the losing coach, and he was not referring to the final score. He was talking about the fact that the two flagship teams in arguably America's greatest basketball conference will never play each other in a conference game again because the Big East is dissolving.

"Fitting it went into overtime," said Thompson, who literally grew up with this rivalry as the son of the coach who made Georgetown a power and such a formidable rival to Syracuse. "It's a shame that they're heading down to Tobacco Road for a few dollars more. This is a rivalry that has meant a lot to our program, to their program, it's meant a lot to this conference. Intercollegiate athletics is going through an evolution and this is part of it. But it's a shame that we won't have the same type of relationship."

Jim Boeheim, who has been coaching Syracuse all along, is preparing his team for the Atlantic Coast Conference. "This is about football," he said of the conference switch that is causing the dissolution of the Big East and this series. He was asked if he had special feelings at the end of this semifinal and final Orange-Hoya game. "I was busy in the final minutes," he said, to laughter by the media.

He saw Brandon Triche -- a Syracuse-area native who enrolled at his hometown school largely because he wanted to play in games like this -- make the first basket in overtime and the final point in this series, a free throw with 18.4 seconds left.

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Georgetown (25-6) had a chance to tie, but Syracuse (26-8) trapped Big East player of the year Otto Porter Jr. and forced him into a pass that was picked off by C.J. Fair. That was not easy because Boeheim said of Porter, "I think he's the best all-around player I've seen in this league."

Nostalgia might have gotten the best of him, considering the league and this rivalry have seen the likes of Patrick Ewing and Carmelo Anthony.

The bottom line is, naturally, they had to play some more. After all these years, Georgetown and Syracuse could not meet for a mere 40 minutes and say that was that. They had to go to OT, and to uphold their own histories and their heart-pounding rivalry with each other.

"We all sense it. This is big," said James Southerland, who scored 13 points for Syracuse and made some history by tying former Orange star and current assistant coach Gerry McNamara's record with 16 three-pointers in one tournament.

It also is over, leaving all concerned to wish it weren't.

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