Say this much for Syracuse and Georgetown: They sure know how to say goodbye.
They drew a Carrier Dome record 35,012 to the much heralded last game in Syracuse last month and packed in another 20,872 in Washington last Saturday for the last regular-season meeting between the Big East's two standard bearers.
Now their long goodbye will have one more bittersweet chapter, in a Big East Tournament semifinal at the Garden Friday night.
From Syracuse's perspective, it came about because, in two games here so far this week, the Orange has been able to say hello again to its offensive touch. The shooting that had been poor when Syracuse was twice beaten soundly by Georgetown enjoyed another day of revival Thursday in a 62-59 win against Pittsburgh.
James Southerland, who was 0-for-8 against Georgetown Saturday, couldn't miss Thursday. He went 6-for-6 from three-point range -- 5-for-5 in the first half -- in a 20-point effort. And point guard Michael Carter-Williams scored the Orange's final seven points, including four free throws in the final 27 seconds to seal the win.
So, in the final tournament in the Big East as we've known it, Syracuse (25-8) earned another farewell against a team it has faced 13 times in this tournament (Georgetown leads, 7-6). "It feels like it's kind of destined," Southerland said, "so we're just going to go out there and give it our all. We owe them for the regular season."
Carter-Williams, who also made a key steal with 11 seconds left when Pittsburgh (24-8) trailed by three, said: "It's something we want, it's something we're looking forward to . . . It's just an old-school Syracuse-Georgetown matchup in the Big East. They're just both great teams and have great histories. We just want to go out there and play Syracuse basketball and they're going to go out there and play Georgetown basketball."
The Orange, which is first all-time in Big East regular-season wins and second (to Georgetown) in all-time Big East tournament wins, built a 40-27 halftime lead and held on late as the Panthers limited Southerland to three second-half points.
Teammate Brandon Triche (12 points) recalled Southerland's 35 points against Arkansas on Nov. 30. "They were silly enough to let him keep shooting, and he got nine [threes]. In the Big East, they stop you at five or six," he said.
Yes, the Big East can be as rough and tough as the Wild West. "There's no question that the Big East has made our program," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was not as nostalgic as he was on Wednesday, saying, "We came to New York with the only goal to just get playing better and we played really well here in two games."
With a little prodding, though, he did look forward to Friday night, with a glance backward. "It's a good way," he said, "for this league to go out."