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Georgetown closes out rivalry with Syracuse with a blowout

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Sports,College,Craig Stouffer,Georgetown University

Final game between Hoyas and Orange in Big East is celebration at Verizon Center

The present and past converged in a roaring celebration.

With 46 seconds remaining in No.?5 Georgetown's 61-39 rout of No.?17 Syracuse that clinched a share of the Big East regular-season title, the time had come for Otto Porter Jr. to exit the court in what may have been his final game at Verizon Center.

While the sellout crowd of 20,972, the largest ever for a college basketball game in the District, saluted the likely conference player of the year, a simultaneous ovation grew for former Hoyas coach John Thompson Jr., who led Georgetown to a share of the first Big East title in 1980. From his place on the baseline, Thompson raised a Georgetown scarf and smiled as his son, current Georgetown coach John Thompson III, added a bookend with the last title in the league as it has been known for 33 years.

"It's really special on many different levels," Thompson III said, picking up his third regular-season title at Georgetown. "I've been a head coach 13 years, and this is my sixth regular-season championship. Right now this one feels nicer than any of the rest of them."

Fittingly, Thompson III was interrupted by his father as he spoke, a reminder that the latest title gave the two a combined 10, the same as Syracuse.

"Kiss Syracuse goodbye," Thompson Jr. said.

The Hoyas (24-5, 14-4 Big East) did in style, completing their first sweep of their fiercest rivals since 2001-02. It also was their most lopsided victory since 1985 over the Orange (23-8, 11-7), who were held to their fewest points since 1962.

This time, Georgetown didn't lean solely on Porter, who had put up 33 points in the teams' first meeting Feb. 23. Instead, Markel Starks (19 points, five assists, three steals), who knocked down a career-high five 3-pointers, and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (15 points, five assists) put the Syracuse defense on its heels.

"This is outstanding," Starks said. "We came into the season with a goal. Obviously, a portion of the goal has been accomplished, but at the same time, we still have a lot more of the season to play."

Porter (10 points, eight rebounds, seven assists) didn't take his first shot until more than 12 minutes had elapsed and didn't score until the final minute of the first half. But his four straight free throws -- two at the end of the first half, two to start the second -- came during a 12-0 run that helped transform a slugfest into a blowout.

The pandemonium, which started early with ESPN hosting its "GameDay" pregame show on site and was reinforced by the presence of greats such as Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning, grew with every basket. Georgetown students stormed the court, the only blemish on an afternoon that ended with the nets cut down and a trophy.

It wasn't the way Syracuse, which will join the ACC next year, wanted to leave the Big East.

"If you think of one game, that's not it," Orange coach Jim Boeheim said. "It's been a 30-plus year rivalry, and it's been good. It's had its ups and downs."

Boeheim also endorsed Porter as national player of the year and the No.?1 pick in the NBA Draft while stoking rumors of his own retirement.

"Well, you know, I'm pretty much ready to go play golf somewhere," Boeheim said.

While Syracuse heads to New York for the Big East tournament with four losses in five games, the Hoyas will go as the No. 1 seed.

"When last year ended, I told this group we expect to win the regular-season Big East championship this year," Thompson III said. "When the school year started, I told them again. When we were 0-2, I told them again. And they listened."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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