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Frank Howard stays focused against Georgetown, comes up big vs. hometown team

The junior guard made heady plays down the stretch to force overtime.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Georgetown Art Pittman-USA TODAY Sports

To say the very least, it wasn’t a pretty game. The Syracuse Orange had played some of its ugliest basketball of the season on Saturday against the Georgetown Hoyas only to find itself down by as many as 13 in the second half.

As we know it, the Orange came from behind to win in large part to the troika of Frank Howard, Oshae Brissett and Tyus Battle. But besides getting the win, this game was somewhat significant for the first-mentioned of the three.

For Frank, Saturday’s game against Georgetown served as a chance to come home and play in front of friends and family. It was a homecoming of sorts — after all, he grew up just outside of the capital district in Suitland.

But by the junior guard’s demeanor, you’d think it was just any another game.

“Every game means a lot to me. Like I said in the beginning of the year I’m taking every game personally. That’s just what we all want to do. We want to have that grit with us, that chip on our shoulder. I just take every game personal,” Frank said.

When asked how many friends and family he had in attendance, he quickly acknowledged that there were too many to guess. For two halves and an overtime period his focus was on the game. The ability to compartmentalize the game of basketball and to minimize distraction is a sign of maturity if nothing else. His teammates affirmed that.

“He wasn’t saying too much about that but we knew what it was. When you’re from this area, I think it meant a lot to him,” Tyus Battle after the game.

To be sure, Frank struggled out of the gate. It looked like he might be headed for another bad performance synonymous with the game he had against UConn.

He finished against Georgetown with seven turnovers and was 0-of-5 from outside. But unlike the UConn game, Frank played through it and turned things around late.

“I saw (Russell) Westbrook last night. He shot 10-for-30,” Frank said of the 2017 NBA MVP, “my jumper wasn’t falling today so I had to affect the game somehow. I think in the UConn game I allowed them affect my whole game so you know I just want to keep being a leader, get in the paint, make plays and finish.”

He did that and was terrific down the stretch. Frank hit a floater at the 3:08 mark to get Syracuse back within five. He then followed that up with a nice hesitation drive and dish to Matthew Moyer for a slam.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Georgetown
Frank Howard dishes to Matt Moyer for the finish.
Art Pittman-USA TODAY Sports

He wasn’t done.

With 63 ticks left to play, Frank made arguably the biggest play of the game when he stole the ball from Jessie Govan and converted on the other end to knot the game at 69. Of the play, Frank spoke modestly of himself.

“I mean the whole game (Jessie) Govan was kind of popping a little far, you know what I mean?,” he said, “(it) kind of elevated our bigs so I just wanted to take him from Paschal, kind of leave him under the rim to protect the rim, and he (Govan) wasn’t looking and came up with the steal, I guess.”

Frank’s maturation has shown through his focus on leading this team and winning basketball games. While he’s made mistakes, he’s not letting them affect his confidence and his head coach has taken notice.

“Frank was great. He struggled a lit bit, made some mistakes,” Jim Boeheim said, “but he plays through those mistakes now. He’s had a couple games where he’s made some bad mistakes but he’s played through it and that’s the difference this year.”

That’s the evolution of Frank Howard.