The Syracuse Orange added another classic moment to both the Georgetown rivalry and the Youtube era of basketball consumption on Saturday. Tyus Battle’s game-winning shot in traffic will be replayed again and again for years.
Jim Boeheim’s presser after the 72-71 win might not get as many hits as Battle, but provided insight into his mindset on rotations, the future of the Hoyas rivalry and his disdain for a take about his team.
“I’d be better off playing Paschal at the one than playing Oshae Brissett at center”
On the topic of center minutes for Marek Dolezaj, something Boeheim remains sour on in most cases, he sounded off on an idea by The Daily Orange’s Matthew Gutierrez to get Dolezaj back into the starting rotation.
Instead of playing Dolezaj in the middle, where Boeheim doesn’t trust his frame to handle big bodies like Georgetown’s Jessie Govan for extended stretches, Gutierrez suggested positioning Dolezaj to the flank of Brissett, who would play down the middle. The wings would continue to be manned by Frank Howard, Elijah Hughes and Battle with Paschal Chukwu moving to the bench.
“For us to be successful in the long run, our centers are going to have to play,” Boeheim said. “The only thing that would be worse would be to put Oshae at center. Of all the moves that I could possibly make in my lifetime, that would be the worst move that I could ever make. I would be better off playing Paschal at the 1 than playing Oshae Brissett at center.”
“They’re leaving you open for a reason”
Syracuse trailed 35-22 at halftime, sparking desperation that spurred the 50-36 second half effort capped by Battle’s dagger. Even after the initial Orange run that propelled them back, Georgetown continued to make shots through what Boeheim called a good defensive effort by SU.
“I hope they weren’t to happy. We played terrible,” Boeheim said of halftime. “We didn’t do any of the things offensively or defensively we needed to do.”
Boeheim didn’t catch the mood of the room, probably because he was imploring Battle to play more aggressively. He said that he told Battle that he can’t play the way he did in the first half or Syracuse would have no chance to win.
Battle started 1-for-8 from the field with a turnover with 3-for-5 shooting at the free throw line. What followed was “phenomenal” — 7-for-10 shooting, no turnovers, two steals, two assists and 5-for-6 shooting at the line.
Aside from his game-winner, Battle also hit a go-ahead three with over a minute left. Jalen Carey converted a rattling three of his own through the back-and-forth sequence with 2:35 remaining to put the Orange up 67-66. Boeheim said he spoke to Carey too, on a night where he shot 1-for-3 from three in line with his percentage for the season.
“I told Jalen, they’re leaving you open for a reason,” he said. “At the end he had to take that three — and hit every part of the backboard and rim that it could — and fortunately it stayed down.”
“We can play great games with anybody”
The all-time Syracuse-Georgetown series moved to 51-43 with the Orange’s win, but there may be a layoff before the next chapter gets written. When SU left the Big East in 2013, they initially took off the 2013-15 seasons to mark the first years since 1978 that the two schools didn’t play each other.
In a tribute to their history, they reunited regularly in December starting in the 2015-16 season and played for four straight years, capped by Saturday’s classic. Now with the expansion of the ACC schedule, that could be threatened going forward due to scheduling obligations.
“That league’s over, we’re done with that league,” Boeheim said. “We’re in our league, we have to be concerned about what’s best for Syracuse. I love Patrick (Ewing), he’s been great. We’d like to play the game if we can, but you got 21 games accounted for, and two count in a tournament. So that’s 23, and then we play two or three teams every year so you got 26 games accounted for.”
Boeheim and Ewing both shared interest in playing the game going forward, and Syracuse reportedly is working on a new series akin to the one that scheduled the four games that the two schools split between 2015-18. There’s currently no agreement in place for a 2019-20 matchup.
“(Mosely) made a bad decision”
Overshadowed in a game defined by big shots by Battle, Marek Dolezaj made one of the biggest plays of his SU career to set the table for the game-winner.
Syracuse chose not to foul with a five second shot clock differential, down 71-70 on the defensive end. Govan pulled Battle off Jagan Mosely with a pick, leaving only Dolezaj in the lane between him and the basket with six seconds on the shot clock.
“They didn’t need to go,” Boeheim said. “We wanted to try to get a steal, not foul their best free throw shooter, then the kid went and gave us an opportunity ... Marek got in front of him and did a good job.”
“He’s made a lot of big shots”
Boeheim remembered at least four or five big shots that Battle pulled off for the Orange last year, plus the Clemson game winner from his freshman season. “He makes them.”
As Battle continues to carry the load offensively for the Orange and compile an impressive legacy at SU through year three, he might already carry the distinction as SU’s greatest in one area to his coach — who has seen the whole thing.
“He’s made a lot of big shots,” he continued. “Probably as much, or more, than anybody we’ve ever had here in late game situations.”