Image Contributor
Junior forward DaJuan Summers

Much has been made this season of the Georgetown bench difficulties. One guy Head Coach John Thompson III looked to for contributions early in the year was sophomore guard Nikita Mescheriakov, but after a series of uneven performances during non-conference play, Mescheriakov spent the Hoyas’ first four Big East games parked squarely on pine.

So when the 6-foot-7 Belarus native trotted onto the court at Verizon Center with 9:16 left in the first half and with Georgetown ahead by just three, there were more than a few puzzled faces in the crowd and on press row.

escheriakov made the most of his quick trip out onto the floor, knocking down three-pointers on consecutive possessions – one from the corner, one from straight on – extending the Hoyas lead and jump-starting a 14-0 run.

“Nikita comes in and he’s been a little bit of a deer in the headlights, and all of a sudden – he’s been shooting the ball really well, he had a couple of good practices – so I said, `Let’s just throw him in there,’ and he bangs two shots in a row,” Thompson said. “That’s how it should be.”

“We knew that he was a good shooter and sometimes he doesn’t know that,” freshman guard Jason Clark said. “So when he got in the game and got his confidence and shot it, those were big shots.”

In his two minutes of action, Mescheriakov didn’t match a career high. He matched a career total with his two threes.

It was that kind of night for the Hoyas, who went 12-of-21 from three-point range and shot 59.3 percent overall en route to an 88-74 win against their biggest rival. Georgetown led wire-to-wire, jumped out to a 50-32 lead at the half and never looked back.

“I think we didn’t play defense the way we’ve been playing defense all year,” Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim said after the game. “Our defense has been really good, I think we just lost some of our emotion down there on the offensive end and we couldn’t come back.”

Junior forward DaJuan Summers led all scorers with 21 points, and Austin Freeman, 1-for-10 from beyond the arc in Big East play coming into the game, knocked down 4-of-5 threes and finished with 19 points.

“Everyone was very good,” Thompson said. “That was a team victory in the true sense of the word.”

The win came in front of 19,227, the largest crowd of the season. The lower student sections were packed, as were sections 424 to 427 in the upper deck, directly behind the band-side student niche. Much of the rest of the upper echelons were full of Syracuse fans, but after the game’s early moments, they had little to cheer about. With the win, the Hoyas move to 12-3 (3-2 Big East), while the Orange fall to 16-2 (4-1).

All the talk before the game focused on Georgetown’s recent shooting struggles.

But all through the last week, the Hoya players answered question after question about the slump with patience, as if confident the tide was about to turn.

Against the Orange, the floodgates opened and Georgetown’s shooters could not be stopped.

Summers got the scoring started with a straight-on trey 31 seconds into the game. Sophomore guard Chris Wright made his lone three moments later to make the score 8-2. The Hoyas and Orange traded buckets for the next several minutes, until Mescheriakov’s two threes, sandwiched around a three from Syracuse sophomore guard Jonny Flynn, got Georgetown going.

From there, the Hoyas sprinted out in front. Freshman center Greg Monroe made a pair of free throws, Summers converted an alley-oop layup, and freshman forward Henry Sims took a perfect pass from Monroe and slammed home a dunk. Summers added a dunk of his own and Clark tossed in a three to complete the run. By then, Georgetown led 34-17.

Over the final 9:17 of the first half, the Hoyas made 11 straight shots, a streak which ended on an Omar Wattad miss with five seconds left.

On the other end, Georgetown denied Syracuse good looks from long distance, forced nine turnovers and held the Orange to 38.7 percent shooting.

“They really made some big shots, got some big offensive rebounds early in the game, and we got in such a hole that it was difficult,” Boeheim said.

Coming out of halftime down 50-32, Syracuse came out refocused. The Orange started the half on an 8-0 run, including two dunks, a layup and a pair of free throws. But after Syracuse pulled to within 53-45 with 15:30 to go, the Hoyas reeled off another 14-4 run to retake control of the game.

The Orange would pull within 10 later in the half, but the Georgetown lead was never truly in doubt.

“What’s in my head right now was the start of the second half where I feel like we didn’t score for five or six, I don’t know what the stretch was where we didn’t score,” Thompson said. “We were able to settle in and then get back on track and that’s something that [happened because] we were focused and attentive even though we didn’t put the ball in the basket.”

Added Boeheim: “We started the second half pretty well, we did a good job early, but we never really got the defense that we needed to get going in this game. We gave up too many open looks and they knocked them down, which is to their credit.”

For the second straight game, Georgetown’s freshmen came up big. Monroe had yet another well-rounded game, this time with 10 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two blocks. Clark added 12 points – many of them when the Hoyas seemed to need a bucket the most – and Sims had three points and three rebounds.

Sophomore reserve forward Julian Vaughn added five points and four assists.

As usual, the Hoyas have precious little time to revel in their accomplishment. Georgetown travels to Durham, N.C., this Saturday to take on No. 3 Duke (15-1, 3-0 ACC). Tip-off for that contest is set for 1:30 p.m.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.