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Georgetown attempts to move forward from controversy with win over rival Syracuse

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Georgetown attempts to move forward from controversy with win over rival Syracuse

WASHINGTON - Syracuse-Georgetown is always a matchup circled on college basketball calendars around the country. A historic rivalry that has lived on from the carcass of a former great conference. 

On a dreary Saturday in the nation’s capital, it wasn’t a day to reminisce of slug-em-out contests of the 1980s. Not a contest to brag about teams of old or argue about which program is better. It wasn’t even a day where Georgetown got to celebrate the first win of Patrick Ewing’s coaching career in this famous series.

Rather, it was a day to judge the future of one of college basketball’s storied programs. How Ewing and the Hoyas can salvage the remainder of the 2019-20 season and move forward with nine scholarship players.  

“[Ewing is] a very good coach and I think he’s got seven guys that are as good as anybody,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said of the remaining seven scholarship players that played this season. “If we played them, the way they were playing earlier in the year, we would’ve won the game.”

Georgetown won 89-79, but all the anticipation heading into this contest was what was happening off the court. 

Four players had transferred out of the Hoyas program in the past two weeks. Three of those players facing serious allegations and issued restraining orders from a Georgetown student. The other being their starting point guard for an undisclosed reason.

Combined, the four of them had accounted for nearly 30% of the team’s playing time. At this point in the season, with conference play less than a month away, this would be detrimental for any ordinary team. 

But from the outside, Boeheim believes that the exodus of players could benefit the Hoyas. The players that left were not conducive to winning basketball. 

“I think by far this is by far the best team we’ve seen from Georgetown that I’ve seen in the past few years,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. Of the players that left, “two guys weren’t really contributing at all and another guy was throwing the ball up all the time. I know Patrick can’t say that, but I can. I watched [James Akinjo] play three games. He lost three games, two games by himself.”

Still, going from a team of 13 scholarship players to nine is a drastic change. 

At least on the court, the Hoyas answered the challenge of limited depth. The Hoyas went eight-deep in their last big nonconference test of the year. One of the rotation players was the walk-on senior, George Muresan (son of former Washington Bullet Gheorghe Mureșan) who scrounged up six minutes of action. 

They all played clean and held themselves to only 14 personal fouls, tied for their fewest this season. 

“It has been a difficult week. A lot of things have happened, bad things swirling around. But I thought my guys stepped up,” Ewing said. “We still [have] enough on our team to have a very good year.”

To have a good season, one that started with NCAA Tournament aspirations, it will come down to Ewing. Against Syracuse, he was plugged in as ever. Not once did the former Hoya sit during live-ball action. He was barking out orders on the sideline, directing every offensive possession with intricate hand motions and waving players to certain places on the court. Despite leading for over 36 minutes and holding a 10-point lead consistently throughout the contest, not once did he waver in his urgency. 

He was stoic from the tip to the final buzzer, not moving out of a three-foot area he carved himself in front of the scorer’s table. But once the last horn sounded the tenseness in his shoulders waned. As Ewing walked to the locker room to celebrate his first-ever win as a coach in the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry, the emotion that has been built up since early December came out.

It was the third-straight game since the legal complaints against the now-former Georgetown players were made public. All three being arguably their most-complete performances of the season and their longest winning streak in nearly a year. 

Through the turmoil, it has been Mac McClung steering the ship for the Hoyas. The sophomore dropped 26 points, 21 of which came in the first half with a dagger buzzer-beater. Since Akinjo’s departure and Terrell Allen stepping in as the point guard, McClung is on fire growing confidence in ever contest. 

As a sophomore, McClung is now the face of the program. Coming in as a touted 6-2 recruit with an innate dunking ability, now the team will turn to him as a leader for the remainder of the season. 

“That’s what happens when you face challenges, you either break apart or come together and I think we’ve came together,” McClung said.

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Jalen Smith's career night propels No. 17 Terps past Northwestern

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Jalen Smith's career night propels No. 17 Terps past Northwestern

Jalen Smith scored a career-high 25 points, and No. 17 Maryland rallied to beat Northwestern 77-66 on Tuesday night.

The Terrapins trailed by as much as 15 in the first half and were down 10 in the second when they went on a 15-2 run.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Aaron Wiggins and Anthony Cowan Jr. gave Maryland (15-4, 5-3 Big Ten) its first lead of the game at 56-55 with 9:10 remaining before Smith punctuated it with a hard dunk. Smith also hit a huge 3 with just under two minutes left to make it 72-63, lifting the Terrapins to their second straight win after back-to-back losses.

Smith, a sophomore, surpassed his previous high of 21 points against Minnesota last season. Wiggins scored 17. And Maryland came away with the win after dropping four straight away from home despite shooting just 35%.

Pat Spencer led Northwestern (6-12, 1-7) with 17 points. Miller Kopp scored 16. But the Wildcats lost for the eighth time in nine games.

Northwestern came into the game ranked 13th in the Big Ten in scoring, but took a 40-26 lead to the locker room after a blistering first half.

Kopp scored 11 and Nance added nine points. Northwestern shot 15 of 25 overall, made 4 of 6 3's and clamped down on Maryland. Cowan and Jalen Smith each scored just four points, and the Terrapins shot just 6 of 25 overall and 5 of 17 from beyond the arc.

Northwestern led 36-21 after a floater by A.J. Turner and had a 14-point lead at the half.

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: Though the Terrapins struggled in the early going, they steadied themselves down the stretch. They also seem to be getting their footing back, beating Purdue and Northwestern after getting pounded at Iowa and losing by two at Wisconsin.

Northwestern: The Wildcats built the big lead early on, only to drop another tight game after losing by four at Illinois on Saturday.

UP NEXT

Maryland: The Terrapins will try to make it a two-game sweep when they visit Indiana on Sunday. Maryland beat the Hoosiers 75-59 on Jan. 4.

Northwestern: The Wildcats will try to stop their skid when they host Ohio State on Sunday.

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Wolfpack overcomes 10-minute scoring drought to top Virginia

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Wolfpack overcomes 10-minute scoring drought to top Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- North Carolina State took a page from the book Virginia used to win a national championship last season and used it against the Cavaliers.

The Wolfpack overcame a second-half drought of more than 10 minutes on Monday night and recovered just in time for a 53-51 victory over the Cavaliers.

D.J. Funderburk scored 14 points before fouling out and C.J. Bryce added 13 points for N.C. State (14-5, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), including a jumper with 27 seconds left after allowing the shot clock to race to near 0:00. The victory ended an eight-game losing streak against the Cavaliers.

"This is the second game in a row where I thought our guys stepped up and won the game on the defensive end," Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts said.

It took plenty of patience, Bryce and fellow guard Markell Johnson said.

"We were stuck at 42 for the longest time," Johnson said of the drought that lasted from a basket with 13:51 left until Jericole Hellems' 3-pointer with 3:38 left. "I just tried to do whatever I could to get the lead and then C.J. hit a great shot and took it from there."

Johnson and Bryce each played nearly 38 minutes.

"We did a really good job of keeping our composure and staying patient and it worked out for us." Bryce said.

Virginia (12-6, 4-4) had used a 15-0 run during the N.C. State drought that lasted 10:13 to take a 46-42 lead, bringing the crowd at John Paul Jones Arena back into the game. Hellems' 3-pointer ended N.C. State' skid, and, after a free throw by Mamadi Diakite for Virginia, Johnson hit a 3-pointer and then Hellems followed two Virginia misses with a putback that gave the Wolfpack a 50-47 lead.

Johnson and Bryce both missed the front end of one-and-one free throw opportunities, and Kihei Clark hit a pair for Virginia. Braxton Beverly made the first and missed the second for the Wolfpack with 7.2 seconds left, and the Cavaliers Casey Morsell was short on a contested 3 at the buzzer.

"They made a couple plays,. That's what you have to do down the stretch to win," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said after his team's third home loss of the season, which is more than the two they had the last two seasons combined.

Clark led Virginia with 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

The Wolfpack had used an 8-0 run to go ahead 42-31. Virginia helped out by going scoreless for more than 6 1/2 minutes. Francisco Caffaro, who had just been inserted into the game, ended the drought with 11:13 left, sparking Virginia's run.

BIG PICTURE

N.C. State: The Wolfpack seemed on their way to a solid victory until the drought, during which they were 1 for 8 from the field with five turnovers and repeatedly let the shot clock run down into single digits, forcing bad shots. ... NC State also played without 6-foot-11 ACC shot-blocking leader Manny Bates (2.94), who is in the concussion protocol, and forward Pat Andree (ankle). Keatts said he didn't know is Bates will be available come Saturday.

Virginia: In the Cavaliers' continuing search for scoring help, freshman Casey Morsell had as many as three field goals for the first time since a 65-56 victory against Navy on Dec. 29. He was 4 for 20 from the field in his last five games. He finished the night 4 for 9 and his buzzer-beater attempt was closely guarded. Morsell said he was trying to get the ball to Clark but when he couldn't find him quickly, "time was ticking so I had to let it go."

UP NEXT

The Wolfpack remains on the road and plays at Georgia Tech on Saturday.

The Cavaliers go on the road and play at Wake Forest on Sunday.

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