SYRACUSE, N.Y. With eight minutes left and Syracuse comfortably ahead of Georgetown, the manager of the Carrier Dome came tapping on the shoulders of the reporters seated by the court.
"If Syracuse wins," he said, "there's a very good chance the students are going to rush the court."
With two minutes left in the game Saturday, the reporters packed up their laptops. With less than a minute to go, the herd of students in orange and blue commandeered the tables and chairs where the reporters had been sitting, almost drooling with anticipation as the clock wound down.
As paint-covered bodies poured onto the court, all was well in Syracuse, at least for one day.
A loss on Wednesday night to South Florida, the last-place team in the Big East, seemed the lowest of lows. But, backed by a solid defensive effort, the Orange (17-9, 7-6 Big East) rebounded against No. 8 Georgetown (20-4, 10-3).
The Hoyas sliced their second-half deficit from 19 points to 5, but Syracuse held on for a 77-70 victory in front of 31,327, the largest on-campus crowd in the NCAA this season.
"Every time we hit a big shot, we try to come down and say what defense we're going to be in, but you can't even hear yourself," the freshman guard Jonny Flynn said. He added, "To have that advantage in a basketball game, a lot of teams coming in aren't used to that."
While the Orange will find itself in hostile environments on the road against Louisville on Monday and against Notre Dame next Sunday, it now has something positive to build on as it begins its final regular-season run.
Even with his team's balanced scoring four of his players finished in double digits coach Jim Boeheim was emphatic about the role defense played. "It isn't technical, it is just being active," Boeheim said.
Syracuse forced 14 turnovers, 12 in the first half, and held Georgetown to a season-low 22 first-half points.