Thursday, February 09, 2012

Kris Joseph, Austin Rivers Each Score 29 to Lead Orange, Blue Devils to Rivalry Wins

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, February 8, 2012

For college basketball rivalries, it doesn't get much better than Syracuse and Georgetown. Or, how about Duke and North Carolina?

Well, they were both highlighted on Wednesday night, and the players put on a show that portends well for upcoming conference and NCAA tournaments.

First though, the sweet ironic twist of the night, from the Kansas-Baylor game, in which the announcer (sorry, didn't catch his name) said, early on, [Jeff] "Whithey has been taken completely out of the offense." Those words came just before Whithey embarked on a career night, scoring 25 points on 8 of 10 shooting in a 68-54 Jayhawk win over Baylor. So much for "expert" commentators.

The evening's excitement began with Georgetown at Syracuse, the Carrier Dome filled to capacity as the two titans of the Big East met for the 87th - and possibly the last - time, as SU will be leaving the Big East for the ACC. The hype was equal to the game, however, as the two teams battled through multiple ties and lead changes.

Keeping the Orange in the game was their senior star, Kris Joseph, often overlooked because of themany offensive weapons Syracuse possesses and how well they share the ball. Joseph went off for a career high 29 points and the game-winning three-pointer in overtime as the 2nd-ranked Orange (24-1, 11-1) dropped the Hoyas, 64-61.

Tied at 55 at the end of regulation, the two teams traded points up to a 61-all tie with time ticking down. Joseph, who was 9-for-20 and 6 of 11 from beyond the arc, ripped a three from the left corner to put the Orange ahead with 26 seconds left. On Georgetown's final possession, Skip Jardine sealed it by stripping Jason Clark with 4.9 seconds to go, the ball going off Clark and out of bounds.

The two teams may meet again in the Big east tourney, but for Syracuse and Georgetown fans, the long-standing rivalry couldn't have ended on a more dramatic note. SU coach Jim Boehiem collected his 880th win, giving him sole possession of third place all-time, and having the distinction of setting the mark for most wins by a head coach at one school. Boeheim has been head coach of the Orange since 1976, guiding them to eight regular season Big East championships, five conference tournament titles and a national championship in 2003.

While the Orange and Hoyas were in overtime, the Blue Devils and Tar Heels tipped off in North Carolina, and freshman guard Austin Rivers was lighting it up, pushing Duke to an early advantage.

As the game wore on, the Tar Heels' big men up front - Tyler Zeller, Jon Henson and Harrison Barnes - began to exert control in the lane, and Carolina led at the half, 43-40, extending that edge to 12 points and 10 points with just two minutes to play.

But the Devils were not to be denied. Behind Rivers' career high 29 points, Duke clawed back and had a chance to win or tie after Zeller made just one of two free throws with 13.9 seconds to go.

Rivers let fly from the right wing over Zeller, nailing the trey as time expired to give the Blue Devils a stunning, shocking, once-in-a-lifetime 85-84 victory over the Tar Heels.

Playing 39 minutes, Rivers finished 9 of 16 from the field, including 6 of 10 from 3-point range. He was 5-for-8 from the charity stripe and had five rebounds, two assists and a steal.

The win sent the ACC standings into a three-way tie on top, as Boston College dropped #15 Florida State, 64-60. The Seminoles, Tar Heels and Blue Devils are all 7-2 in the conference, with Virginia and NC State close behind, at 6-3.

Duke improved to 20-4 on the season, the same record the Tar Heels now own.

It was a remarkable night for college hoops, with many more to come in the weeks ahead.

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