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Orangemen Squeeze Hoyas 84-66

WASHINGTON -- With no legitimate center facing him, Etan Thomas went right to work and had the best game of his career.

The sophomore center scored the first six points for Syracuse and surpassed his career high before the end of the first half. He had 17 points at the break, and finished with 23 as the No. 20 Orangemen routed Georgetown 84-66 Monday night.

"It felt good to get started like that," said Thomas, who had been averaging 9.8 points per game. "They have confidence in me to score down low now."

Thomas was 8-for-11 from the field and defied his 53 percent free throw percentage by making 7 of 10 from the line. The Big East's leader in blocked shots, Thomas batted away six more as the Orangemen (16-4, 6-3 Big East) broke a two-game losing streak.

"We've had two bad games in a row," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, referring to losses to Notre Dame and Connecticut. "And then you come on the road here and we've got another road game (at Pittsburgh), so this was obviously a very, very, very big win for us."

The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for Georgetown (11-7, 4-6), which is danger of finishing with a losing record in Big East play for only the second time in the John Thompson era.

"The best sound I heard all night was that final buzzer," Thompson said. "The best thing about that game was that it was over."

From the first possession, there was no hiding Boeheim's offensive strategy: Attack the middle early and often using Thomas against a Hoyas team missing injured centers Jahidi White and Ruben Boumtje Boumtje.

"We really haven't gotten him the ball much," Boeheim said. ``They spread it out, they chase you, and there are opportunities to get the ball in there. So we were patient, and I thought we did a good job of getting him the ball."

All but 14 of the Orangemen's 45 first-half points came on inside baskets or free throws. Syracuse held a 24-13 rebounding edge by halftime, and Hoyas point guard Kenny Brunner, the Big East assists leader, had neither an assist nor a point.

"We were just outmanned in every aspect of the game," said Boubacar Aw, who led Georgetown with 15 points before fouling out with 4:32 to play. "We didn't box them out. And we didn't match their intensity."

Todd Burgan added with 21 points for Syracuse. Brunner scored 10 points with two assists before getting his fifth foul with 4:51 remaining.

A 12-2 run, during which Georgetown missed several inside shots trying to negotiate Thomas, gave Syracuse an 18-9 lead near the midway point of the first half. With Aw - who had eight straight points over six-plus minutes for the Hoyas - providing Georgetown's only scoring threat, the lead grew to 20 at 43-23 just before halftime.

Georgetown twice cut the lead to 12 in the second half and got Burgan and Maruis Janulis into foul trouble. But Syracuse kept responding with baskets to prevent a big run - Janulis made two big jumpers just before fouling out with 7:56 to play - and th Hoyas made only 19 of 33 second-half free throws.

The Hoyas' also fouled aplenty in their comeback effort, making for some ugly statistics by game's end. There were more combined turnovers (45) than field goals (43), and Syracuse took more free throw attempts (46) than field goal attempts (44).

"If you're undermanned, they're going to hurt you on the boards the way they did," Thompson said. "We were struggling to get back into the game in the second half. We were putting them on the line, and they were making free throws. It's no big mystery about it."

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