Ask any Hoya what Georgetown’s biggest rivalries are, and they will almost always tell you that they’re Syracuse and Villanova. But, with this year’s schedule robbing us of a home game against Syracuse, and a Villanova team near the bottom of the Big East standings, our rivalry games have been substantially weaker this year than before.
Until tonight, when Georgetown takes on No. 18 Notre Dame at Verizon Center.
I know, I know, the Georgetown-Notre Dame rivalry is nowhere near as vitriolic as our against the other two squads. But, with Syracuse bolting for the ACC soon, Notre Dame might be the most logical school to take its place. For one, we’re both Catholic schools supported by different orders — Notre Dame is affiliated with the Congregation of the Holy Cross. For another, Georgetown and Notre Dame are always close in academic rankings. And, ask anyone here from the Midwest what schools they turned down in favor of Georgetown, and most will say Notre Dame. But for all that history, the rivalry with Notre Dame isn’t all that intense, right?
Wrong. Georgetown and Notre Dame have a highly contested basketball rivalry since the two schools first tipped off against each other in 1948. Notre Dame leads the series 14-13 against us, so the Hoyas tonight have a chance to even up the series — which features some pretty exciting games.
Easily topping the bar is the Hoyas’ 116-111 loss on Feb. 9, 2002 to Notre Dame at what was then the MCI Center — a 4-overtime thriller that became the highest-scoring game in Big East history. In that game, the Hoyas had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation and the end of each of the first three overtimes, but were unable to come up with the final shots each time, with the exception of a Kevin Braswell jumper in triple OT that was overruled because the clock expired before the shot. And, though four Hoyas scored in double-digits and one — Mike Sweetney — scored 35 points, each of them fouled out, leaving the Hoyas with an inexperienced line-up for the final OT.
The next game the Hoyas and Irish played was nearly as nail-biting, with the Hoyas losing 93-92 in double overtime on Feb. 1, 2003 in South Bend during a season when the Hoyas nearly finished last in the Big East.
A few years later, in 2007, Notre Dame was a crucial step in our road to the Final Four. On Jan. 6, 2007, the then-unranked Hoyas annihilated then-No. 22 Notre Dame in their Big East opener, then defeated the Irish 84-82 in the semifinals of the Big East tournament. For an idea of what the 2007 games were like, here’s Roy Hibbert dominating the Irish in their first meeting that year, at the Verizon Center. The latter 2007 game (pictured), at Madison Square Garden, featured 13 lead changes and 9 ties in the second half alone, while Jeff Green scored 30 points — including the game’s winning basket — on the road to Georgetown’s first Big East title since 1989.
We haven’t beaten Notre Dame since 2008, and have been ranked higher in each contest since then, making tonight’s game especially critical in a budding Big East rivalry.
For real-time updates in the next installment of the growing rivalry, see our friends over at Hoya Paranoia.
Photo: The New York Times, Mar. 10, 2007