Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Give It to Jeff

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., March 23 – It’s official: Jeff Green has reached superstar status. We knew he was good under pressure when he hit a last-minute jumper to sink Villanova in February, and found out he could be called upon in the clutch after his pull-up jumper with 13 seconds remaining clinched an 84-82 win over Notre Dame in the Big East tournament semifinals. But his baby-hook between two defenders that beat the buzzer and vanquished Vanderbilt on Friday night was the stuff of legend.

Unlike his game-winners earlier in the season, this heart-stopper was designed with Green in mind. When John Thompson III called timeout with 14 seconds left and down one, there was no question as to whom he would hand the ball.

“Coming out of the huddle I said, `Jeff, if you don’t have Pat, turn and go. Turn and go,'” Thompson III said, expressing both elation and relief. “That’s what he did. Jeff Green makes very good decisions.”

As the season progressed, Green has proven repeatedly that he belongs among the nation’s elite. He made his opening argument when he torched St. John’s for a career-high 24 points and solidified his case for Big East player of the year with his 30-point effort against the Fighting Irish in the conference tourney.

But Friday night Green showed the country that he is that rare type of elite athlete who, with the game on the line, wants the ball in his hands. Green could have passed it to Patrick Ewing Jr. off the screen. He could have thrown it up for grabs after he bobbled the ball trying to muscle past the Commodore double team. But with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line, Jeff Green would not be denied.

“I like to have the ball in my hands in the games, you know, ’cause I have confidence in myself that I can make plays,” Green said after the game. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to try to win the game, if that’s having the ball in my hands or making another play to get my teammate open. Hopefully I’m one of those top players that can make those plays.”

Each March, the NCAA tournament separates the good from the great, and steely poise such as Green’s is best displayed on college basketball’s grandest stage. Should Georgetown go on to capture the 2007 crown, Green’s shot will join Christian Laettner’s turn around `j’ that kept Duke’s championship run alive in ’92 and Tyus Edney’s coast-to-coast magic that allowed UCLA to advance to the title in ’95 as one of March’s more memorable displays of last-second heroics.

In an “anything you can do, I can do better” seesaw battle between two beautifully choreographed offenses, it was fitting that the game should come down to a last-second shot. Every time Vanderbilt senior guard Dan Cage sank a trey, Georgetown freshman forward DaJuan Summers answered with a long-range jumper of his own. For each Jon Wallace fade-away, SEC player of the year Derrick Byars had a sure shot of his own. In the end, Green’s outshone them all.

When Roy Hibbert, Green’s partner in crime, was confined on the bench after fouling out with a little under four minutes to play, the junior forward from Hyattsville, Md., stepped up his game and filled the void left by the 7-foot-2 Hibbert. By the time the Hoyas broke the huddle following Thompson’s last-gasp timeout, most of the capacity crowd at Continental Airlines Arena knew that the times called for both squads’ No. 32s – Green and Vanderbilt junior swingman Shan Foster.

“We kind of knew the ball was going to him. He’s a great player,” Foster said. “I just tried to do my best to defend him, and we got the double team there. He’s a great player. He made a great shot.”

Just hearing Thompson’s call in the huddle – a play called “Center-Forward” – gave freshman guard Jeremiah Rivers reassurance.

“I knew it was going down,” Jeremiah Rivers said. “When [Green] got it, I knew he would come through with it.”

For a player who held his team’s season in his hands, Green sure didn’t look the part. As he sidled out onto the floor, Green looked more aloof than focused or determined.

“That’s his game face,” Ewing said after the game. “You don’t see Jeff get too hyped up. Jeff’s just Jeff.”

“I was just trying not to let on for all the people who were watching,” Green explained when asked about his droopy demeanor with the game on the line. “You can’t go out there and get all hyped and jump around.”

The rush of emotion would come just seconds later, after Green’s bank cashed the Hoyas’ fortunes. And when Alex Gordon’s heave of desperation fell short, Summers embraced Green as the Georgetown faithful roared.

Not quite ready to make the long bus ride back to the District Friday night, the Hoyas handed the keys to their star.

“He is our best player,” sophomore guard Jessie Sapp said. “So we gave it to him and said `take us to the next round.'”

Harlan Goode is a junior in the College and the features editor of THE HOYA. He can be reached at goodethehoya.com.

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