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

Hoyas Defeat UNC, Advance to First Final Four Since 1985

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – With just under eight minutes remaining in the East Region championship game and Georgetown down eight points to top-seeded North Carolina, both teams huddled up for a time out. As the squads approached their benches, one head coach was smiling, but it was not the coach with the lead. Rather it was John Thompson III who was smirking at his Hoyas.

“Coach came in and said, `We’re fine,'” said junior forward Jeff Green, the East Region’s most outstanding player. “That’s how coach is. He’s calm. He knows we can get back into any game.”

Although second-seeded Georgetown (30-6) had trailed the entire second half, Thompson liked the position his team was in. And he must have known something the soldout crowd in Continental Airlines Arena did not because after that time out, the Hoyas went on to dominate the Tar Heels (31-7), outscoring UNC 16-8 in the closing minutes and tying the game at 81-all on a breathtaking three by junior guard Jonathan Wallace to send the Elite Eight matchup into overtime.

In the extra period the Hoyas went on a tear, scoring 14 unanswered points to shock the Tar Heels, 96-84, and send Georgetown to its first Final Four since 1985.

“We’re just extremely fortunate to come away with a win here tonight, and we’re extremely happy to be moving on,” Thompson said.

In the national semifinals, the Hoyas will face the Midwest Region and Big Ten champion Ohio State in Atlanta on Saturday. The winner will advance to face the winner of UCLA-Florida in the national championship two nights later.

Led by Green, all five of Georgetown’s starters finished in double digits in the Hoyas’ highest-scoring game of the year. As the Hoyas collected their eighth-straight victory and 19th of their last 20, Green finished with 22 points. Freshman DaJuan Summers followed with 20, including eight in the extra stanza, in which he was unstoppable.

Junior center Roy Hibbert – who joined Green and Summers on the all-region team – notched his fifth straight double-double in the contest with 13 points and 11 boards, while the backcourt duo of Wallace and sophomore guard Jessie Sapp had 19 and 15 points, respectively, none more important than Wallace’s game-tying three with 31 seconds left. Wallace and Sapp also dished out a combined 15 assists with just three turnovers.

“I’m so proud of these guys,” Thompson said of his team. “I’m so proud of these guys. They’ve kind of played this year out in many ways as I thought it would. I knew we’d get better as the year went on. I knew it would. I knew we had a chance to be very good by the time this time of year rolled around.”

For the first 34 minutes of the game, it appeared as if North Carolina was going to run its way straight past Georgetown and on to Atlanta. The Tar Heels were dominant, working the ball into sophomore forward Tyler Hansbrough in the paint and letting him have his way with the slower, foul-plagued Hoyas.

With Hibbert sitting in foul trouble, UNC was able to control the glass, collecting 22 rebounds to the Hoyas’ 11 in the first half, which allowed the Tar Heels to get second-chance points and build the sizable lead they held for most of the half.

But down 10 with just over six minutes left in the second half, Georgetown decided it did not want its season to end in New Jersey. With newfound intensity the Hoyas began to grab rebounds and play the lock-down defense that has been their hallmark all season, all the while staying calm on offense and getting the looks they wanted.

“It was time to either win or go home, and going home wasn’t an option,” said junior forward Patrick Ewing Jr. with tears still in his eyes after the game. “We definitely showed how much we really wanted it.”

The Hoyas cut the lead to one on a layup by Sapp with two minutes remaining, but the Tar Heels answered with another layup from Hansbrough. Both teams would miss their next shots, setting up Wallace’s game-tying three. With two seconds left, UNC freshman guard Wayne Ellington missed a three-pointer that would have won the game for the Tar Heels, and in the overtime it was all Hoyas.

UNC missed its first 12 attempts in overtime while Georgetown went on a 14-0 run, and by the time Tar Heels freshman guard Ty Lawson hit a three, there were only eight seconds left on the clock, and the Hoyas were already on their way to the Final Four.

“We were fortunate enough that they missed their shots. We got stops on the defensive end to go on that 14-0 run,” Green said. “We had to keep going on offense. We made shots and they didn’t.”

The Tar Heels were paced by Hansbrough, who finished with a game-high 26 points and 11 rebounds. Hansbrough, who was particularly outstanding in the first half, was a perfect 14-for-14 from the charity stripe in regulation and was the focal point of UNC’s offense as it opened up its 11-point lead. But the Tar Heels struggled to get the ball inside to the 6-foot-9 forward in overtime, and Hansbrough missed his only field goal attempt and both of his free throw attempts in the extra period.

Three other Tar Heels finished in double digits, all frontcourt players who also worked on the Hoyas’ inside. Freshman forwards Brandon Wright and Deon Thompson both finished with 14 while senior forward Reyshawn Terry, whose minutes were limited by his battle with strep throat, ended his collegiate career with a 10-point, six-rebound night.

“This is an extremely disappointing time for our team. It’s not the way you want your season to end, with a loss, ’cause you never want that,” North Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams said. “I would give every cent I have right now for my team to be out there cutting down those nets and feeling those feelings that Georgetown’s players are feeling. But life doesn’t always go like you want. Life is never as sweet as you think it could possibly be. I told my youngsters they have to be able to handle this extremely disappointing time.”

Georgetown – the most offensively efficient team left in the field – had a terrific night shooting, hitting 57.6 percent of its shots from the floor and 57.1 percent of its shots from behind the arc. The Hoyas also dished out a season-high 26 assists with just 10 turnovers as the Princeton offense and its signature backdoor cuts were on display in East Rutherford.

Princeton itself was also represented, as Thompson’s mentor, former Tigers Head Coach Pete Carril, was in attendance. After Thompson embraced his father, legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr., who was covering the game on the radio, he went into the stands to hug Carril as well.

Meanwhile all the Hoya players lined up to hug Big John Thompson, who took the Hoyas to their last Final Four and was on the losing end of another classic game against North Carolina – the 1982 NCAA title that featured the elder Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85) and a game-winning shot by Michael Jordan.

“I didn’t get hugged – I got slapped,” Ewing Jr. said of what the elder Thompson did to him after the game. “But I knew exactly what those love taps were. He’s as proud of us as anybody out there. He’s been there since day one with us . so just to show him that we appreciate him, we felt like everyone needed to go over there and give him a hug.”

Georgetown now has nearly a week to prepare for Ohio State. The contest with the Buckeyes (34-3) will be a rematch of last year’s second-round contest, which the Hoyas won 70-52 to advance to the Sweet 16.

Tip-off in the Georgia Dome is set for 6:07 p.m.

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