For the fourth consecutive time, Georgetown has fallen victim to March’s Madness. The Hoyas lost, 66-63, to No. 11 seed North Carolina State after senior captain Jason Clark missed a potential game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer.
The loss brings an early end to a season in which Georgetown, picked to finish tenth in the Big East conference and far from the tournament field, was nationally ranked for most of the year and earned a No. 3-seed in the NCAA tournament.
“This team, in spite of whatever downs we’ve had and losses like today, has been a really special group that I think has represented themselves, represented our institution, represented their families, represented each other, very well,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever been as proud to be associated with a group of men, with a team, as much as I am with this team this year.”
It was a roller-coaster of a game, and one that looked to be over well before the buzzer, when N.C. State took a seven point lead with 1:11 remaining in the game. But junior forward Hollis Thompson resuscitated the Hoyas by hitting a long three with two defenders in his face to cut the deficit to four.
After the Wolfpack missed a free throw, senior center Henry Sims got a quick layup for his first points of the game. N.C. State sophomore point guard Lorenzo Brown then missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Sims knocked down two free throws to cut the lead to one.
Junior forward Scott Wood split a pair of free throws after being fouled on the ensuing inbounds pass, and the Hoyas grabbed the rebound. Suddenly, Georgetown looked like it could walk away with the comeback.
But it wasn’t to be. Out of the timeout, the Hoyas got the ball down to Sims in the post, but the senior elected not to force up a shot. Sims kicked the ball out to freshman forward Otto Porter, who drove left and missed a contested midrange jumper.
“[Porter] was open, ended up getting a decent shot. The ball just didn’t go in,” Thompson III said.
Brown grabbed the rebound and Sims fouled out of the game in order to send him to the line. Brown hit both shots and Clark quickly drove coast-to-coast for a quick layup, but NC State still had the ball and two-point lead.
Brown was fouled again, but this time, he gave the Hoyas one last glimmer of hope. The point guard missed his second free throw, and the Hoyas had four seconds to attempt a three for the tie. Clark drove down the sideline, appeared to get a good look at the basket, but the shot was a too strong and sailed over the hoop.
“I felt like it had a chance, but it didn’t,” Clark said.
Despite the wild final minute of the game, Georgetown’s true opportunity to survive came midway through the second half. N.C. State took an 11-point lead at the 14:20 mark and looked to be in control, outscoring the Hoyas, 30-9, in a 10-minute run that spanned both halves.
Then, Thompson took control. The Los Angeles native hit two free throws and two three-pointers, and had a block, an assist and a dunk in a seven-minute span that cut the Wolfpack lead to just three. Thompson finished with a game-high 23 points, five rebounds and three assists, despite a slow start that saw him go 0-of-3 with two turnovers.
But with Clark and Sims cold and on the bench with foul trouble, respectively, and Thompson the new focus of the NC State defense, the younger Hoyas had to shoulder more of the offensive load. Sophomore guard Markel Starks, Porter and freshman forward Greg Whittington all missed rushed three-pointers, allowing the Wolfpack to extend their lead to seven before the final minute.
“We had the right guys taking the shots, they just didn’t go in as much as we would like,” Thompson III said.
A 25-15 Georgetown lead at the 5:17 mark of the first half became a 30-27 lead for the Wolfpack by the end of the half. The run was capped by a steal and transition dunk by sophomore forward C.J. Leslie, one of three NC State players with 14 points. The Hoyas committed five turnovers in the span.
“When you turn the ball over against a team that’s good in transition, that opens up a lot of baskets for them,” Clark said.
It was a particularly stinging loss for Clark and Sims, who combined to shoot just 4-of-14 for 14 points, grab six rebounds and commit four turnovers in their final game wearing the Blue and Gray. Despite the poor last shot, Porter played another solid game, notching nine points, eight rebounds and four steals.
For now, it’s another stinging loss for a successful Georgetown squad. N.C. State had played tournament teams Vanderbilt, Indiana, Syracuse, Duke, Florida State and North Carolina during the regular season and had lost to all of them. They are now 2-0 in the NCAA tournament against higher seeds.
The Hoyas played good defense overall, holding the Wolfpack to 37 percent shooting for the game, but the defensive effort was undone by three-point attempts and poor rebounding. N.C. State shot 47 percent from beyond the arc and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds that resulted in 15 points.
“I thought for the most part our defense was pretty good,” Thompson III said. “They were just throwing it up and going and getting it, and getting second and third shots.”
For now, Georgetown is left to reflect its overall season, one filled with tremendous victories but even closer losses — by four points to Kansas in Maui, by three at Syracuse in overtime, by two in double-overtime to Cincinnati in the Big East tournament and now a three-point loss to NC State in Columbus. All were tough losses for a team that that proved everyone wrong yet never bragged about it.
Thompson III said all week that seeding and rank mean nothing in March, which is true. But that won’t do much to heal the Georgetown faithful, who have hungered for a return to the Final Four since 2007. The Blue and Gray finished 24-9 on the season. Clark ends his career having started 99 straight games and departs the Hilltop as one of Georgetown’s all-time leading scorers, with 1,342 career points.