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Hoyas Win With a Late Surge

Game-Ending 23-7 Run Ends Slide at Five: Georgetown 56, Seton Hall 51

By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page D01

NEW YORK, March 9 -- There were moments in Georgetown's 56-51 comeback victory over Seton Hall in the first round of the Big East tournament Wednesday night when senior Darrel Owens thought that he had seen this movie before. The Hoyas trailed by 11 points midway through the second half and appeared finished, their NCAA tournament hopes eight minutes from expiring.

With the season apparently headed toward an ignominious end -- Georgetown had lost five straight entering Wednesday night -- Owens decided to change the script at Madison Square Garden. He led the Hoyas on a furious 23-7 run to close the game, giving the Hoyas a pulsating win and an end-of-season rebirth.


Georgetown's Rayshawn Reed can only feel Seton Hall's Grant Billmeier snatch away a second-half rebound at Madison Square Garden. (John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

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"It was like deja vu all over again," said Owens, who hit four three-pointers in that run. "I wasn't necessarily thinking about the last five games, but about last year [when Georgetown ended the season with a nine-game losing streak]. But Coach Thompson gives us so much confidence, and once I hit that first three, I knew we could do it."

As a result, the Hoyas (17-11) earned a date with 12th-ranked Connecticut in the quarterfinals Thursday night. Georgetown's hopes for an NCAA tournament bid dimmed considerably with its five-game losing streak. But a win over the Huskies, who are playing as well as any team in the country, might seal the university's first berth since 2001.

Postseason aspirations aside, Georgetown was happy to get its first victory in nearly a month. The Hoyas, who began 9-3 and were once 16-6 overall, last won on Feb. 12 against West Virginia. What's more, the Hoyas showed the resiliency that helped them win eight of their first 11 conference games, and that disappeared when they lost their next five.

"Winning and losing is contagious," Coach John Thompson III said. "We went through a stretch there where we were losing and we were trying different things. . . . I was glad we responded the way we did. This was a game where we could've packed it in."

Junior forward Brandon Bowman scored 16 points -- 12 in the first half -- to lead the Hoyas. Forward Jeff Green, the conference's co-rookie of the year, had a sub-par offensive performance, shooting 1 for 7 and finishing with just seven points. But he grabbed a game-high nine rebounds, including several crucial ones late, blocked five shots and had two steals. Green's effort was typical of the Hoyas' performance.

Owens, who made 26.2 percent of his three-point attempts in conference games, made 4 of 7 Wednesday and scored a season-high 14 points, all in the second half. But for all of Owens's big shots, Thompson praised him afterward for the subtle plays he made, such as a physical box-out that led to a Seton Hall foul.

"That's important," Thompson said. "That's important to win games in this league, to win games in this tournament. Brandon has gotten a lot of attention, Jeff has gotten a lot of attention, but we have guys that when given the opportunity can step up and have stepped up as the year's gone on."

Georgetown hardly resembled a team that was fighting for its season in the first half, and Thompson seemed to have a perpetual scowl. The Pirates (12-16) led 28-27 at halftime, and the Hoyas' deficit would have been larger if not for the outside shooting of Bowman (4 for 5 three-point attempts). Seton Hall's lead grew to 11 points after John Allen intercepted a pass and turned it into a fast-break dunk for a 44-33 advantage with 8 minutes 25 seconds to play.

At the moment, Georgetown found its resolve. Owens made back-to-back three-pointers to bring the Hoyas within 44-39, and Green blocked a shot. Owens made two more three-pointers over the next six minutes, and the second one gave Georgetown a 51-49 lead, its first since late in the first half, with 1:01 to play.

Two free throws from Bowman put Georgetown up, 53-49, with 25 seconds left. After two free throws by Jamar Nutter, the Hoyas threw away the inbounds pass, giving the Pirates a chance with 17.5 seconds remaining.

But Green knocked away a pass to teammate Ashanti Cook and Georgetown made three of four free throws to seal the game. Any bad thoughts, the self-doubt that crept into their minds during the five-game losing streak, dissipated. There would be no rerun.

"The thought definitely crossed my mind," Bowman said. "But with the Big East conference tournament, it breathes new life in you. We realize what's at stake. You forget about what happened in the past. We control what we can do."


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