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Hoyas Make a Grand Stand Before Falling to Huskies

Connecticut 66, Georgetown 62

By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 11, 2005; Page D01

NEW YORK, March 10 -- The sellout crowd inside Madison Square Garden was on its feet as the final seconds ticked off the clock in the Big East tournament quarterfinal between 12th-ranked Connecticut and Georgetown, everyone waiting to see if the underdog Hoyas could pull off the second big upset of the day.

With the Hoyas trailing by two points, junior Ashanti Cook's tough pull-up jumper from the elbow bounced high off the rim, and the Huskies' Denham Brown grabbed the rebound with 1.5 seconds left to play. Brown made two free throws, and U-Conn. escaped with a 66-62 victory.

Hoyas Roy Hibbert, left, and Sead Dizdarevic can't bear to watch as the final seconds tick away after Georgetown fought back from a 13-point deficit. (John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

_____From The Post_____
Despite a late charge, Georgetown falls to Connecticut, 66-62.
Mike Wise: The Hoyas played well enough to deserve consideration from the selection committee.

The Hoyas had played their best game of the season, but it wasn't enough to topple the defending national champions.

"We put ourselves in a position to win," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said. "It hurts that we didn't. It hurts that we didn't, because we had a chance to."

Second-seeded U-Conn. (22-6) will face Syracuse in Friday's semifinals. West Virginia, which upset top-seeded Boston College earlier in the day, will play Villanova in the first semifinal.

The Hoyas fell to 17-12, but their season will undoubtedly continue next week. The only question is where Georgetown will wind up -- the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001 or the National Invitation Tournament. The Hoyas were in prime position for an at-large NCAA bid a month ago, when they were 16-6 and 8-3 in the Big East, but five losses to close the regular season put their aspirations in serious jeopardy.

Had Georgetown won even one of those final five games, its performance in the Big East tournament -- which included a thrilling comeback victory over Seton Hall in Wednesday's first round -- almost certainly would have been enough to put it over the edge. Instead, the Hoyas have to sit and wait.

"I hope so," said Thompson when asked if he thought his team should be in the NCAA tournament. "I think we showed tonight that we can play with any team in the country. I think we've shown throughout the year we've got some pretty big road wins. . . . [The Big East] is a monster league. Hopefully, that will be taken into consideration."

U-Conn. Coach Jim Calhoun concurred.

"I would have to think, in what they've done, they would be very tough in the NCAA tournament," he said. "I would hope the committee looks at them very carefully."

The Hoyas began thinking upset when Darrel Owens hit a three-pointer from the left side that made the score 64-62 with 40 seconds left. It was the closest Georgetown had been since 12-11 eight minutes into the game.

U-Conn. was as hot as any team in the country coming into the Big East tournament, an event it has dominated (eight championship appearances in the past 10 years). And just last week, the Huskies overwhelmed Georgetown at home, 83-64, their 16th victory in the past 18 meetings between the teams.

Georgetown managed to keep the game close throughout, something it was unable to do in its two previous games against the Huskies. The Hoyas used a 7-2 run at the end of the first half to cut U-Conn.'s advantage at the break to 32-26. They faced halftime deficits of 20 and 15 points in their last two meetings.

The Huskies' lead ballooned to 13 points early in the second half, but the Hoyas fought back by hitting shots and forcing turnovers. Still, every time Georgetown made a mini-run to get within six or seven points, U-Conn. responded, either with a three-pointer from Rudy Gay or Marcus Williams, or a tough basket inside from Josh Boone or Charlie Villanueva.

Brandon Bowman (15 points) made two free throws with 57 seconds left to bring the Hoyas to within 64-59. Georgetown got the ball back six seconds later after pressuring Villanueva to throw away the ball. Owens then knocked down the three-pointer to cut the margin to two.

The Hoyas got another break when Gay missed the front end of a one-and-one with 25 seconds left, and Bowman grabbed the rebound to set up Georgetown's final possession.

The Hoyas were looking for Owens on a drift at the top of the key, and they got what appeared to be an open -- but long -- look for Owens, who made four crucial three-pointers in Wednesday's victory. But Owens passed up the shot, saying afterward he felt that he didn't have a good chance of making it, and instead he looked for Cook.

"It was a play for me, but I penetratred hoping to get Ashanti a better shot," Owens said. "He ended up having to take a tougher shot than I intended him to take. You've got to trust your teammates in that situation. Ashanti made some big plays. It didn't go in, but we played tough the whole game."

"I just missed it," said Cook, who finished with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting. "It felt like it was going in; I was on my way down to the other end, thinking it was going in. But it bounced out."

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