By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 10, 2007
NEW YORK, March 9 -- When the moment came, and the game was on the line for Georgetown in its Big East tournament semifinal game against Notre Dame, there was no question of who was going to get the ball for the Hoyas. Jeff Green wanted it, and his teammates wanted him to have it.
Earlier in the week, the junior forward was named conference player of the year, joining the list of Georgetown greats -- Alonzo Mourning, Reggie Williams, Patrick Ewing Sr. -- to be so honored. On Friday night, Green gave a performance worthy of those legends, scoring a career-high 30 points, including the game-winner with 13 seconds left in Georgetown's 84-82 victory before a sellout crowd of 19,594 at Madison Square Garden.
"Much like the rest of our guys, he didn't want to lose, and the performance he put on today was special," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said of Green, who played the full 40 minutes. "At the end of the day, great players make plays, and Jeff did that."
As a result, the top-seeded Hoyas (25-6) are in the Big East final for the first time since 1996, with a chance to win their first championship since 1989. Georgetown will face Pittsburgh, which beat Louisville, in a semifinal on Saturday night at 9 p.m.
With the score tied at 82 and 36 seconds left to play, the Hoyas held the ball and looked for Green inside, who was posting up inside against stocky freshman Luke Harangody. Green got the ball, backed his defender down and then turned for a soft one-handed shot with 13 seconds left. He converted the shot and was fouled.
"I just put it up there and tried to get it on the rim and it went in," Green said in his usual low-key fashion. "It was a lucky shot."
But Green missed the free throw. The Fighting Irish got the ball to Russell Carter, who had already made five three-pointers. Carter sent Green flying with a pump fake and then calmly stepped to the three-point line. From his vantage point behind the Irish senior, Green said that he could tell that Carter's shot was off, though "that was the longest shot probably in my career, just watching it float up in the air."
Georgetown guard Jonathan Wallace (10 points, five assists) ran down the long rebound, tossed the ball into the air, and then the final horn sounded, setting off the Hoyas' celebration.
"I wanted to cry," junior forward Patrick Ewing Jr. said. "You never know when you'll get another chance like this. It's a championship game. Nothing's guaranteed. It's one of the greatest feelings I've ever had, but hopefully it'll be greater tomorrow."
The Hoyas weathered an early barrage of three-point shots from fourth-seeded Notre Dame (24-7), and played at a much faster pace than they normally do. Thompson opted to use the more athletic Ewing in place of 7-foot-2 junior Roy Hibbert (six points) for long stretches, and Ewing -- with his famous father sitting courtside -- responded with his best game as a Hoya (season-high 15 points, two steals).
Notre Dame made seven of its first 11 three-point attempts and built a 35-21 lead with 7 minutes 37 seconds left until halftime. The Irish were feeling so confident in their shooting that after Carter (21 points) stole a pass, he chose to pull up for a three-pointer from the left side on the break.
But the Hoyas didn't panic. Instead, they remained patient on offense and worked the ball around until they got good shots. Green and freshman DaJuan Summers (18 points) scored Georgetown's next 13 points off of tough moves inside that resulted in baskets or foul shots. Georgetown closed the half on a 10-4 run that began with Summers making a three-pointer (Georgetown's second of the game) and ended with four straight free throws from Green and Summers.
"We talked a lot during the course of the year, when we get down or even when we're not down, when the flow of the game changes that, you know, we can't come down and get a 10-point play," said Thompson, whose team trailed 46-44 at the break. "Our guys understand that no matter what the situation, whether we're up or we're down, we have to methodically get a stop, methodically get a good shot."
Ewing started in place of Hibbert at the beginning of the second half and scored six straight points to give the Hoyas their first lead of the game, 50-49, with 18:14 to play. Later, they extended their advantage, largely behind Green, who scored seven points -- including a pretty scoop lay-up following a steal -- in a 9-0 run that gave them a 76-69 edge with 5:01 remaining.
But freshman Tory Jackson (20 points) scored seven straight points off of drives to tie the score at 76, and then his layup with 40 seconds left again tied the score, this time at 82, and set up the Hoyas' final play.
"We could've run different options off of that play, but no one expected Jeff to pass it out," Summers said. "We wanted him to take the big shot. Definitely. He's our leader."
· PITTSBURGH 65, LOUISVILLE 59: Antonio Graves scored 10 of his 23 points during the Panthers' 20-2 run to start the second half, and No. 13 Pitt advanced to the tournament championship with a victory over the No. 12 Cardinals (23-9).
Pittsburgh (27-6) will play in the title game for the sixth time in seven years, and second in Jamie Dixon's first three seasons as coach.
Mike Cook added 13 points and eight rebounds for Pittsburgh, which last won the Big East tournament in 2003.