A Sad Site: Hoyas Ousted in Carolina

Patrick Ewing Jr. sits motionless in the locker room following Georgetown's loss to 10th-seeded Davidson.
Patrick Ewing Jr. sits motionless in the locker room following Georgetown's loss to 10th-seeded Davidson. (John Mcdonnell - The Washington Post)
By Thomas Boswell
Monday, March 24, 2008

RALEIGH, N.C. Georgetown received the full Tobacco Road treatment here Sunday in its most shocking boot from March Madness in more than 20 years. All around the Hoyas, as they blew a 17-point second-half lead and lost, 74-70, to No. 10 seed Davidson, was a huge crowd singing "Sweet Caroline" to inspire the small elite North Carolina school that, until this week, had not won an NCAA tournament game since 1969. Where'd all those noisy folks come from? Why, North Carolina its own self played the next game.

As if that undeserved home-court advantage for Davidson, a major blunder by the NCAA tournament selection committee, were not bad enough, the Hoyas' nerves also were rattled by the sound of whistles, especially two mystery foul calls on 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert. Those calls drove the senior deeper into foul trouble, limited him to 16 minutes, six points and one rebound in a sad end to a stellar career. Thus has it always been hereabouts for tall visitors from schools to the north.

But, let's be coldly clear: Georgetown wasn't primarily jobbed, robbed or hosed here. The Hoyas lost. Their 20 turnovers, to just five for the Wildcats, were an anchor. And two of the over-eager fouls committed by Hibbert, one to start each half, were so foolish and obvious that they contributed more to his misery than other whistles that made Coach John Thompson III livid.

In the end, this was not a game that the crowd controlled or the zebras distorted or the Hoyas squandered, though all those elements were needed for such a stunner. Above all, this was a game that glorious gunner Stephen Curry (30 points), one of the best long shooters of any generation, and his Davidson running mate Jason Richards (20 points) went out and ripped from the hands of a careless Hoyas team that let a potential blowout turn into the school's most alarming tournament defeat since losing the title game to Villanova in '85.

Throughout their long history, the Hoyas have frequently played their best, and almost never played their worst, in the Big Dance. Over the past 30 years there have been only two Georgetown losses to significantly lower-seeded teams: the No. 1 vs. No. 8 Villanova epic (what is it with Wildcats?) and a stinker in '87 when Georgetown was a No. 1 seed yet lost to No. 6 Providence. In all the other years, Georgetown has left the party with its dignity intact, even if its hopes were often unfulfilled.

That's why Thompson, expressionless, seemed almost disbelieving as he trudged off the floor after seeing his team implode, going from a 46-29 lead to a 67-60 deficit with 1 minute 56 seconds to play -- a crushing 38-14 streak in which Curry scored 20 points.

After six early losses, Davidson has won 24 games in a row. But mostly against Wofford, Elon and UNC Greensboro. Every name opponent has beaten them, though not easily -- UCLA (12 points), Duke (6), North Carolina (four) and North Carolina State (one). Only two Wildcats even average eight points per game, none as many as six rebounds and their tallest man is 6 feet 8.

A cruel appraisal would be that Davidson has two players who could start for Georgetown while nine Hoyas might start for Davidson.

However, those two Wildcats were amazing, seizing an unlikely opportunity as it gradually appeared. For the game's first 25 minutes, waves of defenders either prevented Curry, the son of NBA three-point-shooting star Dell Curry, from touching the ball or else forced ludicrous off-balance attempts.

"They were swamping me everywhere I went," Stephen Curry said.

Trailing 48-33 with 14:24 left, Davidson seemed doomed to elimination. Wildcats Coach Bob McKillop was desperate enough to pull an old trick during a timeout.

"He asked us if we were having fun and got us smiling a little bit," Richards said.

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