Ohio University Bobcats stun Georgetown in NCAA tournament

By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 19, 2010; D01

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Undone by a barrage of three-point shots, turnovers and a pair of guards who played the game of their lives on Thursday night, Georgetown became the highest seed to fall on the opening day of the NCAA tournament.

Led by Armon Bassett's game-high 32 points, 14th-seeded Ohio University soundly outplayed third-seeded Georgetown to claim the biggest victory in school history, 97-83, before a capacity crowd at Dunkin' Donuts Center.

With the victory, Ohio (22-14) advanced to a second-round game against No. 6 Tennessee.

Georgetown, meantime, ended its season on a paradox: How could a team that toppled two of the NCAA tournament's four No. 1 seeds -- Syracuse and Duke -- during the regular season fall flat against a team that finished in the bottom half of the Mid-American Conference?

To most college basketball fans, that's precisely the charm of the NCAA tournament. But to Georgetown fans, this particular edition of David-toppling-Goliath represented yet another bitter end to a season that held so much promise.

"When you get on court, you have to play," said Georgetown sophomore center Greg Monroe, who scored 19 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out six assists but accounted for seven of the Hoyas' 18 turnovers. "They were better today. They did everything they needed to win."

After cutting a 19-point deficit to seven with less than four minutes to play, the Hoyas, who were ranked as high as seventh in the nation in January, could do no better, unable to stop Bassett and backcourt mate D.J. Cooper, who hit 10 three-pointers between them.

Ohio's dazzling shooting aside, Georgetown (23-11) fell victim to the one weakness that undercut its efforts this season: a tendency to play its worst against lightly regarded teams.

Monroe conceded as much.

"I think as a team we were inconsistent," he said. "That's probably the most glaring thing; we didn't have the same focus and weren't the same team every night."

In 25 previous NCAA appearances, Georgetown had lost its opening game only five times -- and not since 1997.

This loss was particularly painful, given Georgetown's undeniable potential, with three McDonald's all-Americans among its starting lineup and evidence that it could hold its own against any team in the tournament.

Junior guard Chris Wright led the Hoyas with 28 points.

Monroe, playing in his first NCAA tournament game, fouled out with 33 seconds remaining. Asked afterward if this was his last game for the Hoyas, Monroe said it was not. Asked for his thoughts, Coach John Thompson III suggested that Monroe needed more time to weigh the decision about turning pro.

"He's going to sit and make that decision as time goes on," Thompson said.

Georgetown didn't shoot poorly against Ohio (50.8 percent) but failed miserably in shutting down Ohio's hot-handed guards.

While Bassett scored 17 first-half points, he was hardly the only Bobcat who warranted coverage. Tommy Freeman hit all three three-pointers he tossed up in the first half. And Cooper (23 points) was lethal in the second half, hitting from long range and driving to the hoop.

The Hoyas got off to a slow, error-prone start, turning over the ball five times in the first nine minutes. Ohio went on a 12-3 run, prompting Thompson to call a timeout, his Hoyas trailing 25-18.

Despite a size advantage, Georgetown kept trying to attack Ohio from the perimeter, but Ohio was far more sure-handed from long range. Bassett was especially zeroed in, hitting three three-pointers in a three-minute span to put Ohio up, 39-28. Freeman followed suit. Left unguarded, he swished a three-pointer to extend the Bobcats' lead to 46-31.

Jason Clark answered in kind, but yet another Georgetown turnover stalled the rally as soon as it started.

Bassett slashed by for layup to give the Bobcats a 48-34 lead. Monroe got a tip-in as buzzer sounded, and Ohio had a 48-36 halftime edge.

Georgetown couldn't shake the turnovers in the second half.

About 2 1/2 minutes into the final stanza, Clark was stripped by Cooper, who raced downcourt and passed over his shoulder to DeVaughn Washington for a highlight-reel dunk that restored the Bobcats' 15-point lead.

Ohio had a 19-point lead with just over 13 minutes to play. Each time Georgetown hit a big shot, Ohio did the same, keeping its lead safely in double digits.

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