By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 22, 2010; 12:25 AM
CHARLESTON, S.C. - It was the championship game matchup most expected to see from the outset. What no one could have predicted, however, was the ease with which Georgetown would put away North Carolina State to win the Charleston Classic.
Behind Chris Wright, Henry Sims and Hollis Thompson, the 20th-ranked Hoyas turned a two-point deficit into a 17-point lead during a scintillating span of 5 minutes 54 seconds Sunday at Carolina First Arena, where they prevailed, 82-67, over their most formidable opponent of the young season.
Wright scored 17 points, dished out seven assists, controlled the game's tempo and garnered most valuable player honors. That was not a shock. What the Hoyas received from Sims and Thompson, though, was a welcome surprise for a team that's going to need such depth to withstand the rigors of the Big East schedule.
"We have a lot of pieces of in our locker room and on any given night were going to need different people, when they're called upon, to step up," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said. "Everyone on our team has confidence in one another and a true understanding that it's going to be different people who are going to step up, and tonight those two were key."
Sims set a career high for rebounds and assists with nine and five, respectively, and sank a baby hook to kick start the Hoyas' decisive run. Thompson established highs for points and rebounds with 18 and nine and nailed a three-pointer midway through the run that opened a 54-44 lead.
"I definitely feel this is a confidence builder," said Thompson, who entered the game shooting 36 percent from the floor. "Now that I'm on the right track, I need to stay on the path. I just think its the law of averages. I know I'm a good shooter, so I'm going to keep shooting and they're going to fall."
Jason Clark joined Wright on the all-tournament team and scored 14 points as Georgetown improved to 5-0 for the second season in a row and sent the Wolfpack, which was without its best player, Tracy Smith, to its first defeat in four games. N.C. State also became the first team from the Atlantic Coast Conference to lose in the three-year-old tournament. (ACC teams had been 8-0.)
The Wolfpack's DeShawn Painter knocked down a pair of free throws with 16 minutes 30 seconds remaining in game to put his team ahead, 44-42, and send the crowd into a frenzy.
But the Hoyas didn't flinch. online only Instead, they tightened up at the defensive end and calmly began knocking down open shots at the other end. end online only The momentum swing began with a dunk by Austin Freeman (15 points, no rebounds) and ended with Thompson scoring on an acrobatic drive to make it 61-44.
"I think our guys focused in more, had more attention to detail that they didn't have in the first half," John Thompson said. "They got some of the same looks, they just didn't go in. They weren't quite as open [because] we played them a little closer. Our guards did a much better job of being aggressive. We had a heightened sense of attention to detail."
North Carolina State Coach Sidney Lowe said the game might have gone differently had Smith been in the Wolfpack's lineup. Smith is a 6-foot-8, 247-pound senior who averaged a team-leading 16.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last season. He returned to Raleigh on Friday and underwent arthrocopic knee surgery.
"Obviously we missed Tracy," Lowe said. "That's 15, 16 points a night, a point presence in there. There would have been a time where coming out a time out [during Georgetown's run] that I would have called a play for him to settle things down a little bit."
Despite the asterisk that North Carolina State is sure to attach to the outcome, end of online only Thompson feels his team proved something to itself by sweeping three quality teams in four nights.
"The whole experience here, starting with playing with Coastal Carolina, which won their conference last year, to Wofford, which won their conference last year, and end up in the championship game against N.C. State," he said. "The whole experience is something we can build upon. What this group has to get quickly, by the time league play starts, is that you have to come prepared every night. The style of play of the opposition may be different. The personnel will be different. But we're going to play good teams every night. We're going to have to be focused like we were in the second half there as we head toward league play."