COLUMBUS, Ohio — Before addressing the reasons behind Georgetown’s 66-63 loss to North Carolina State in the NCAA tournament on Sunday, Coach John Thompson III took a moment to make clear that he’d never been more proud of a team.
“It’s a group that’s given it their all,” Thompson said, as seniors Jason Clark and Henry Sims looked on with damp eyes. “We haven’t always had success. But it’s a group that all year fought for and cared about each other.”
With Sims sidelined by foul trouble much of the afternoon, the Hoyas’ fight and heart weren’t enough to overcome the tough-nosed, 11th-seeded Wolfpack, which toppled Georgetown to earn its first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2005.
Georgetown, the Midwest Region’s No. 3 seed, had the upper hand early on in the battle of former national champions at Nationwide Arena, but squandered a 10-point first-half lead and eventually fell behind by 11.
Sims didn’t score until just 50 seconds remained in the game but made two clutch free throws that pulled Georgetown within 62-61 with 35 seconds left.
Then, after N.C. State’s Scott Wood made 1 of 2 free throws, Thompson called a timeout with 24.1 seconds remaining to draw up a final play for Sims. But the 6-foot-10 senior center was covered tightly, so he kicked the ball out to freshman Otto Porter, who hesitated before taking a jumper that fell short.
Sims fouled out in the tussle over the rebound.
N.C. State’s Lorenzo Brown padded the margin with three free throws in the final 10 seconds, and Clark’s final desperate heave was off-target, ending what had been a season of impressive overachievement for Georgetown (24-9), which was bidding to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2007.
“We weren’t picked to do anything at the beginning of the season,” said Clark, who scored 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting. “Everybody doubted us. . . . We played our hearts out for each other this whole year.”
It was the second upset in as many NCAA tournament games for first-year N.C. State Coach Mark Gottfried, who has revived the long-slumbering Wolfpack. N.C. State (24-12) moved on to St. Louis for a game Friday against No. 2 Kansas.
Sophomore Hollis Thompson led the Hoyas with 23 points. Clark was his only teammate in double figures. N.C. State placed four in double digits, with C.J. Leslie, C.J. Williams and Wood scoring 14 points each. The Wolfpack also dominated the boards, outrebounding Georgetown 41-33.
The Wolfpack’s offense was slow to get going, as it made just one of its first eight attempts. But Porter, the lone freshman starter for either team, showed no trace of jitters early on, knocking down the game’s first two baskets.
Sims picked up his second foul less than six minutes into the action and sat.
But it was all N.C. State from there. With Sims on the bench, Georgetown lacked its front-court enforcer and assists leader.
N.C. State reeled off seven unanswered points, igniting its fans, and the Wolfpack closed the half on a 15-2 run, taking a 30-27 lead .
Sims rejoined the lineup to start the second period, but N.C. State had the momentum and extended its lead on three-pointers from Wood and Williams.
Back on the bench with a third foul, Sims watched as N.C. State packed the area under the basket, making it difficult for Georgetown to drive the lane. Instead of contesting that ground, the Hoyas tried closing their deficit from beyond the arc. In the end, nearly half of Georgetown’s shots (25 of 51) were three-pointers. They connected on just eight.
“We had the right guys taking the shots,” John Thompson said. “They just didn’t go in.”