Before heading out to the court to finish pregame warmups on "Senior Night," Georgetown huddled up in a Verizon Center hallway with its two departing players, Jason Clark and Henry Sims. A voice shouted out:
"We've got to go out with a bang, fellas! We've got to out with a bang!"
Playing at home for the last time, Clark and Sims combined for 25 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, and No. 11 Georgetown used its typically tough defense to beat No. 20 Notre Dame 59-41 on Monday night in a key game for Big East tournament seeding.
"If we play defense the way we did the last couple of games," Sims said, "you've got to be happy with that."
Georgetown (22-6, 12-5) held Notre Dame (20-10, 12-5) to 33 percent field goal shooting, including 3 for 17 on 3-point attempts (17.6 percent), and no one scored more for the Irish than the nine points from Eric Atkins and Scott Martin. Jack Cooley had two points and zero rebounds in 25 minutes.
"That may be the best defensive team we played against this season," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.
His team hadn't scored so few points since a 61-41 loss to Washington State in the second round of 2008 NCAA tournament.
"Their length and their size and their quickness bothered us," Brey said about the Hoyas. "We had the tempo we wanted, but we've got to score a little bit more to make it interesting."
Notre Dame dropped its second straight following a school-record, nine-game Big East winning streak. It made only 4 of 31 3-point tries in a loss at St. John's on Saturday.
For Georgetown, Clark finished with 13 points and six rebounds, and Sims had 12 points and five assists. While they have led the way all season for Georgetown on a roster with 10 freshmen and sophomores, there was plenty of help from the youngsters, as usual.
Greg Whittington contributed 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting, including 3 of 3 on 3-pointers, and another freshman, Otto Porter, had 10 rebounds.
In typical John Thompson III fashion, Georgetown's coach managed to focus on a negative side of Whittington's play, delivering this line with a wink and a smile: "Yeah, well, he forgot that we still need him to rebound. Because you look at this little stat sheet here: Whittington, one rebound. So he fell in love with his shooting today and forgot to do everything else."
It's easy to kid around after an easy win, and this was the second straight for Georgetown, which beat Villanova by 21 points while holding it to 28 percent shooting.
As always with Thompson, the emphasis is on defense, and he pounded that home with his players after a 73-55 setback at Seton Hall last week.
"A tough loss. An embarrassing loss," Clark called it. "We knew that we needed to step up our defensive intensity."
That they did. Georgetown led by 10 points at halftime and kept pulling away. Whittington's 3 with about 8½ minutes left capped a 9-0 run that made it 48-29 and pretty much sealed the victory.
Clark and Sims left to a standing ovation with 1:43 remaining, greeted by huge hugs from Thompson.
"I remember my last home game. Many moons ago, but I remember it very well," Thompson said. "And I'm sure they will remember tonight for the rest of their lives."
Said Clark: "We didn't want to go out with a loss."
Both the Hoyas and Fighting Irish are in the running for a top-four seeding and a double-bye into the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. Georgetown finishes its schedule at No. 8 Marquette on Saturday, while Notre Dame closes against visiting Providence on Friday.
"Forget all that," Thompson replied when asked about the conference standings and tournament. "We have to prepare for our next game. And then after that, you have to prepare for the next game. And if you start thinking about double-byes, single-byes, seedings, this, that and the other, you forget to prepare for the next game."
Georgetown and Notre Dame combined to make 8 of their first 12 shots — a 67 percent clip. And then they went and made 3 of their next 16 shots — only 19 percent.
But a 7-0 stretch capped by Sims' layup made it 18-11 for the hosts. And that basket began a personal run for Sims in which he scored or assisted on 10 straight Hoyas points.
He made two free throws, passed to Clark on a backdoor cut for a layup, executed a perfect give-and-go to assist on Whittington's dunk, and hit a turnaround jumper to put Georgetown up 26-18.
When Clark drove for a basket as the shot clock expired, the lead was 28-18 with 1½ minutes left in the first half, and that's where it remained until the start of the second.
"That's what Henry has done all year. That's what we need him to do," Thompson said. "The balance between, 'When is it his turn to score? And when is it his turn to get his teammates a shot?' For most of the year, I think he's been very good at that balance."