- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 18, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was sorrow in the Georgetown locker room Sunday afternoon, unadulterated anguish as the Hoyas were left to come to terms with how their latest season had come to a close.

After all, it had happened again.

It was another NCAA tournament trip, another loss to a double-digit seed, another bout of self-reflection for the college basketball heavyweight.

All the defensive peskiness and points from Hollis Thompson (a season-high 23) could not save Georgetown from a 66-63 loss to N.C. State at Nationwide Arena and the premature postseason departure that accompanied it.

“This loss hurts a lot, but I told the guys we accomplished a lot through the whole season,” said guard Jason Clark, whose last-second heave try to force overtime didn’t graze the rim. “I couldn’t be more proud. I told the guys if they keep working the way they did this year, this group is going to be very special.”

Maybe in a year or two, Sunday will be viewed a seminal moment for the Hoyas’ youthful core. Not yet, though. Not now.

Not after the program’s fourth NCAA tournament loss to a double-digit seed in the past five years.

It unraveled on Georgetown (24-9) after it built a 10-point lead in the first half, surrendering a 15-2 run heading into the break. N.C. State (24-12), the Midwest regional’s No. 11 seed, eventually built an 11-point edge before the grinding Hoyas had possession down 63-61 with 24.1 seconds remaining coming out of a timeout.

The initial plan was to funnel it into Henry Sims, the hub of the Hoyas’ offense all year. He eventually kicked it out to Otto Porter, and the freshman’s mid-range jumper clanked harmlessly off the front of the rim with 13 seconds left.

“The play just broke down,” Porter said. “I tried to put up a shot, and it just didn’t go in.”

A harmless trade of free throws and a layup ensued, with Clark’s shot with N.C. State’s Lorenzo Brown badgering him providing the only suspense the rest of the way. The Hoyas could have waited, and maybe they should have.

After all, there was time remaining, and Porter had a defender nearby. Maybe too nearby.

“You want to get the last shot, but at that time it was the best available shot,” guard Markel Starks lamented. “He got fouled. He got fouled.”

It was that sort of afternoon for Georgetown, which found itself on the wrong end of bellwether developments for both teams.

Scott Wood, the Wolfpack gunner so often flustered by larger foes, made four 3-pointers - and N.C. State improved to 10-0 when he does so. Sims, so vital to the functionality of the Hoyas’ offense, rapidly found himself in foul trouble, played only six minutes in the first half and didnt score until the final 52 seconds.

His four points were a season low, and Georgetown lost for the fourth time in its last five games when the senior did not reach double figures.

“Are we better when Henry’s on the court? Yes,” coach John Thompson III said. “But do we have other people that consistently all year have stepped up when he hasnt been on the court? The answer to that is yes, also.”

Sims’ presence is a luxury Georgetown no longer will enjoy, his breakout senior season complete. Clark, too, departs after a fairly quiet finale in which he was scoreless for a 28-minute stretch and finished with 10 points.

The individual dynamics, though, weren’t the root cause of the outcome. The Hoyas allowed N.C. State to rebound 40 percent of its misses, leading to a 15-8 edge in second-chance points. Georgetown also hoisted 25 3-pointers, Sims’ absence for extended swaths only a partial explanation for the sudden shot-happiness from the perimeter.

“We had the right guys taking the shots,” Thompson said. “They just didn’t go in as much as we would like.”

No, they didnt. The teary-eyed locker room he had departed moments earlier was testament to that.