- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2005

NEW YORK — Georgetown is just a 40-minute Madison Square Garden miracle from the NCAA tournament.

Senior Darrel Owens almost single-handedly stopped the Hoyas’ five-game slide, scoring 14 second-half points to lead Georgetown to a 56-51 comeback victory over Seton Hall in the first round of the Big East tournament last night.

The Hoyas (17-11) now face second-seeded Connecticut tonight at 7 knowing an upset of the 12th-ranked Huskies (21-6) likely would earn them an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

The Huskies dominated Georgetown twice during the regular season, crushing them in Storrs 81-63 eight days ago and handling them with relative ease at MCI Center on Jan. 8. Though the Hoyas fought back to make the final score of that first meeting look respectable at 66-59, Connecticut never trailed in the game and led by 20 points at halftime.

But a victory tonight over the Huskies, who closed out the season with six straight victories for a share of the regular-season Big East crown, would give Georgetown exactly the kind of late-season signature victory the NCAA tournament selection committee looks for among its at-large pool.

“Connecticut is a very good team that is playing very well right now,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “We can’t have any lapses against them. We don’t have any margin for error against a team like that, so we have to execute on offense and defense. … And as Brandon [Bowman] is whispering in my ear, we have to rebound.”

Metaphorically, the Hoyas certainly rebounded last night against a scrappy bunch of Pirates (12-16).

For most of the game, it looked as if Georgetown’s losing streak was going to continue in New York. Newly anointed Big East rookie of the year Jeff Green (1-for-7 from the field with four turnovers) endured perhaps his worst performance of the season. Junior guard Ashanti Cook continued his late-season slump. And with only Bowman (16 points) playing with any confidence in the first 30 minutes, the Hoyas looked doomed to drop a sixth straight game despite playing one of the few teams in the league with notably inferior personnel.

When the scoreless Owens entered the game with 8:23 left, Seton Hall was leading 44-33 and every Georgetown player on the floor except the blanketed Bowman seemed reluctant to shoot.

Owens immediately remedied that. The 6-foot-6 swingman from Napoleanville, La., erupted on both ends of the court. The Hoyas’ most athletic player drilled back-to-back 3-pointers during his first minute. And finally Georgetown had found a slump-busting hot hand.

“When I was sitting on the bench, I noticed that when we start inside and kick it out, we were getting easier looks because they were sagging on Jeff,” Owens said. “Once Jeff kicks it out, we have to be ready to shoot. Coach has been saying that all season, and when we bang shots, we’re a pretty good team.”

Seton Hall’s John Allen answered Owens’ initial burst, with his 3, putting the Pirates ahead 49-41 with 4:44 remaining. But Seton Hall didn’t score another field goal as the Georgetown defense seemed to feed off Owens’ spark.

“Darrel hitting those shots obviously made us feel good, and all of a sudden we started getting stops down at the other end,” Thompson said. “I felt that if we could get stops, we could figure out the offensive end, and that’s what happened.

“We could have caved in tonight. We were in a lot of games, particularly early on this season, where we were in this same position and this group fought back and found a way to win. I’m glad they remembered how to do that tonight.”

Thanks to the increased intensity and defensive stops, the Hoyas methodically erased Seton Hall’s lead before Owens gave Georgetown its first lead of the second half at 51-49 on a 3-pointer with 1:00 remaining.

Typically, there were several near disasters in the last minute, including missed free throws and a turnover on an inbounds pass from Cook to Bowman with the Hoyas leading 53-51 and 17.5 seconds remaining. But Green poked away a desperate entry pass to Seton Hall’s Kelly Whitney on the resulting possession. And after Cook converted one of two free throws, Owens iced the game, soaring for a rebound on a short 3-point attempt by Donald Copeland and converting both foul shots at the other end.

West Virginia 82, Providence 59

Kevin Pittsnogle scored 24 points and matched his career high with five 3-pointers, and the Mountaineers (19-9) beat the Friars (14-17).

Eighth-seeded West Virginia will play top-seeded and seventh-ranked Boston College (24-3) today in the quarterfinals.

Rutgers 72, Notre Dame 65

Ricky Shields scored 21 points, including the first four of Rutgers’ game-closing 8-0 run, and the Scarlet Knights (10-18) beat the Irish (17-11).

The loss may have ended the NCAA tournament at-large hopes for Notre Dame, which has lost four of five.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide