- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2005

Madness is finally returning to McDonough.

For the first time in a dozen years, Georgetown will play a postseason game on campus tonight when Cal State Fullerton meets the Hoyas in the second round of the NIT at McDonough Arena.

“I think we’re going to get a little bit of a taste of a homecourt advantage and see what it feels like,” senior forward Darrel Owens said in anticipation of a raucous crowd at the 2,600-seat gymnasium.

The Hoyas (18-12) are accustomed to playing in front of somewhat subdued crowds at MCI Center, where the boisterous efforts of the student section are often swallowed by the 20,600-seat arena. Cal State Fullerton (20-10) won’t be so lucky at McDonough, where a sellout crowd highlighted by 1,200 pre-purchased student tickets likely will produce the same kind of hostile environment that defined Georgetown’s two previous landmark games at McDonough — a 1982 victory over No. 4 Missouri and a 1993 NIT decimation of UTEP.

Attendance for that Missouri game, which was shifted to McDonough after a scheduling snafu at Capital Centre, was a comical 4,620. The standing-room-only crowd for that last nationally televised game at McDonough (ESPN will broadcast tonight’s game) included a row of Blue and Gray backers hovering directly behind Missouri’s bench and prompted NBC analyst Al McGuire to comment famously: “The fire marshal must be out of town.” Predictably, the Hoyas dropped the shellshocked Tigers 63-51 amid the chaos.

“Everyone talks about that game, and those of us who were here definitely remember that game,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said with a laugh yesterday. “I was a sophomore in high school, and I sat right over there [in the front row of the bleachers]. … Hopefully, fans will come out and be loud and we can recreate that atmosphere.”

The atmosphere was equally inhospitable in 1993, when UTEP left behind a perfectly viable 8,000-seat arena in El Paso, traveled across the country to cramped McDonough and absorbed a 71-44 thrashing.

In fact, Georgetown has won 25 straight at McDonough, all by double-digit margins, dating to a 63-52 loss to Connecticut in 1982. That streak isn’t likely to end at the hands of the Titans, a smallish team with a short bench that lost its best player when senior guard Ralphy Holmes went down with an ACL tear in the team’s most recent victory (85-69 over San Francisco).

In complete contrast to Georgetown’s first-round victim, Boston University, the Titans are an offense-centric uptempo team that relies heavily on transition hoops and the 3-point shot. Even without Holmes, the Titans have ample offensive firepower and above-average athleticism. But they also are one of the worst defensive teams in Division I, allowing opponents to shoot 46 percent from the field.

“When you watch them, the two things that jump out are that they’re very athletic and they like to run,” said Owens, who has keyed the Hoyas’ three-game resurgence with his 3-point marksmanship, averaging 14.7 points on nearly 60 percent shooting from beyond the arc in Georgetown’s last three games.

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