- The Washington Times - Friday, March 25, 2005

COLUMBIA, S.C. — There will be no Beltway Brawl at Madison Square Garden.

Despite the best efforts of Darrel Owens in his finest, and possibly last, game in a Georgetown uniform, both the Hoyas’ season and the hopes for an NIT semifinal collision between Georgetown and Maryland expired in South Carolina last night.

Owens, a 6-foot-6 senior forward from Napoleonville, La., shredded South Carolina for career highs of 26 points and 10 rebounds, dropping seven of his 12 attempts from behind the arc. But his teammates failed to rise to the level of Owens’ performance, and South Carolina escaped with a 69-66 victory in the quarterfinals of the NIT before a crowd of 10,662 at the Colonial Center.

The loss ends John Thompson III’s overachieving debut season at Georgetown and leaves his Hoyas (19-13) to ponder what might have been had they managed to advance to the NIT’s semifinals for a potential matchup with Maryland.

“It’s disappointing for every guy in that locker room for our season to end,” Thompson said after watching South Carolina (18-13) turn a 47-40 deficit with 12:29 remaining into a 60-52 lead during a decisive nine-minute eruption. “The crowd got into it. Their players picked it up emotionally. And we had a phase there where they did a tremendous job on defense and the few good looks we got were blocked.”

That pivotal phase began when South Carolina coach Dave Odom extended his defense into a virtual 4-1 amoeba zone to limit the opportunities of Owens and the other Hoyas from the perimeter. Faced with serious perimeter pressure, the Hoyas’ backcourt trio of Jonathan Wallace, Ashanti Cook and Ray Reed reacted poorly, committing six of the teams’ 11 turnovers during the game-deciding span.

And inside, freshman forward Jeff Green, who had played so superbly all season, failed to take advantage of the spread defense. Green scored eight points, finishing in single digits for just the sixth time since December. Meanwhile, South Carolina senior forward Carlos Powell (21 points, seven rebounds) feasted on him at the other end of the floor.

Just as it did in Georgetown’s second-round mauling of Cal State-Fullerton at crazed McDonough Arena on Tuesday, the homecourt played a major role. The lopsided fouls totals (Georgetown had 23 to South Carolina’s 12) and the resulting free throws totals (31-11) speak for themselves.

“It’s a huge disparity,” Thompson said. “They attempted 31 free throws. We attempted 11. Did that play a part in the game? Yes.”

Owens, a Prop 48 player who still has a season of eligibility remaining should Thompson invite him to return, rallied the Hoyas from the 60-52 deficit in the final 2:52. Despite a South Carolina defense geared specifically to stop him, Owens connected on three 3-pointers during the span, the last of which included a foul call that Owens converted into a rare four-point play to pull the Hoyas within 64-63 with 48 seconds remaining.

“I can’t even remember the last time I was that unconscious,” said Owens, who made 22 of 39 3-pointers over the Hoyas’ five final games. “I tried to give us a chance to win, but it wasn’t quite enough. We needed one more.”

The Gamecocks, who made five of eight free throws down the stretch, denied Owens the ball on Georgetown’s final possessions. The game effectively ended when Green missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the score at 66-66 with 21 seconds remaining, forcing the Hoyas to play the hack-and-hope game.

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