- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 25, 2006

MINNEAPOLIS — Georgetown’s NCAA tournament run ended in 57-53 loss to Florida last night at the Metrodome when senior swingman Darrel Owens missed a wide open 3-pointer with seven seconds left on the clock and the Hoyas trailing by just two points.

Owens, the streakiest but perhaps best arc assassin on the squad, got the best look imaginable under the circumstances, taking advantage of a slip by Florida defender Corey Brewer. When Brewer went down, Owens was left with an uncontested 3-pointer from the top of the key. But ending a career defined by inconsistency in painfully fitting fashion, the 6-foot-7 swingman from Napoleanville, La., caught the back of the iron on the shot, and the ball caromed straight into the air and into the waiting arms of Florida center Al Horford.

The Florida big man then converted a pair of free throws at the other end to cement the victory and conclude Georgetown’s season.

While the Gators (30-6) move on to face top-seeded Villanova (28-4) tomorrow for a berth in the Final Four, the Hoyas (23-10) return home content in the knowledge that coach John Thompson III’s reclamation project is well ahead of schedule. Not only has Thompson resurrected the program in just two short years at the helm, the Hoyas return four starters next season, as well as welcoming to the Hilltop the school’s most heralded recruiting class in a decade.

If last night’s game was any indication, Georgetown will need a few more bodies if it hopes to make a deeper run into next year’s NCAA tournament. The Hoyas played basically a seven-man rotation for the bulk of the season. And last night it came back to haunt them, as foul trouble descended upon the Georgetown frontcourt early in the second half.

After a superb first half performance, offensive triggerman Jeff Green picked up three fouls in the opening 3:39 of the second half, two of which were dubious by any definition. With Green (15 points) confined to the bench, Florida fought out to a 41-36 lead behind some dominant play from sophomore forward Joakim Noah (15 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks).

The son of former professional tennis star Yannick Noah, the Florida forward has all of his father’s dexterity and an imposing 6-foot-11 frame. Noah scored on an array of dunks, ran the break like an angry antelope and swatted away a handful of Georgetown shots on the defensive end.

But when Green returned to the lineup with 10:16 remaining, he immediately tied the score at 42-42, soaring in to clean up a pointblank miss from sophomore center Roy Hibbert. The two teams then swapped huge hoops down the stretch. Florida teetered ahead, 49-46, on a 3-pointer by point man Taurean Green with 4:45 remaining, only to have Owens answer with a score-tying triple of his own with 3:24 remaining.

The Hoyas took a momentary lead at 53-52 on an Ashanti Cook excuse-me banker with 1:50 remaining, and then both teams traded empty possessions before Brewer scored the game’s deciding bucket in a mad scramble off an offensive rebound. Brewer wound up with the ball after a miss inside by Noah and heaved up a desperation shot from the right wing with Georgetown’s Brandon Bowman hanging on his arm. The shot somehow went down, a la Ray Allen in the 1996 Big East tournament finals, and then Brewer converted the bonus to put the Gators ahead 55-53 with 27.5 seconds remaining and set up Owens fated final attempt.

Georgetown led 30-28 at the break, largely thanks to the brilliant play of sophomore forward Jeff Green, who had obviously heard quite enough about the ballyhooed Roy Hibbert vs. Joakim Noah matchup. Clearly the best player on the floor before intermission, Green led the team with 12 points, three rebounds and four assists as the Hoyas marched out to a 21-12 lead midway through the half before the Gators clawed back into the game on the strength of 13 transition points.

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