- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 24, 2007

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Hoyas and Commodores traded mistakes and shots to the end last night.

They played another one of those agonizing, mistake-prone games that has dominated the tournament this March.

This has not been one of the better NCAA tournaments.

This has not been one of those tournaments with high-caliber plays galore, with one player topping another player.

This has been a tournament about teams losing games as much as teams winning games.

The Hoyas and Commodores gave us one of those games.

Whether it was Roy Hibbert fouling out with 3:58 left or Jeff Green twice putting the opposition on the free throw line in the late going, the Hoyas seemed bent on squandering the game.

DaJuan Summers incurred a loose-ball foul, and Dan Cage hit two free throws to put the Commodores up with 17.9 seconds left.

But then Green made it all right in the final seconds.

He hit a spinning one-handed bank shot to lift the Hoyas past the Commodores 66-65 and into the East Region championship tomorrow.

There undoubtedly was an explosion of cheers in the bars and saloons on M Street in Georgetown at the time of Green’s shot, which undid so many of his team’s wrongs in the final minutes.

That is how it so often goes in March.

Agony can turn to elation in a heartbeat.

The underdog Commodores refused to play by the script.

They fashioned a 16-0 scoring run early in the game that jarred the Hoyas.

The Commodores hit one 3-pointer after another, which negated the size advantage of the Hoyas.

The Commodores lost to the Hoyas by 16 points in their season opener in November. That mismatch had no relevancy to this game.

That was long before the Commodores began to right themselves. The November Commodores also lost to Wake Forest and Furman.

The Commodores eventually made their season by beating both Tennessee and Florida.

Now here they were in the landfill state looking to eclipse the Hoyas, looking to overcome their deficiencies in the middle.

Commodores coach Kevin Stallings was bold enough to go small in much of the first half, deploying 6-foot-9 Ross Neltner against the 7-2 Hibbert.

The Hoyas could not exploit Hibbert’s size advantage in the first half, when he was limited to three points in 14 minutes.

Hibbert set a high number of picks and screens in the first 20 minutes, not an unimportant function but better served by others, given the munchkins on the floor from Nashville, Tenn.

Whatever coach John Thompson III told his players at halftime, it must have included an appeal to note the possibilities of Hibbert.

Hibbert opened the second half with a dunk off an offensive rebound and then received a nice lead pass that resulted in a drop-in.

That put the Commodores on notice that Hibbert would not be merely a 7-2 player who sets screens and picks and looks good in the pregame introductions.

The Hoyas came out with a sense of purpose and urgency that was missing and pulled even at 36-36 with 16:17 left.

Hibbert continued to assert himself and had nine points in the second half before taking a rest with 13:07 left. By then, the Commodores were wallowing in the uncertainty of their 3-point shooting after leading by as many as 13 points in the first half.

By then, the Commodores were seemingly running out of answers.

Derrick Byars, the SEC player of the year, was mostly quiet, his points inefficient.

Hibbert asserted himself early in the half, and then Green started to find his shot.

The teams eventually settled into a rhythm and gave us a struggle to the end.

The Commodores would hit a shot, and the Hoyas would respond in kind.

The Commodores would commit a boo-boo, and the Hoyas would respond in kind.

But there was Green at the end, the ball and season in his hand, and it was his moment in March.

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