- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2007

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Hoyas could not grab a defensive rebound for the longest time yesterday.

They could not get a referee’s call, especially from Curtis Shaw.

The Hoyas seemingly were on their way to losing to the Tar Heels. They were down 10 points after Marcus Ginyard converted two free throw attempts with 7:19 left in regulation.

The Tar Heels were the fresher team at this point, the deeper team, the team seemingly in control.

And then, in an instant, the Tar Heels lost it all: lost the capacity to think straight, lost the ability to shoot straight, lost the ability to complete even the most elementary plays.

The Hoyas made it look almost easy in the last seven-plus minutes of regulation and in overtime in defeating the Tar Heels 96-84 to earn a berth in the Final Four.

The shift was stunning.

The Tar Heels missed 20 of their last 22 field goal attempts. They missed bad shots. They missed open shots. They also missed shots that Roy Hibbert put back in their faces.

Tyler Hansbrough apparently misjudged the reach of the 7-foot-2 Hibbert.

Hibbert rejected one of Hansbrough’s shot attempts with such ferocity in overtime that it is a wonder the ball company’s logo did not get transferred to his body.

The exercise had a peculiar sense to it.

You never had the feeling the Hoyas were in this game until the final minutes of regulation.

You never had the feeling the Hoyas could win this game until the no-show of the Tar Heels in overtime.

The Tar Heels gave this one away as much as the Hoyas seized it.

Jeff Green kept asking for the ball, and he kept delivering in the final minutes of regulation.

No one with the Tar Heels could contend with Hibbert, who would have had a larger influence if he had not endured foul trouble most of the game.

The second foul call against Hibbert was atrocious — his block of a Danny Green shot attempt with 9:58 left in the first half.

That was not the work of Shaw.

The Hoyas don’t usually perform well with Shaw on the floor.

In fact, the Hoyas’ antipathy toward Shaw is so deep and well-known in the Big East Conference offices in Providence, R.I., that the referee is rarely permitted to call a game involving the Hoyas.

The history between the Hoyas and Shaw goes back to the days of the elder John Thompson.

Shaw made his presence felt by calling a technical foul on the Georgetown bench in the first half, specifically because someone other than coach John Thompson III was standing up in the bench area. That rule is rarely enforced.

Whether the work of Shaw or merely a statistical aberration, the Hoyas ended up with only five free throw attempts in the first half, compared to the 20 of the Tar Heels.

The discrepancy would have remained incredibly unbalanced if the Tar Heels had not sent the Hoyas to the free throw line in the waning minutes of overtime.

It took the meltdown of the Tar Heels and the steadfastness of the Hoyas to overcome the Shaw factor, real or imagined.

It had come so easily for the Tar Heels. And then, as if someone had hit a switch, everything was an ordeal to the Tar Heels.

They rushed shots. Their body language became forced. They looked as if they were trying to sink a 10-point shot, a difficult prospect considering there is not one in basketball.

As Tar Heels guard Ginyard said, “We just didn’t play as tough as we needed to down the stretch. We made some mental errors, and we just didn’t execute like we needed to late in the game.”

That was one way of putting it.

Jonathan Wallace hit a 3-pointer with 31 seconds left in regulation to tie the game, and it was all Georgetown from there.

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