- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2007

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Lazarus was wearing blue and gray yesterday.

From doom’s door to the Final Four, Georgetown rallied to upset North Carolina 96-84 in overtime and earn the school’s first trip to the national semifinals since 1985.

For more than 33 minutes at Continental Airlines Arena, East Region giant North Carolina played its favored uptempo pace, dominated Georgetown in rebounding and built a double-digit lead. But something strange happened during the Tar Heels’ stroll toward Atlanta and a record 17th appearance in the Final Four.

North Carolina stumbled, settling for questionable shots. Georgetown surged, forcing overtime on a clutch 3-pointer from junior point guard Jonathan Wallace. Then the Hoyas simply broke away, scoring the first 14 points of the extra session.

The Hoyas (30-6) complete a Final Four also featuring defending national champion Florida, Greg Oden-led Ohio State and the brilliant backcourt of UCLA. Georgetown will face Ohio State in the early game Saturday for a chance to play for its second basketball title in school history (1984).

“It feels good. It’s real special,” said Georgetown forward Jeff Green, who had 22 points and nine rebounds and was named the region’s most outstanding player. “We just never let up out there. There’s no quit in Georgetown, man. We never stopped believing. And once we got them to overtime, the dam just broke.”

When the Hoyas trailed the fresher, deeper Tar Heels 75-65 with 7:19 remaining, Georgetown didn’t seem to have much of a chance. Coach John Thompson III’s frontcourt had been stretched thin by North Carolina’s deep and athletic roster.

Though Georgetown had contained North Carolina freshman Ty Lawson (five points, five turnovers) and coach Roy Williams’ signature fastbreak offense, the Tar Heels’ post players kept pummeling the Hoyas inside. North Carolina sophomore center Tyler Hansbrough (26 points, 11 rebounds) looked unstoppable, making a basket or a visit to the foul line each time he touched the ball. On the rare occasion the Tar Heels missed, Brandan Wright and Deon Thompson (14 points each) were there for deflating putbacks.

Early in the second half, North Carolina held a staggering 33-17 rebounding advantage and had 20 second-chance points to Georgetown’s four. Thompson’s troops looked tired. Half of his frontcourt was saddled with foul trouble as juniors Roy Hibbert (13 point, 11 rebounds, six blocks) and Patrick Ewing Jr. took turns on the bench. Georgetown’s most successful season in more than a decade looked one North Carolina minispurt from an end.

That spurt never came.

After taking its 75-65 lead, North Carolina scored just nine points over the final 12:19, missing 20 of 22 shots — many of them contested, most ill-advised — to fold in a fashion that won’t be soon forgotten in Chapel Hill.

“It just didn’t go in the hole late in the game,” said Hansbrough, an All-American who had just one field goal over the game’s final 15 minutes.

While North Carolina largely ignored Hansbrough and instead opted for shots from the perimeter in the final minutes, Georgetown patiently chipped away at the lead by using an efficient offense. Georgetown shot 57.6 percent, the second-best performance allowed by North Carolina this season. The Hoyas closed with a fury fittingly balanced among Green, Hibbert, Wallace (19 points, seven assists) and sophomore guard Jessie Sapp (15 points, eight assists) to excite the partisan Georgetown crowd.

“Our offense was solid the entire game, but we weren’t getting stops,” Hibbert said. “They were killing us with rebounds and second-chance points. Once that started to turn, the crowd felt it, we felt it and momentum just did a complete 180-degree turn.”

The Hoyas completed the comeback on Wallace’s 3-pointer with 31.2 seconds remaining in regulation, dodged a possible game-winning 3 from North Carolina’s Wayne Ellington one possession later and headed to overtime with all the confidence.

The overtime period was pure Georgetown. The Hoyas scored on their first five possessions, taking their first lead since 22-20 on the last of many backdoor cuts. Georgetown’s Princeton-style offense clicked seamlessly — prompting one North Carolina player to bemoan its “perfection” — while the Hoyas completely stopped North Carolina on the other.

Hansbrough, finally incorporated back into the North Carolina offense, took the first three Tar Heels shots of overtime and had each blocked in increasingly humiliating fashion. The last, blocked in tandem by Hibbert and Summers, caused Hansbrough to stumble, and he was immediately whistled for traveling.

By the time Georgetown freshman forward DaJuan Summers (20 points) completed a 14-0 run for the Hoyas on a dunk in transition with 20 seconds remaining in the overtime, Georgetown held an 95-81 lead and Tar Heels fans already were halfway to the parking lot.

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