- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2008

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Georgetown basketball team lost to Tom O’Neill, Paul Janssen and Douglas Sirmons in the second round of the NCAA tournament at RBC Center yesterday.

The Hoyas lost to three modestly built men who exercised their right to hijack a game.

They lost because of the game-long foul trouble of Roy Hibbert and a free throw discrepancy that was facilitated by the opposition going into the bonus midway through the second half.

The Hoyas lost by a 74-70 margin, although they shot 63.4 percent and collected two more rebounds than the opposition in the absence of Hibbert.

Hibbert was limited to 16 minutes and was never allowed to exploit his six-inch height advantage.

Three of the first four foul calls made against Hibbert were highly suspect.

You see more contact in grocery aisles.

Hoyas coach John Thompson III felt the blood rushing to his head after Hibbert incurred his fourth foul with 11:37 left.

He tried to reason with the referees during the television timeout but to no avail.

He could not find a common ground with O’Neill, Janssen and Sirmons, who apparently thought they were the focal point of the proceedings.

They came out blowing their whistles and never let up. They called 24 fouls in the first half, which established an eye-glazing tone.

The television timeouts were almost entertaining in comparison.

That fouls were called against both teams ignore the elementary truism that not all fouls are equal.

One of the Hoyas’ biggest advantages was negated because of a subjective interpretation of the rules.

Thompson III refused to criticize the officiating as he tried to come to terms with the most psychologically draining loss in his four seasons at Georgetown.

He was asked to assess the quality of Hibbert’s fourth foul.

“I’m not going to comment on the officiating,” he said. “I was upset about more than one of the calls.”

He had every right to be upset with a good number of the calls.

With Hibbert reduced to being a nonfactor, it left the Hoyas trying to stay afloat on the perimeter.

They suddenly found more of their shots being contested. They suddenly found less room in their passing lanes. They suddenly found an opponent that could spread its defense.

It is not that Hibbert is a big scorer. Much of his utility is in drawing a second defender after the ball is tossed to him in the three-second lane.

Hibbert then finds either a teammate cutting to the basket or a teammate standing behind the 3-point line.

Hibbert is not the program’s all-time assist leader at the center position because of an unselfish bent.

So with Hibbert on the bench much of the game, the turnovers eventually started to accumulate on the Hoyas, and their 17-point lead early in the second half started to disappear.

The crowd started to get behind the underdog because everybody loves an underdog, even if the underdog is receiving special assistance from the three men in stripes.

And so, of course, the inevitable came to pass.

One team was living nicely at the free throw line, and Hibbert probably was on the bench thinking to himself: “I am glad the NBA does not work like this.”

Or maybe not. Hibbert appeared to have forgotten that it was his last game as a collegian at one point during the postgame dissection.

“I have to play smarter,” the senior said.

No, he just has to move to the NBA, where breathing on an opponent is not considered a foul.

Pressed on the subject of the officiating, Hibbert said: “They made the calls. I have to respect the calls.”

Alas, Hibbert resisted the urge to call for congressional hearings.

His final game ended on a loss in a 5-on-8 affair.

This is not to suggest O’Neill, Janssen and Sirmons were anti-Georgetown. They merely were suffering an obsessive-compulsive disorder with their whistles.

Theirs was a 47-foul beauty that eliminated the Hoyas.

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