NCAA men's tournament

Hoyas' time again

Georgetown gets OT win, 1st Final Four since 1985

Georgetown 96 North Carolina 84

March 26, 2007|By Brian Hamilton | Brian Hamilton,Chicago Tribune

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Two fathers watched from opposite sides of the court as the present slowly and fantastically washed over the past.

On one side, Patrick Ewing stood, the gold dog tags around his neck dancing with every fist pump, clap and nod of his head. The night before, he text-messaged advice to his son, a current Georgetown forward readying for an East Regional final: Play with confidence. Rebound. Believe.

On the other side, John Thompson II hunched over press row, trying to discharge his radio duties while struck virtually mute by what he was seeing. The night before, he and son John Thompson III, Georgetown coaches then and now, shared chicken wings and pizza and basketball parley in Pops' hotel room.

For two fathers, it couldn't get much better.

And then it did.

Georgetown is headed to its first Final Four in a generation, after a 96-84 victory over top-seeded North Carolina in overtime last night at Continental Airlines Arena, coming back from a 10-point second-half deficit and exorcising the poltergeists lingering from the legendary 1982 NCAA tournament title-game loss to the Tar Heels.

"Eighty-two isn't even in my mind," said the elder Ewing, a Hoyas freshman then. "This is a new day. A new era."

It began to dawn with seven minutes to play yesterday, the No. 2 seed Hoyas (30-6) trailing, 75-65. At that point North Carolina (31-7) self-destructed, beginning a stretch in which it missed 21 of 22 shots.

Meanwhile, Georgetown built a crescendo. It scored seven straight points to make it a game. A jumper by guard Jonathan Wallace finally brought the Hoyas even at 81 with 31 seconds left.

That led to overtime, which Georgetown christened with a 14-0 run. And that led to beaming ex-Hoyas like Ewing, Thompson and Jerome Williams stalking the court as the nets came down, celebrating the program's first Final Four since 1985, a scene that felt like a revival, in every sense.

"It's excitement you have no words for," said forward Jeff Green, who led Georgetown with 22 points and nine rebounds. "Just seeing all those guys who have been in this position before, seeing them show support for us, and having this Georgetown tradition come back to life - it's a great feeling. It's one you can't describe."

Similarly at a loss were the Tar Heels, whose potent offense thoroughly derailed.

Tyler Hansbrough (26 points, 11 rebounds) notched the only basket for North Carolina between the 10-minute mark of the second half and the seven-second mark of overtime.

"You've got to get better shots than the other team does, and hopefully more of them," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "Down the stretch, they got better shots than we did."

The Hoyas also got five starters in double figures for the first time this season. They shot 57.6 percent and won their third straight game via comeback. All of it lent more than a touch of destiny to the proceedings.

"That's what we've grown into," Thompson III said. "There's been very few times where we haven't felt good about where we are, and felt that we knew what we could do collectively to figure out how to win."

Still in the crowd afterward, surrounded by throaty revelers, Patrick Ewing Sr. was asked if he might contact an old foil: The freshman who hit the game-winner in the 1982 title game.

He was a fellow often referred to then as "Mike" Jordan. And he might be interested to know a 25-year itch had been, mercifully and marvelously, scratched.

"I already called him," Ewing said, smiling broadly. "He hasn't called me back yet."

Brian Hamilton writes for the Chicago Tribune.

Looking ahead

Final Four

Saturday (at Atlanta)

Ohio State vs. Georgetown, 6:07 p.m. Line: Pick 'em

Florida vs. UCLA, 8:47 p.m. (approximate) Line: Florida by 3

(Both games on chs. 13, 9)

Inside

Paul McMullen analyzes the Final Four field. PG 5D

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