It came down to one shot. The Hoyas’ most exciting and productive season in five years relied on the stroke of its fifth-year senior sharpshooter, but when Darrel Owens’ wide-open three-point shot hit back iron with seven seconds left, Georgetown’s run to the Sweet 16 turned sour. They dropped a hard-fought contest, 57-53, to No. 3 Florida in front of 22,293 at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in the Minneapolis Regional semifinal Friday night.
“The only time I was nervous was on the last play when I tripped and fell and, in my mind, I saw the guy hit the three, but luckily it came off,” Florida sophomore forward Corey Brewer said of the game’s last do-or-die play. “My heart was in my mouth.”
“That’s just the nature of athletics,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said. “We got the shot we wanted for who we wanted it and the ball didn’t go in … That’s the breaks.”
Before Owens let one fly, Brewer made the biggest play in a back-and-forth game that saw seven ties and 13 lead changes. With Georgetown (23-10) up one, 53-52, and time winding down, the Gators (30-6) set up sophomore forward Joakim Noah on the low block. Noah, who recorded his sixth double-double of the season with 15 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots, missed a turnaround lay-up, but in a scramble for the rebound, Brewer came out with the rock. He drove across the lane, got tangled up with senior forward Brandon Bowman and heaved up a prayer while falling away that somehow found the bottom of the net, just as Bowman was whistled for a foul.
With 27.5 seconds left, Brewer hit the free throw to give the Gators a 55-53 lead. The Hoyas would not score again.
“We thought we made a good defensive play,” senior guard Ashanti Cook said of Brewer’s heroics. “But he just made a tough shot. He’s a good player and that’s what good players do, they make tough shots. He did it for his team when they needed it.”
The ending was tough to swallow for Hoya fans. It ended the careers of five Georgetown seniors who helped resurrect the program back to national prominence well ahead of schedule, in Coach John Thompson III’s second season at the helm.
“You can look back and say ‘What if?’” Owens said. “I usually make those shots. It’s something that’s going to haunt me for a long time.”
“I still think we could have been a Final Four team. There is no reason to hang our heads,” he added.
Along with Owens, Bowman and Cook did their best to make sure that they wouldn’t end their careers in the twin cities. Bowman registered 10 points and seven rebounds while Cook added 12 points and three assists of his own. But it was not enough, and now the team is left only looking at the future without their 12th leading scorer (Bowman, 1,548 points) and 16th all-time leading assist man (Cook, 297).
“I think this was special for the school and for our families,” Owens said. “I think we brought a sense of pride back to the University. We fought hard all season long and this is just a glimpse of what’s to come. I think this team is going to be even better next year.”
The first half started off well for the Hoyas, looking for their first trip to the Elite Eight in a decade. They opened up a 21-12 lead with 8:40 left in the first half on a Cook driving lay-up. Florida fought back over the next four minutes with a 16-5 run highlighted by a Brewer steal, followed by a fast-break two-handed goal with 4:49 remaining. The Hoyas, however, managed to hold a 30-28 lead at the half, despite shooting 39.3 percent from the floor to the Gators’ 43.5 percent and only knocking down three of 12 attempts from long range.
Florida came roaring out of the gates in the second half, promptly going on an 8-0 run to take the lead 36-30. The Hoyas retook the lead 44-42 on a crisp backdoor cut and dunk by Bowman, with an assist from Owens, at 7:22. But the lead would change hands four more times in the final seven minutes before Brewer’s heave gave the Gators the lead for good.
The 58 points for Florida were its second-lowest total on the season, trailing only the 49 the Gators scored in their 49-47 victory over South Carolina in the SEC Championship. The loss was the second for Georgetown in games decided by four or less points, and the Hoyas’ 23.8 three-point percentage (5-for-21) was their second-worst percentage of the year.
As the Hoyas move on without their seniors, this year’s sophomore class has the postseason experience to lead Georgetown in the future. Center Roy Hibbert (10 points, seven rebounds) and forward Jeff Green (15 points, six rebounds, four assists) joined Cook and Bowman as the only Hoyas in double-figures.
“It starts now. They don’t want to have the same feeling again that we have this year,” Owens commented in the locker room after the disappointing loss.
“We came here to win. We are not satisfied with just being in the Sweet 16 or being in the NCAA Tournament,” Hibbert said. “We are going to have to work twice as hard next year.”