There’s no best way to approach what happened to the Georgetown Hoyas in Raleigh on Sunday.
You could talk about the lockdown job the Hoyas put on perhaps the best pure scorer in college, Davidson sophomore guard Stephen Curry, for three-quarters of the contest, only to watch him explode for 21 points in the last 10 minutes and snuff out Georgetown’s bid to return to the Final Four, 74-70.
But that would be unfair to the four seniors who played their last game in grey—especially center Roy Hibbert and guard Jonathan Wallace, who have become synonymous with the program over the past four years—and who formed the class that not only resurrected the program after it was left for dead in 2004, but took it back to its place among college basketball’s nobility. To start handing out the lifetime achievement awards, however, would be wrong while the entire team and their fans still feel the sharp jab of Sunday’s loss and a season ended much too soon.
“After that buzzer went off, I’m not trying to be cliché, but four years flashed in front of my eyes,” Hibbert said. “You know, we got our first road win against Davidson, 3-4 years ago, that first Temple loss, you jump back to that Duke game, and think about the Vanderbilt game when Jeff hit that shot, all that ran through my head because four years is up now. But the most important thing is I got to be around some really good guys.”
The post-game box score painted a schizophrenic tale for the Hoyas, who shot a blazing 63.4 percent from the field while holding Davidson to just 38.6 percent, numbers pretty well in line with any game plan that Head Coach John Thompson III could have drawn up. Georgetown was undone by the familiar foe of turnovers (20, compared to Davidson’s 5), a less-then-memorable outing for Hibbert (fouled out in 16 minutes of action) and Curry’s hot hand down the stretch.
The Hoyas kept Curry locked up in the first half, holding him to 5 points on 2 for 8 shooting. In one typical possession with just under two minutes left in the first half, Curry started off in the hands of Wallace, who handed him off to Freeman as the Davidson sophomore dribbled around a pick on the perimeter. Freeman stayed glued on him for the width of the court—hands up in the air, avoiding the foul—and forced him to give up the ball, then followed him into the lane. After a slight hesitation, Curry ran Freeman into another screen, but Sapp picked him up as he headed to the corner, denying the pass. He then handed Curry back off to Wallace, who locked up the scorer and forced senior guard Jason Richards to take a highly contested shot that missed all iron and resulted in a shot clock violation.
It was Richards (20 pts), though, who kept the Wildcats alive in the first half. His timely shooting prevented the Hoyas from blowing the game wide open even as they built a double-digit lead that extended to 17 early in the second frame, and bridged the gap until Curry (30 pts) caught fire, sparked by a 4-point play with 14-and-a-half minutes left.
“Curry’s a second-half player more than anything,” sophomore guard Jeremiah Rivers said after the game. “He’s just a player period, but he’s a champion in the second half. He kind of let a few go in the second half recklessly, almost just to see, kind of get his team back, and they dropped, and from there on out he couldn’t miss. We were trying everything, I was trying my best; I didn’t know what to do against him.”
While Curry may have showed up late, Hibbert had a hard time finding his flow at all, playing only 5 minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls in the first eight minutes. Given little leeway in the post, Hibbert was philosophical about the calls, much more so than the fans and his coach.
“I need to play smarter out there,” Hibbert said after the game. “I respect the calls. You have to just keep moving on.”
“I’m not going to comment on the officiating,” Thompson said. “I was upset about more than one of them [the calls].”
Also working against the Hoyas was the hometown Carolina crowd, augmented by a substantial number of Davidson fans who made the in-state trek to Raleigh. It was the schadenfreude-driven Tar Heel faithful, waiting for their team to play Arkansas later in the afternoon but still bitter about their comeback defeat against Georgetown in the 2007 Elite Eight, who really pushed the place into a Hoya-hating frenzy in the final minutes.
“That’s the nature of our season, we’ve always played with all the odds stacked against us,” Wallace said after the game. “We got ourselves in a position to win, we just couldn’t pull it out in the end.”
The mood in the locker room afterward was one of regret, with most players—and a coach—feeling they had let down the senior class that embodied Georgetown.
“I’ve got a class that is Georgetown basketball, and they have done so much for this program,” Thompson said. “You know, I just feel like I’ve let them down … I just feel bad for my seniors.”
“It’s a hurtful feeling, like never in my life, for these seniors to leave like this,” sophomore center Vernon Macklin said.
“Life without them [the seniors] next year’s gonna be just crazy, that’s how it feels right now,” Rivers said. “How long have they been here? It hasn’t even sunk in, like it’s going to the next month.”
The seniors, though, would have none of it.
“We don’t think coach let us down,” Wallace said. “Coach did everything he could to put us into a good position so we could better ourselves … It was a struggle and we were all together.”
“I hope these guys know that this team was special, this year’s team was special more than any other year, and I’ve had so much fun this year,” Hibbert said.