Damn. Georgetown lost an absolute battle today in Madison Square Garden, outlasted by Cincinnati 72-70 in a double overtime thriller. Otto Porter and Henry Sims were the stars once again, each making last second buckets to send the game into overtime and double overtime, respectively. Sims put on a show today, battling Yancy Gates in one of the best toe-to-toe matchups of the season. The big man from Baltimore scored 22 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, dished 3 assists, and had 2 blocks. Unfortunately, his three pointer at the buzzer in the second overtime clanked off the back rim after Cashmere Wright banged home an impossible layup with 9 seconds to go.
Gates was unstoppable in the low post, absorbing contact and matching Sims play after play. Both overtimes were fantastic to watch, albeit life threatening for all Hoya brethren. Yet, it was regulation that cost the Hoyas this game. Georgetown was up 49-38 with 8:32 to go in the second half. A litany of turnovers and missed free throws allowed Cincinnati to claw back and take the lead 54-52 with 26 seconds to go in regulation. In those eight minutes and six seconds, Georgetown could only muster 1 free throw and 1 Sims made jumper. Hollis Thompson was particularly loose with the ball during that time, but no one on Georgetown stepped up. Uncharacteristic turnovers by Sims and Porter contributed, along with missed free throws that have plagued the Hoyas all season.
More sadness after The Jump (off a bridge).There are plenty of positives to take away from these two days in Madison Square Garden. One, Sims has turned himself into an absolute beast with the ability to carry Georgetown on his back for long periods of time. Two, Porter and Greg Whittington will not shy away from the bright lights of postseason tournament play. Whittington was enormous yesterday against Pittsburgh, and Porter made the most of his two days, showing the versatility and poise that we've come to expect of him throughout the year. Three, Markel Starks played very well. Undoubtedly, teams will pressure the crap out of Georgetown in the NCAA Tournament, so a good Starks is important for us for the rest of the season.
Now for the negatives. First and foremost, turnovers and free throws continue to KILL this team. The Hoyas played one of their most composed halves of the season in the first half, not turning the ball over at all. Then, it all came undone. Cincinnati increased the pressure, and we wilted. What should have been a grinding 9 point victory turned into a double overtime crusher. In addition, Starks missed two front ends of one and ones, while Sims missed two crucial free throws during the first overtime as well. All of these guys are capable free throw shooters, there is just a collective mental block that is scary this late in the season. The second biggest negative is the shrinking of Jason Clark and Holls Thompson. These guys are our two leading scorers and they cracked today in the face of adversity. Clark, in particular, never got hold of the game as it started spinning out of control late in the second half. He has been so steady throughout the year, so I expect him to learn from this for the NCAA Tournament, but it is definitely a troubling trend. Thompson, who everyone expects to go to the NBA after this season, played one of the most scared 30 minutes of basketball I've ever seen in the second half and both overtimes. He was excellent in the first half, and has been tremendous in close situations throughout the year, hitting game winning shots against Marquette and Alabama. Today was an entirely different story as Hollis committed careless turnover after careless turnover, and finished the second half 0-3 with 3 turnovers after a layup with 19:46 to go.
Beyond what the box score says, both Clark and Thompson looked afraid to take shots or touch the ball for most of the second half. Nothing epitomized this feeling better than the last possession of the game. With 9 seconds to go, Clark took too long to get into a play, didn't try to penetrate, and dished the ball off to Sims for a last ditch three point effort. I assume that a Sims three wasn't what was drawn up in the huddle, considering Sims is 2-16 from three for his collegiate career and had yet to ATTEMPT a three point shot this season.
Today's game, through regulation, felt exactly like the loss we had to Cincinnati in early January. We outshot the Bearcats in the game in January, and outshot them again today. But once again, Mick Cronin and his cronies out-toughed Georgetown. Somehow, Gates and four guards grabbed 14 offensive rebounds today. In a game that came down to one possession, that kind of defensive rebounding wasn't going to get it done. Still, after Porter's tremendously cool 8 foot jumper forced overtime, I thought we had regained momentum and would somehow prevail. Again, after Sims' incredibly deft layup with no time remaining forced a second overtime, I thought this was going to be that miracle game every fan dreams of. Alas, Cashmere Wright decided to break Georgetown's hearts again, this time with an impossible floater. Last year it was his clumsiness that broke Chris Wright's hand, effectively ending Georgetown's season. In case you haven't already picked up on this, I NEVER WANT TO SEE CASHMERE WRIGHT AGAIN.
Finally, we'll conclude with some good news. Georgetown's season is not over. The fun has only begun. We have seen this team battle back from adversity time and again this season, and I expect no different come next week when the Hoyas begin their journey in the NCAA Tournament. Strangely enough, I feel more confident now about getting our first NCAA Tournament victory in 4 years than had we won this game. The taste of this flavor of defeat will fuel a long and glorious run through March. The only thing that is depressing is knowing that the next game could be the last for this memorable Georgetown team. From China to now, this group has been so refreshing and enjoyable and I just don't want it to end. My only request to those bracket makers is to leave Cincinnati out of our region.
The NCAA Tournament is NeXt. Hoya Saxa.