When you look at the best days of your life, you probably include your birth, marriage, and birth of your children along with a few other days. For me, this was one of those days. Everything just went right. Georgetown pulled off a phenomenal and resounding upset of #4 Villanova to take first place in the Big East, winning 78-58 in front of a packed and raucous Verizon Center. I gotta say, it was a good day.
I had a substantial number of enjoyable but required commitments on campus that kept me from getting to the Phone Booth until around 6, which would be two hours before the doors opened but too late to guarantee my first row behind-the-basket seat. I knew this in advance, so I pleaded on Twitter to see if anyone could save me my seat on this one occasion. Fortunately Hoyas Director of Marketing Chris Grosse (major shoutout to him!) responded and promised to reserve my usual seat, having seen me at many a Hoyas game over the past year.
Considering this is the one year anniversary of a formerly quiet and unassuming Hoyas fan becoming the "Gyration Master," this was quite the possible present. When I made it in, lo and behold, there was a seat with my name on it. I felt like a kid on Christmas. Compounding the effect was what was going on behind me. It was 40 minutes before the game and the student section was filled all the way back on both sides. After so many games of half-empty arenas and only a handful of dedicated fans cheering, our army of fans had arrived. (Corrected to honor the fact that even when the arena was mostly empty, I was not alone! Thanks to the comment section for checking my ego.) And if that wasn't enough, shortly before game time, I saw ESPN's John Saunders walking in front of me, and even got him to snap a picture with me.
And by the time tip-off rolled around, everyone was ready. I went back to the old days because my usual Pope Francis head was not present. Appropriately enough, Hoya Blue still had the head of Barney the Dinosaur, my original "Big Head." Considering this was the one-year anniversary game, I was ready even if I had Barney instead. They were armed with their cool Jordan T-shirts, their copies of the Hoya that read simply, "Beat Nova," and they came prepared to cheer. The Hoyas fed off the energy, starting with their 11-4 run to start the game. Nova went on a quick 7-2 run to retaliate, but from there, it was all Hoyas. Georgetown went on a 29-10 run thanks to 65% shooting in the first half. Georgetown played positively Spurs-esque basketball on offense in the first half, finding open shooters, hitting outside shots, and forcing the ball inside at will. The defense also helped, as Villanova had very few open 3-point opportunities in the first half.
The second half saw Villanova claw back slowly. I was getting worried that my perfect day might be spoiled. The referees were calling everything against Georgetown (although they also called everything against Villanova too.) I only saw the one side, however, and proceeded to repeatedly berate the referees. I may or may not have tried to link the questionable officiating with the way in which Villanova won their 1985 national championship, but I'll keep that deliberately ambiguous. I also heckled Villanova guard Dylan Ennis about his experience at the All Seasons Diner in Eatontown, NJ. I went there with my family for a Sunday brunch last summer and he was waiting for a table on the bench across from me. I asked him if he enjoyed his meal and if the girl he had been with that day was his girlfriend. Since this is also still "technically" a lunch blog, I feel obliged to add that it's quite a good diner.
Villanova may have scared me when they pulled within 12 around the under-8 timeout, but the Hoyas kept up their guard. The student section, I like to think, helped. The noise was strong all game. We brought the Hoya Saxa chant, We Are Georgetown as well, and one guy who I waited in line with helped the band-side student section synchronize movement to distract Villanova's free throws in the second half. The Wildcats missed their first three after that side debuted this movement. Despite a very weirdly timed game, Georgetown students turned out in droves and made their mark on this game, providing a huge and occasionally even deafening home court advantage.
As for the game in general, Isaac Copeland impressed me even more than he did in Saturday's game against Butler. Copeland tied for the team lead in points with 17 and also grabbed 6 rebounds. Despite foul trouble, Joshua Smith did his thing down low and forced his way to 9 points and 8 rebounds. Jabril Trawick also still scored 10 points despite losing many minutes in the second half to an eye injury. And I have to say, Paul White's shooting stroke is there. It always looked nice, but he didn't necessarily make them too much. Today, he really seemed to have it, took the right shots, and because of that, ended up scoring 6 of his 9 points by shooting 2-3 from downtown.
In the last few minutes of the game, the Hoyas student section did its thing, chanting "left-right" for Villanova big man Daniel Ochefu's steps as he fouled out, expressing their desire for guard David Allen to see minutes, and singing "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" to Villanova. But with about 40 seconds to go I sensed a swarm of people behind me. They were going to storm the court. The security guards were telling us, "If you go on the court, you'll be locked up" and as the time ticked away, Jabril Trawick led the Hoyas players in trying to waive us off. I'd love to have honored the Hoyas' request, but up front I had no choice.
I wasn't sure, but I knew in my mind that I should bring everything I own with me. It was the reaction I assume one would have if there is a fire in a house. You have 30 seconds, get your stuff, and get going. If the people behind me were going, I had to go. When the buzzer sounded, my coat was on, my Barney head, cool Jordan shirt, Stonewalls scarf, and "Seat Reserved for Gyration Master" sign were all in hand, and I was ready for anything. At first it looked like no one would storm, but the band-side student section made it onto the court. After that, people from our side rushed. I could feel the avalanche of students. I had to go, lest I be trampled to death.
I made it to center court and celebrated with friends and strangers alike. I don't know if I would have done it if I had a choice, but I made the most of the option I was forced into. We hopped up and down on top of the "G" at mid-court. It was pure pandemonium and euphoria. The Barney head was nearly crushed in half, but survived. I lost my shirt and my scarf but didn't even care. I lost the "reserved' sign at first, but found it later in the wreckage (and I mean wreckage. I'm glad I didn't leave my stuff under my seat, because what had been my seat was trampled.) I went to the scorer's table and saw "Voice of the Hoyas" Rich Chvotkin wrapping up. He and his stat guy pointed left, potentially worried I would try to leap the table. But I specifically made this detour to run by and shout "Hoyas Win! Hoyas Win! Hoyas Win!" to honor Georgetown's longtime radio voice. Both Chvotkin and his stat guy smiled. And before I ran off the court to catch one of the last Metros back to Georgetown, I took a celebratory picture with some random people.
Even the ride back was crazy. People were spontaneously breaking out into song, performing everything from Biz Markie's "Just a Friend" to "There Goes Old Georgetown." This was a day full of chaos, pandemonium, and pure joy. I even survived in one piece despite fighting through a court storming. Hopefully no students were harmed in the celebration. But wherever you are, I just genuinely wish that the Hoyas win brought you the same "kid on Christmas" joy that it brought me. This is why we're all fans.
Hoya Saxa and Georgetown Forever! Let's go beat Xavier next week!