After 96-plus hours of feverish cheering from the pundits, bloggers, and every other talking head who wanted to see 3s rain on our beloved Hoyas, Georgetown came out Thursday night and took care of business, beating pre-annointed Cinderella Eastern Washington, 84-74. The win was uneven but also indescribably beautiful for a fan base that has weathered storm after storm over the past several NCAA Tournaments. That beauty was encapsulated in an extended, cathartic run that saw the Hoyas go from seemingly teetering on the brink of disaster to blowing out the upstart Eagles. Georgetown advances to face a beast of an opponent in #5-seeded Utah Saturday night.
Georgetown's opening-round win over the Eagles was a true team effort. Let's get this out of the way, first--things were looking bad early, eerily familiarly bad. Hoya big men Joshua Smith and Mikael Hopkins each picked up two early fouls, mostly thanks to EWU big man Jenky Vois, and the Eagles had built a 7-point lead on hot early shooting and crisp ball movement.
To the rescue, of course, came Bradley Rutherford B. Hayes. The long-maligned and longer-benched big man came out of nowhere to score 8 points and grab 6 rebounds, all before the half. That is not a typo (well, except for Hayes' middle name).
Improbably, this was a winning strategy. The junior big man dominated the undersized Eagle front line, grabbing four offensive rebounds and ensuring that Georgetown kept pace with an Eastern Washington rotation that in one stretch scored four straight baskets. Freshman Tre Campbell got in no the fun, hitting a pair of threes to match the Eagles' long-distance sniping, and senior forward Aaron Bowen scored in a variety of ways while also bothering EWU star Tyler Harvey on defense.
While the individual contributors deserve praise, the real story was Georgetown's collective, not-again intensity that permeated the team, the crowd, and everyone watching at home. The dread at Hopkins' second foul quickly turned into passion, perhaps best exemplified by Jabril Trawick's sorta-kinda shove on Harvey after the Eagle star guard traveled and fell to the ground. Questionable though Trawick's near-flagrant may have been, the energy it exemplified was exactly what Georgetown needed to dramatically shake off the heavy yoke of postseason disappointments gone by.
And holy crap did the Hoyas shed themselves of that burden. Georgetown rattled off an extended, dominant run during which it completely shut down the vaunted Eastern Washington offense. The Eagle attack, so reliant on the three-pointer and so prolific in all the prognostications, managed just 11 points across 14 minutes of game action despite the game's fast pace. The Eagles just weren't ready for the Hoyas' perimeter length, which ensured that every three-pointer was taken with a hand in the face and every post-up was in a tight window. Frustrated by the lack of space, Eastern Washington began pulling up earlier and farther out, jacking up shots from near half court.
At the same time, the Hoyas were on fire offensively, pouring in 41 points in the same 14-minute stretch. They were unconscious from three-point range, where solid ball-movement and non-existent defense left them with all the time in the world. Campbell, Paul White, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, and Trawick all got in on the action, as the Hoyas made 11 of 23 from 3 on the evening. Georgetown also pressed its advantage inside, as one Hoya after another got points at the rim.
Once the Hoyas got up 23, predictably, things got dicey. Eastern Washington head man, Nation's Leading Scorer, and One Shining Moment Star-in-Waiting Harvey started to go to work from the perimeter while Jois got loose inside the arc, using his array of fakes and neck-breaking, ref-baiting head shakes to score near the basket. The Eagles brought a token press that produced far too many turnovers and shrunk the Hoyas' lead accordingly.
And yet, the game wasn't in danger down the stretch. Eastern Washington was forced to foul early and often and, except for some shaky misses from DSR, Georgeown only wavered a little bit. The final, double-digit margin was secured by a Jabril Trawick dunk, an emphatic counterpoint to EWU coach Jim Hayford's bold prediction the day before that the Eagles would win.
In all, this was a bizarre, exciting, maddening, and redemptive game for Georgetown. Early, things looked bleak, as the Hoya big men racked up fouls and the Eagle shooters connected from the perimeter. A couple of Jois dunks stirred up unpleasant echoes. But while the deficit only deepened in years past, improbable Hoya role players brought Georgeown back into the game and a team-wide commitment to defense and energy spurred a dominating and impressive stretch of play. Georgetown executed its game plan well, if not quite perfectly, challenging EWU's perimeter shooters on defense and attacking the rim and hunting open shots on offense.
There's little time to savor Georgeown's win, as the Hoyas have to prepare for an oversized and skilled Utah squad. But Thursday night, we won, and that's all that matters. Hoya freaking Saxa.