"I have to leave at 8:35, no matter what," I said to myself Tuesday morning as I planned out my busy Tuesday evening.
And at 8:35, I left the Verizon Center. The Hoyas had fought back from down 70-59 with 2:34 to go and made it a 71-66 game when my phone buzzed to tell me that my Uber had arrived. I had no choice. I have one leadership position on campus and it's with the Quiz Bowl club. We had a huge practice 25 minutes later with new members and with a tournament coming up on Saturday. I had to leave at 8:35. "Quiz Bowl could not wait," I thought. "I'm not quitting. I just have to leave. Anyway the Hoyas will fight back too little too late and come up just short."
As a precautionary measure, I had my Uber driver turn on the game. He had his own earphones on, but as the game wound down, I startled him a couple of times with some fist pumps, including when Creighton's Khyri Thomas missed two free throws and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera made two free throws of his own to seal the deal for the Hoyas. When James Milliken missed his shot at the buzzer, I shouted along with Hoyas radio man Rich Chvotkin and his near-record 19 "Hoyas Win" shouts! (Seriously, go back and watch this video of him making the radio call. It'll make your day, I promise!) The driver proceeded to turn to me with a smile on his face and asked "Did the Hoyas win?" I couldn't help but break out into a smile.
But there was a lot more that happened in this one to get to this point. In a moment of potential foreshadowing during warm-ups, an errant Creighton shot ended up in the seats. I retrieved the ball and passed it to a Creighton player. I looked carefully at the back of his warmup suit, and I saw #2 on the back. If you're a believer in the "Space Jam" idea that talent can be passed through basketballs, I might've passed my own lack of any semblance of free throw shooting skill to Khyri Thomas for those key late-game free throws.
Also prescient was the pre-game conversation I had with a professor who I know from my front desk job in the Theology Department who was also in attendance. He told me he had a "good feeling" about the game and also mentioned that he had been browsing HoyaTalk and that it was getting on his nerves a bit. I recommended he replace it with Casual Hoya and he seemed receptive to the idea, so he may be bringing some of his prophecies to us in the near future.
As for the actual game, the first half featured a series of ups and downs. The Hoyas started out pushing the ball down low, as center Bradley Hayes scored four of the Hoyas' first six points. The Bluejays were able to run out to an early advantage by relying on point guard Maurice Watson Jr. to drive into the lane and facilitate their offense. The Jays also succeeded in hauling in offensive rebounds and took advantage of second chance scoring opportunities.
The Hoyas had a burst of momentum into the under-8 timeout of the first half as DSR connected from behind the arc and then Isaac Copeland converted a three-point play to give the Hoyas a 20-18 lead. (Extra shoutout to Isaac for leading the way on the glass with 10 rebounds.) Around this time, Creighton guard Tyler Clement was in for his two minutes and missed a free throw, bowing to the horror of Justice Antonin Scalia's constitutional originalism. The Hoyas stretched their lead to 24-21 at the 6:30 mark, but Creighton went on a 7-0 run. Georgetown still fought back to have a one point lead at the half thanks to an 8-0 run, fueled by six points from Trey Mourning, who stepped in when both Hayes and Jessie Govan entered foul trouble.
In the second half, the Hoyas struck early with a four-point play from Marcus Derrickson, who totaled 10 points in 23 minutes off the bench, but Creighton struck back with a 9-0 run keyed by five points from forward Toby Hegner. When LJ Peak brought the Hoyas back to within three after a slam dunk plus a free throw, the crowd cheered wildly.
Shortly following Peak's slam-and-one, however, came a two possession sequence leading to the under-8 second-half TV timeout that featured perhaps the worst officiating I have ever seen. I thought I had renounced my referee-bashing ways, but this was too bad for me to believe. These calls seemed like they came out of a pro wrestling match. After DSR missed a three-point attempt, Jessie Govan went up for a rebound, was fouled over-the-back, and no call came. Creighton recovered the rebound and rushed the ball up court. After a missed shot, Govan hauled in a rebound and was whacked by Creighton's Cole Huff. The referees blew a whistle for a foul on Govan.
The crowd erupted. I erupted. Even Coach John Thompson III erupted. No one could believe that the call went against Govan and resulted in his fouling out. The boos continued through and well beyond the TV timeout, and there were around 10 minutes worth of booing and obscenities flying in the direction of the referees. The students unleashed a few chants of "These refs suck" and barely even stopped their booing for the cheerleaders and the Pep Band. According to one of my fellow fans, somebody even shouted that Creighton's redheaded center Geoffrey Groselle "paid off the refs with his pot of gold."
As the second half wound down, the game seemed to be slipping away. The Hoyas defense failed to prevent Creighton's three-point attempts, but the game stayed relatively close as Creighton consistently missed, totaling a 19% performance from behind the arc. With 2:30 to go and the Hoyas down 70-59, I worked my way up the steps.
As I waited at the top of section 106, Casual headband still on, for my ride back to campus, I saw the Hoyas slowly claw back from the 11 point deficit they had when I left my seat. Riyan Williams drew a foul and made a free throw. DSR made a layup and then two more free throws after a foul for four of his 19 points. The crowd was slowly getting louder, willing the team on in their desperate eleventh-hour push. But my proverbial chariot awaited. I had to go to my meeting and I couldn't let my chariot turn into a pumpkin. Anyway the referees had made so many egregiously bad calls against the Hoyas that it was as if I had fouled out. Too many games have seen the Hoyas try to fight back and come up short. And it seemed like the Hoyas had an even tougher battle, since they might as well have been playing 5-on-8 considering the abysmal officiating. This would be just like all the others, barring a miracle.
But that miracle happened. It was a 15-3 run in the final 2:30, after I left my seat. That miracle run saved the day and may yet have saved the Georgetown Hoyas' season. It's a miracle that serves as a reminder: don't leave early. That applies to the season at large too. Don't abandon hope just yet. Miracles can (and do) happen.
Hoya Saxa! Beat Providence!