COLUMBUS – After exceeding expectations all season long, third-seeded Georgetown was once again undone by a lower seeded team in the NCAA tournament by falling 66-63 to No. 11 North Carolina State on Sunday afternoon in the third-round of the Midwest region at Nationwide Arena.
Hollis Thompson led the Hoyas (24-9) with a season-high 23 points as Georgetown has now lost to lower seeded teams in its last four trips to the NCAA tournament after reaching the 2007 Final Four.
Trailing 63-61 and under 20-seconds remaining, Henry Sims received the ball in the post but kicked it out to Otto Porter (nine points, eight rebounds) who passed up an open shot to take a closer, contested pull-up jumper that bounced off the rim and into Lorenzo Brown’s control.
After both teams traded two points, Brown (12 points) split a pair of free throws to put giving Jason Clark (ten points) once last shot to tie the game but his long range attempt as time expired was well off the mark allowing North Carolina State to escape with the win.
“I thought Otto had an open look right there and didn’t want to take it,” Coach John Thompson III about that final possession.
“That’s fine. I’m comfortable with his decision.”
Georgetown’s two lone seniors – Jason Clark and Henry Sims – combined to shoot 4-of-14 from the field in the final game of their respective careers.
North Carolina State, which advanced to its first Sweet in seven seasons, took its largest lead of the game at 43-32 after C.J. Leslie put back his missed free throw with 14:34 remaining in the game. It marked a 21-point turnaround as the Wolfpack (24-12) had trailed 25-15 with five minutes before halftime.
But that’s when Thompson attempted to bring the Hoyas back, largely all by himself offensively.
The junior forward scored nine straight and 12 of the next 15 points to narrow the Georgetown deficit to three at 50-47 with 8:21 remaining.
Over the next few minutes Georgetown missed four contested three-pointers by four different players – Markel Starks, Hollis Thompson, Greg Whittington, and Otto Porter. For the game the Hoyas shot just 8-of-25 from deep, their most attempts in a game since November 14 against UNC-Greensboro.
Scott Wood, one of three Wolfpack players with 14 points, hit his fourth three-pointer of the afternoon a few minutes later to once again push the lead back to seven at 57-50.
Henry Sims, who played just six minutes in the first half after being called for two offensive fouls, scored four consecutive points in the final minute to bring Georgetown to within one at 62-61.
Losing the final game of the season is never easy on a coach or the players, especially the seniors, but Coach Thompson III seemed especially disappointed after his team, which was picked to finish 10th in the conference, experienced so much regular season success but failed to advance to next weekend’s Midwest Regional.
“Before we get to talking about specifics or about this game, I just want to say I don’t know that I’ve ever been as proud to be associated with a group of men, with a team as much as I am with this team this year,” Thompson III said immediately following the loss.
Jason Clark earned First team All-Big East honors while fellow senior Henry Sims earned his way onto the Third team during a season where they had to integrate four freshman into the rotation.
Sunday’s season finale seemed to get away from Georgetown during the final five minutes of the first half with the Hoyas up 25-15 despite Henry Sims being on the bench with two fouls.
North Carolina State scored 12 straight points and finished the half on a 15-2 run to take a 30-27 lead into the break.
The Wolfpack’s 41-33 advantage in rebounds including nine more on the offensive glass allowed North Carolina State to control clock in the second half during the failed Hoyas comeback bid.
Georgetown has now lost its last four NCAA tournament games when trailing at the half going back to the 2007 Final Four loss to Ohio State in Atlanta.
Otto Porter, who won three state high school state championships in Missouri meaning he hadn’t lost the final game of his season in quite a long time, tried to put the season in perspective after the loss.
“We had a good run,” Porter said.
“I really believe in our team. I wish [the seniors] had one more year, but we’re going to continue to keep going.”