At the start of Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Vanderbilt, Georgetown came out wearing new shoes. Delivered to the team on Tuesday following their defeat of Boston College in the round of 32, Jordan XX2s are new Nikes that are blue at the soles and fade up to light gray at the laces.
The new sneakers look good, but are apparently bad luck.
In the first half, with all five starters wearing the new Jordans, Georgetown shot just 33.3 percent from the field. The Hoyas went into halftime down eight against the Commodores, 32-24, the second largest halftime deficit the team had faced all season.
With the season on the line, something had to change. The team decided on the shoes.
“These were just the new shoes that came in,” sophomore guard Jessie Sapp said after the game. “We were liking them in practice, but as the game started going on we were like, man, we need to change something – our shoes, our attitude. But our attitude wasn’t bad, so we just came up with the shoes and it worked.”
There was never a formal decision to change footwear, Sapp said, but when juniors guard Jonathan Wallace and center Roy Hibbert went into the locker room and made the change, the rest of the team just followed their lead.
“I know I was the first person to change,” Wallace, who was held scoreless in the first half, said. “I know I was and some of the guys looked at that and followed.”
Junior forward Jeff Green, who hit the game-winning shot for the Hoyas with 2.5 seconds remaining in the game, said he was sitting next to Hibbert and just copied him.
“It’s a team thing. Team unity,” he said, laughing. Every starter except freshman forward DaJuan Summers made the adjustment. “Actually, I was sitting next to Roy and I saw him changing his. He slipped a few times and I slipped a few times, so I was like, I might as well change mine. I didn’t want to be the odd character out there.”
For Wallace, it was just about going back to what got the team this far in the first place.
“I had to get back to whatever felt best,” Wallace said. “You want to go with what got you here, so I kind of got away from that early on, but I stuck with it in the second half and – I don’t want to say the shoes caused anything, but hey, whatever works, it worked.”
With the old shoes laced back up tight, the Hoyas started to look more like their old selves. The team shot 53.1 percent from the floor and played the stifling defense that has come to define the team this year, holding Vanderbilt to just 36 percent shooting and 3-for-12 from behind the arc.
Wallace had eight second-half points, while Green picked up 11 and Hibbert scored 12 after the break to advance the Hoyas to their first Elite Eight since Allen Iverson called the Hilltop home.
“We didn’t want to come out as a new team,” Sapp said, summing up the shoe change. “That’s what it symbolized to us. We wanted to be our old selves, so we put on our old shoes and that’s when we started playing our old Georgetown basketball. It was symbolic.”
On Saturday, as the Hoyas prepared to take on North Carolina, Wallace, Green, Sapp and Hibbert were all back to their old kicks. Only Summers – who wore his new Nikes throughout the win over Vanderbilt and scored 15 points in them – was still in the new shoes. Sapp said Summers is still trying to convince him to give the new shoes another try, but Sapp is doubtful.
“We’ll talk about it tonight,” he said, “but I think I’ll stick with these.”