Georgetown Shines in Postseason Conference Action

Huskies Stop Hoyas in Semis By Sean P. Flynn Hoya Staff Writer

NEW YORK, March 10 – Georgetown entered the Big East Tournament questionable for a bid into the National Invitation Tournament. The Hoyas left Madison Square Garden answering questions about a potential NCAA bid.

After an exciting three days of games at the annual league tourney, Georgetown made a name for itself as the Cinderella of a tournament where upsets rarely happen.

After a buzzer-beating 70-67 win over West Virginia in the March 8 first-round game, No. 9 seed Georgetown shocked the Big Apple the next day with an impressive 76-72 victory over top-seeded Syracuse. Georgetown bowed out Friday to No. 4 seed Connecticut, 70-55, but the Hoyas had left their imprint on the tournament.

“We had a good run,” Head Coach Craig Esherick said. “Nobody thought we were going to beat Syracuse. A lot of people probably didn’t think we were going to beat West Virginia when they found out Ruben [Boumtje-Boumtje, who sat out with an injured foot] wasn’t going to play. Nobody gave us a chance to play Connecticut close.”

While the Hoyas did not get far enough to merit an NCAA berth, the spectacular run, especially the win against Syracuse, completely changed the tone of a season that seemed like yet another disappointing year of mediocrity. The nationally-televised tournament served as coming-out party for the Hoyas.

On the floor, sophomore guard Kevin Braswell was magnificent, scoring 19 points and the game-winner against West Virginia and 20 points against Syracuse in a game where he was nearly unstoppable.

Finally, Connecticut shut down Braswell with constant double-teaming, but his mark had been made and Braswell was being mentioned in the same light as All-Big East point guards Erick Barkley and Kahlid El-Amin.

Braswell’s coming of age could be attributed to a meeting Esherick had with Braswell the night before the West Virginia game.

“We talked about the role of the point guard and we talked about the way he’s played during the course of the season, the games where I thought he’s played well and the games where I thought he did not play well,” Esherick said. “Kevin came out and did everything and more that I had asked of him.”

The only Hoya to make the all-tournament team was junior forward Lee Scruggs, who wowed the crowd with a dazzling array of offensive plays, from a Jordan-esque dunk to falling three-pointers, from layups to spin moves. Against Connecticut, Scruggs single-handedly kept Georgetown in the game with his amazing play.

“He’s 6-11 with a fade-away,” UConn Head Coach Jim Calhoun said. “That’s nearly impossible to find. He’s a terrific basketball player.”

While Boumtje-Boumtje sat out the West Virginia game and did not put up great stats, he had one of the tournament’s most memorable plays – a spin move and a tremendous one-handed dunk that, for many observers, evoked memories of Georgetown’s famous big-man tradition of Ewing, Mourning and Mutumbo.

The most important display may have been for Esherick, though, who has spent much of the last two seasons living in the shadow of John Thompson, the Hall of Fame coach whom he replaced. At the Syracuse game, Esherick had his team well prepared, and by the second half, the Hoyas were in control with a sensible game plan and a substitution pattern – often the subject of criticism toward Esherick – that worked.

The most interesting result of the week, though, was the change in mood about Georgetown hoops. The Big East chapter of the Hoyas’ story changed the whole perception of a season that held far more disappointing losses than wins, including a disappointing, regular-season-ending, 77-54 loss to Notre Dame at home March 4.

But by March 9, the Hoyas were once again the team to talk about in the Big East.

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