NIT Win the Most Memorable for this Long-Time Fan

By John Nagle For all 22 years of my life, I have been a Georgetown basketball fan. I have watched every possible game in that span, and there are certainly some memorable moments. I have witnessed a national championship, several Big East championships, NCAA tournament buzzer beaters and thrilling victories over top-ranked opponents.

None of it was as fun or exciting to watch as Wednesday night’s triple-overtime NIT first-round win over the University of Virginia. The only way it could have been better is if I had been there in person. As it was, I was perched on the edge of my couch for the better part of two hours, hugging my roommate when it was all over and heading straight for The Tombs.

I have been one of this team’s most vocal critics all season, and I don’t take back anything I have written. This year has been a disappointment, but the end is starting to make up for that. Right now, I feel like I can be proud of my team and my school, and it does not matter that this is the NIT.

Consider what they had going against them: Ruben Boumtje-Boumjte, the starting center and defensive stopper was in street clothes. Freshman forward and occasional starter Victor Samnick was also unavailable (a fact the ESPN crew failed to notice). Virginia was ticked off, feeling screwed out of a NCAA bid. And the game was being played in a packed University Hall, one of the toughest away games in the ACC.

The odds did not improve as the game progressed. Kevin Braswell, he of the 40 points, could not make a bucket in the first half and was throwing the ball away. No one could seem to find Lee Scruggs, fresh off the Big East all-tournament team, in an advantageous position to score. Back-up center Jameel Watkins, picked up two fouls quickly and was a non-entity with foul trouble throughout the game. The zone defense seemed to forget that the Cavs were allowed to score in the paint and refused to guard the baseline. And for some reason, the ESPN camera crew decided we needed an extreme close-up of Hoya staff writer Sean P. Flynn.

Yet the Hoyas somehow were hanging in the game. Even though they were down nine at the half, I still thought they could do it if everyone came out and played the second half like they did against Syracuse.

Of course, Georgetown did not come out hot in the second half. Virginia quickly had the lead at 15, and I was ready to turn off the television and call it a season. Then something unbelievable happened.

Braswell and Scruggs took over and led a 17-2 run to tie the score. I did not think this team was capable of that sort of scoring run, certainly not as quickly as they did or against a quality opponent like Virginia. Braswell showed an intensity and desire to win that I have not seen all year.

What happened from that point on was the greatest display of guts I have ever seen from a Georgetown basketball team. Before the end of regulation, Watkins, Demetrius Hunter, and Courtland Freeman had all fouled out, leaving the Hoyas with only two players over 6-foot-5. Somehow they managed to get to overtime behind clutch shots from the unlikely sources of Nat Burton and Anthony Perry.

In overtime, Scruggs could hardly run down the court due to cramps caused by dehydration in the sweltering gym, but he stayed in the game to grab key rebounds, block a few shots and even take a charge although he was no longer a factor on offense. The image of him limping off the floor at every time out was symbolic of the effort everyone on the floor was giving. The combination of his energy and skills makes him my preseason favorite for next year’s Big East player of the year.

Braswell was fire and ice combined, sinking clutch free throws where he had struggled, trading threes with Perry in one amazing sequence at the end of the second overtime and basically willing the team to victory. He might not be a pure point guard, but he is a pure basketball player when he puts his mind to it.

Then there were the new heroes. Senior co-captain Rhese Gibson, largely unused for most of the season, was a monster on the boards, pulling down 13 rebounds seemingly all in overtime. When he drained an 18-footer in one of the overtimes, I can’t even remember which, I knew we could not lose the game. Congratulations, Rhese, you earned another game in a Georgetown uniform.

Finally, there was Gharun Hester. The junior walk-on is no stranger to heroics, but they had all previously come while wearing shoulder pads as a record-setting receiver on the football team. He won my respect by pulling down 10 rebounds and playing tough defense down low despite standing only 6-foot-4. He won my unconditional love when he nailed a three-pointer from the corner with a sweet left-handed stroke to put the Hoyas in the lead for good. It was then that I had a “special moment” with my roommate.

So there it was, the most fun I have had watching a basketball game in my life. Thank you to the team for letting me have one more good memory at Georgetown. Now let’s keep it going and win this thing. At this point, I will believe anything can happen.

Related Links

 First Round NIT Game Recap

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