Hoyas Shoot Themselves Out of NIT
By Sean P. Flynn Hoya Staff Writer
Georgetown’s roller-coaster season is over.
A familiar culprit, poor shooting – 27.7 percent to be exact – proved to be the self-induced dagger in the heart of the Hoyas as host California won, 60-49, in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament in Berkeley, Calif.
Like many times this season, Georgetown (19-15) had the defense to keep close deep into the game, but by the last five minutes, the Hoyas could muster little on offense. The Hoyas looked frantic and disorganized on offense, and that led to a lowly clip of 18-for-65 shooting, which included 5 of 24 from three-point territory. After entering halftime with a 28-26 deficit, the Hoyas were doomed in the second half by going the first eight minutes of the half with only one field goal. The Hoyas got 20 offensive rebounds but far too seldom converted those into second-chance points.
Sophomore guard Kevin Braswell’s stat line may have been the most indicative of Georgetown’s woes. The star of Georgetown’s legendary, 115-111, triple-overtime thriller last week at Virginia followed up career-high 40-point performance on Wednesday with three points, a tie for his season low. He was 1 for 12 from the field and 1 for 7 from three-point territory.
“[Cal] did a really good job of mixing defense to take away what Braswell does,” Head Coach Craig Esherick said. “They denied him the ball and he didn’t get as much control of it as I would have liked.”
Freshman guard Demetrius Hunter was limited to five minutes of playing time by an ankle injury, hampering the Hoyas’ ability to pick up the slack for the struggling Braswell.
“It definitely hurt us,” Esherick said of Hunter, who did not start due to the ankle injury. “It’s not why we lost, but it forced us to take some bad shots.”
With no shooting to pick up the slack, Georgetown could never rally from a two-point deficit, and when junior forward Lee Scruggs (11 points) fouled out with three minutes left, the Hoyas were done in. Only Scruggs, junior guard Anthony Perry (12 points) and junior walk-on swingman Gharun Hester (seven points) had more than four points for Georgetown. The 6-foot-4 Hester, who hit the game-winning basket to cap off a career performance in the Virginia win, led the team with 10 rebounds. Redshirt-sophomore center Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje, who did not play at Virginia, got 24 minutes of action but was held to three points.
“We didn’t give Georgetown a lot of open looks,” Braun said. “All of our defensive strategies – man, zone, combination – worked well.”
Defending NIT champion Cal (18-14) won its seventh straight NIT game, a tournament record. Forward Sean Lampley, last year’s tournament most valuable player, scored 21 points and pulled down nine rebounds to carry the Golden Bears, who did not have a field goal during the game’s first 3:29.
Cal faces Wake Forest in the quarterfinals on Thursday in Winston-Salem, N.C. The Bears are looking to become the first team since St. John’s in 1943-1944 to win back-to-back NITs.
After scoring only two points in the first 7:50 of the second half and falling behind by eight, the Hoyas battled back to within one point on a Hester basket. But Lampley scored nine points in a 13-5 run that brought about the end for Georgetown.
The Hoyas’ topsy-turvy season ended with hope, especially following an upset win against Syracuse in the Big East Tournament and the gutsy NIT win against Virginia. Braswell and Scruggs made names for themselves not only regionally but also nationally with extraordinary performances on national television, and Esherick finally began to emerge from the shadow of Hall of Famer John Thompson.
But much of the regular season was filled with disappointment for a team expected to finish in the hunt for an NCAA berth. Boumtje-Boumtje and freshman forward Courtland Freeman missed early-season practice with foot injuries. Scruggs did not show up from junior college until Dec. 26. Big man Wesley Wilson did not qualify academically under NCAA guidelines and sat out for the year.
On the floor, for every win over Miami and Louisville, the Hoyas had demoralizing losses against Providence, Rutgers and Notre Dame. The defense was still the heart and soul, but the offense rarely played consistently well and often condemned the Hoyas.
Nevertheless, with only two seniors graduating and another highly-touted recruiting class coming next season, Georgetown will probably enter the 2000-01 campaign with even higher expectations.
University Wire contributed to this report.
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