Sunday, March 23, 2008

From Georgetown Student Paper: The Hoya

Bland Opener Done, Hoyas' Tourney Gets Spicy in Second Round
Curry's 40 Leads Davidson to Sunday Date With GU

By Harlan Goode

RALEIGH, N.C. — For those in search of madness, go look in a nuthouse. You won’t find it in this space. No Duke-Belmont ballistics here. Not a moment of Drake and Western Kentucky drama. A Toreros-Huskies upset special this was not. Not in a game pitting Georgetown against UMBC. Not in a bout between bulldog and not-so-golden retriever. Not after Stephen Curry’s 40-point performance lit up the RBC Center like Times Square on New Years’ Eve. When the Davidson star left late Friday afternoon, all the excitement went out with him. By the time Georgetown was halfway through playing their game of fetch with the Retrievers, the seats were all empty. Fans had simply had enough histrionics for the day. They needed a siesta.

The Hoyas never allowed things to get interesting in the 66-47 game. They played sound, fundamental basketball from the opening tip, quietly built a formidable lead, and proved themselves to be one of the tournament’s top teams.

It might have been worse ratings for CBS than “Bless This House,” but the Hoyas could care less. Why stress when you can just win?

“[That’s] how we should take care of everybody,” said Patrick Ewing Jr., who admitted earlier in the week that he doesn’t fully enjoy the tournament until it’s over because of his tunnel vision focus. “The game is never safe until the clock says zero. Even in today’s game, when they started hitting threes, I got a little worried.”

In sports, unlike in life, there is a clear winner and a loser. It is perhaps the games’ greatest allure: one team proves itself better than another. Most of the time. The NCAA tournament is the one sporting event where the line between better and worse blurs murky. Is Kansas State really better than USC? (Or, perhaps more appropriately, is Michael Beasley really better than O.J. Mayo?) When a game teeters on the iron rim and the waning seconds of double overtime — such as the Western Kentucky-Drake contest did earlier Friday — are we fully convinced that one squad is superior to the other?

But Georgetown’s opening round win was different. It was persuasive. They corrected the rebounding problem that had foiled their attempt at a second consecutive Big East Tournament title. They omitted the incessant turnovers that are a staple of the two vs. 15 matchup. They hit the back court shot with relative precision, and Roy Hibbert held his ground below the basket.

Now that it’s a distant memory, Jon Wallace can look back on last season’s last-second win over Vanderbilt or the palpitating comeback against North Carolina with fond memory. But don’t think he — or any of his teammates — want to relive them. They’d rather have days like Friday from here until San Antonio.

You think John Thompson III watched a worn-out Mike Krzyzewski stammer and stutter on the press conference dais last night and wished he could be in his shoes?

“I don’t prefer those last second opportunities,” said Wallace, who cringed watching Duke squeak by Thursday night. “You do not want that, you don’t want that at all — that was kind of scary last night.”

The drama queens will have their feast come Easter Sunday. Davidson’s Curry is going to spice things up for Thompson and the second-seeded Hoyas. Who won’t be watching to see if the nation’s top field goal percentage defense can stop a man who coolly drained 8-of-10 three pointers in his first ever tournament win?

“Watching Davidson makes me feel worried,” said Thompson, visions of a hollowed out Coach K no doubt dancing through his mind. “We were fortunate to get out of here, and we have to start preparing for not only a very good team, but one of the most special players in this tournament.”

The stale air that hung suspended in the near-empty arena Friday afternoon should be amped with electricity come Sunday. Davidson packed the stands with eager fans against Gonzaga and more will undoubtedly swarm in from Charlotte, all hanging on their star sophomore’s every move. Coupled with the army of angry Carolina fans marching in vengeful lockstep against Wallace and the team that ruined their ’07 season, the RBC Center will make the Carrier Dome sound like a piano recital.

Don’t think the Hoyas are going to let the hype creep into their psyche. This is a team that has been here before, one that knows that the best way to keep a hostile crowd out of a game is to never let them in in the first place.

“It’s always stressful, but they are going to have a sixth man on the court,” Jessie Sapp said. “It’s going to be a huge advantage for them, but we’ve played through it all year.”

The Hoyas’ first round honeymoon is over. From here on, the trail to San Antonio turns treacherous, the tributaries of the River Walk choppy. Let the fun begin.

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