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Georgetown rallies past North Carolina

Hoyas advance to Final Four by erasing a second-half deficit and defeating Tar Heels in overtime of East Regional final, 96-84.

March 26, 2007|David Wharton | Times Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — All season long, Georgetown players have been haunted by the past. They have been measured against the program's glory years in the 1980s. Their toughness has been questioned.

Consider those ghosts exorcised.

The current Hoyas proved their mettle Sunday by scrambling back from a second-half deficit, then dominating in overtime for a 96-84 win over North Carolina that sends them to the Final Four.

"No matter what, we kept fighting," forward Jeff Green said. "They kept throwing knockout blows and we kept getting up."

This marks Georgetown's longest run in the NCAA tournament since 1985. They will face Ohio State in Atlanta on Saturday.

Their upset victory in the East Regional final game could be viewed in simple terms.

North Carolina led from early on, controlling the game with its up-tempo offense, but went cold in the final seven minutes.

That allowed Georgetown to chip away and eventually tie the score on guard Jonathan Wallace's three-point basket with 31 seconds remaining.

The Tar Heels not only missed a potential game-winner on the final possession, they missed 12 of 13 shots in overtime.

"Shots just weren't falling," North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough said. "They just wouldn't go in the hole."

Georgetown had a little something to do with the meltdown.

The Hoyas remained patient while playing from behind, sticking to a half-court offense that relies on backdoor cuts and passing. They also adjusted to North Carolina's fastbreak attack.

"Transition defense was very big," Wallace said. "They almost live and die by that. We were able to slow them down a little bit."

Emotional to the point of tears afterward, North Carolina Coach Roy Williams pointed to a moment with 6:27 remaining when his team rushed a wide-open three-point shot and missed.

That's when Georgetown started its run.

"Toughness is not just hard fouls and being willing to fight people," Williams said. "Toughness is being 10 down and continuing to do what your coach wants you to do. Toughness is being like Wallace, that got a three-point shot."

Georgetown had five players score in double figures for the first time this season.

Green led the team with 22 points and was selected the East Regional's most outstanding player. Forward DaJuan Summers had 20 and Wallace added 19.

It was Summers who did the most damage in overtime, scoring eight points and grabbing three rebounds.

"We knew starting overtime that if we stuck together and continued to do things we were doing, it would look up for us," he said.

North Carolina was led by Hansbrough's 26 points and 14 from forward Brandan Wright.

Asked about his team's struggles, Wright pointed to a critical statistic: Georgetown outrebounded North Carolina, 27-21, after halftime.

That prevented the Tar Heels from getting the kind of second-chance baskets they had scored to put away USC on Friday.

This time, every miss sent them running back on defense and they were outscored, 15-3, in overtime.

Georgetown "kept us off the boards," Wright said, "and that really hurt us."

With the Hoyas headed for the Final Four, Coach John Thompson III hoped that his players had finally answered the doubters.

"They're a tough-minded group of kids," he said.

david.wharton@latimes.com

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