Sunday, March 25, 2007

Recap: Floriani's GU-UNC Running Diary

Ray Floriani, our man in N.J., kept a running account for us while watching the game from press row. Edited; now with pictures (as always, click to enlarge).
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Arrived at Continental Airlines Arena about an hour before game time. Already there’s excitement in the air. Fans in Carolina blue and Georgetown T-shirts are either hanging out front on this sunny day near 60 degree day or starting to make their way to the facility.

About 30 minutes prior to game time see one of the Carolina cheerleaders who said Jason Ray, the UNC mascot hit by a car Friday, is in the same critical condition. Said Jason is in our prayers, wished her squad well and moved to the press room.

Georgetown cheerleaders are stretching and I ask if they knew the significance of the UNC-Hoya game 25 years ago. They did. “I watched it on my computer,” said Janine Visalli a sophomore Linguistics major from Wildwood Crest, NJ. What did you think, wasn’t it a classic? “Actually, I thought it was a bad game,” she said. “We lost.”

Georgetown cheer coach Samantha Hunter said yesterday was a relaxed day. The squad gets to see New York at the Big East Tournament so making a trip to back isn’t a priority.

Settling into my press seat I see on the monitor Florida has just closed out Oregon 85-77 to punch a ticket to Atlanta.

20:00 - 15:29, 13-11 UNC
Both teams are out hot. Carolina scores the first five possessions, Georgetown 4 of 5. Tar Heels are getting offensive boards early. Not a good sign for Georgetown.

15:29 - 10:39, 26-22 UNC
Roy Hibbert is asserting himself inside. Georgetown buries to threes to build a seven point lead. UNC comes right back with a spurt to regain the lead. Coach John Thompson III gets a T at 12:30 mark. He didn’t seem to be going extra hard on the officials.

10:39 - 7:16, 35-26 UNC
Jeff Green is scoreless and forces one penetration. He might be pressing. Reyshawn Terry of UNC buries a couple of threes. Hoya fans start to get on officials.

7:16 - 3:52, 42-35 UNC
Green goes back door at 6:40 to get his first points. UNC coach Roy Williams is shuffling big men in and out. The fresh rotation works as the Heels can keep running and pounding the glass.

3:52 - 0:00, 50-44 UNC
Hoyas start to run off UNC turnovers. They start to trim the lead. Ewing fouls a rebounder at 0.8 to go. Alex Stepheson hit one of two. Hoyas down 6 at the break.

Efficiency totals are off the chart. A 34 possession game and efficiency is:
UNC - 147
G’town - 129

Off reb % is glaring stat :
UNC - .588
G’town - .250

Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright lead with 12 points. Hibbert paces the Hoyas with 11.

Walk out for the second half with my coffee. I am stopped and told it has to be in an NCAA cup. I comply. You can’t make this stuff up.

20:00 - 15:37 , 59-53 UNC
Georgetown shows zone and opens up keeping pace with Carolina.

15:37 - 13:22, 65-56 UNC
Opportunities are wasted. Georgetown gets stops and throws it away. One sequence after a stop, the Hoya pass is intercepted and put back in.

13:22 - 7:51 , 73-65 UNC
A Jessie Sapp trey cuts it to 8 at the 12 minute mark and the Hoya faithful come alive. Still 8 points somehow feels like 18.

7:51 - 4:44, 75-72 UNC
Hoyas are gradually making that run. Green and Sapp hit. Hibbert goes baseline, spins, slams and the deficit is three with under 5 remaining.

4:14 - 0:00, 81-81
Georgetown remains patient trailing and the clock ticking. Hansbrough makes a tough post move doubled inside to put UNC up 81-78 with 1:40 to go. Jonathan Wallace buries a three with 30 seconds to go. Tie. Wayne Ellington comes off a screen for a good look on the perimeter with seconds left. Miss, rebound Hoyas, time out. Two seconds left Georgetown can’t get a good shot off following the time out.

5:00 - 0:00 - 96-84 Georgetown
Hoyas draw first blood thirty seconds in on a Wallace layup and never look back. To the delight of Hoya faithful the offense clicks, Carolina is misfiring and not getting any transition. A Ty Lawson three with 8 seconds to go are the lone Tar Heel points.

Hansbrough led all scorers with 26 points. Green captured Most Outstanding Player honors with a 22 point 9 rebound effort.

Turned out to be a 75 possession game with the efficiency:
Georgetown - 128
UNC - 112

North Carolina still held the OR% edge .44 to .33 but it was less severe than halftime. Better second half rebounding by Georgetown was a factor in the victory.

Post Game
It’s pandemonium at the buzzer. I head down and say to Fordham AD Frank McLaughlin, impartiality is a must but you feel good for these urban, Northeast, Catholic schools. He smiles and agrees.

It is a wild celebration. Hoya players hug John Thompson Sr. at courtside. Fans are high-fiving me. Cheer coach Samantha Hunter hugs me and says, “Keep covering us, you’re good luck.” Among all this I snap pictures and interview Wallace on the floor. He reiterated the possession by possession philosophy. “We knew they (North Carolina) would run and have spurts,” he said. “We just took everything a possession at a time. We’ve done it all season.”

Patrick Ewing Sr. joins in and is interviewed. Jerome Williams is also on the floor congratulating and giving interviews. Some Hoya players high five cheerleaders and pep band members as a thank you. Players graciously accepted congratulations from media members as well. Roy Hibbert’s parents are on the floor. A fairly well dressed young lady is also congratulating everyone. She says she works in the Georgetown ticket office and is thrilled to go to Atlanta. It was a party on the floor Hoya faithful did not want to end.

Post game interviews move on. First, North Carolina in a subdued mood. Georgetown followed. Thrilled but also realizing there’s preparation for Ohio State next weekend. Following interviews it is about 8:52 p.m. when I exit the arena. Drained and exhausted I feel like I played in the game. And all I did was witness one of the greatest in my 30 years of writing.

All photos: © R. Floriani, 2007

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