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John's Game Recaps

GEORGETOWN VS. SYRACUSE, 2/25/06 (68-53)

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Freshman Jessie Sapp dunks on a fast break in the Hoyas' 68-53 triumph over Syracuse on Senior Day.

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Students hold up signs thanking the seniors during a pre-game ceremony.

What a way to go out.

 

Georgetown’s victory over #1 Duke on January 21st of this year was a marquee moment in the history of the program.  The Hoyas earned their first victory over a #1 ranked opponent in over two decades, doing so in front of a packed gray-clad house seldom seen in the history of the MCI Center.  The victory touched off a raucous on-court celebration that continued long into the night and long into the semester even on the Hilltop—you can still see dozens of “We BEAT DUKE” signs in dorm and apartment windows around campus today.  The game will always stand out as an exciting, jubilant moment in a great season.

 

And yet, not even beating the #1 team in the country could be nearly as satisfying as what happened on Senior Day 2006.  In their final chance to beat Georgetown’s most hated rival, the Syracuse Orangemen, the Hoyas’ senior leaders helped inspire their team to a 68-53 victory before 19,000+ fans at the MCI Center.  Among those fans were hundreds of members of the Class of 2006, who had witness 5 consecutive losses to the Orangemen in their time on the Hilltop.  Memories of Carmelo Anthony’s tour de force at the MCI Center in 2003, of Gerry McNamara’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer in the Phone Booth the following year, of Brandon Bowman’s mythical size-too-big shoe that thwarted an upset victory in the Carrier Dome last year—all were exorcised yesterday afternoon in a brilliant performance characterized by, above everything else, one of the best effort performances in years from a Georgetown team.

 

You could never fully escape it if you spent enough time around Georgetown’s senior class.  The mere mention of the name, the color, the ratboy from Scranton, sent them into a psychotic rant.  You knew it was on their minds from the moment the 2005-2006 schedule came out.  At the NSO Pep Rally, the pitch given Georgetown’s freshman class about season tickets—given, of course, by a Senior—promised two things above all else. 

 

This year, you’re going to see us beat Duke…and you’re going to see us beat Syracuse.

 

I can’t help but think about the Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry in the context of a message board post on a Syracuse forum calling out Georgetown fans for being obsessed with the rivalry, while Cuse fans apparently had bigger fish to fry in the Big East.  I wonder if there’s any significance to this dynamic.

 

But then, I spend a week—Cuse week—watching and listening to Georgetown fans.  I walk through campus and see flyers put up by Hoya Blue celebrating the greatest games in GU-Cuse history.  I re-read a thread on the Hoyatalk board dedicated to fans’ favorite GU-Cuse memories.  I spend three hours in near-freezing temperatures with two dozen Hoya Blue volunteers in Red Square chalking.  I hear stories of every conceivable member of the Georgetown community—from students to staff to administrators and, yes, players, participating in an activity gleefully called the “Orange Toss” but more accurately referred to as “throw an orange really hard at a picture of Jim Boeheim and Gerry McNamara”.

 

I hear all the horror stories about the McNamara game.

Then, I watched the game.  Watched Jon Wallace set the tone for the entire game by chasing and scrapping the length of the court for a loose ball.  Watched Brandon Bowman shoot 1-8 and still have one of the classiest, most unselfish performances of his career.  Watched Ashanti Cook flip over Gerry McNamara but gamely play the rest of the game with a bruised tailbone.  Watched Jeff Green get mad and take over a game at that very moment.

 

Then, I read the papers.

 

I read Brandon Bowman’s quote before the game: "It'll be memorable -- I really want to beat Syracuse. We've never beaten them before, and that would top everything. It'd make us feel good about our last home game."

 

I read his fellow Senior Darrell Owens’ observation: “But the thing I'm going to remember most about today is not just the win, but [Green] told me before the game that he would do anything in his power to help us win, and he showed it."

 

And last, I read JT3’s now-famous quote after the game: "The Duke [win] was nice; this one is nicer.  It's Georgetown-Syracuse; that's what it's all about. To beat Syracuse when you're Georgetown is important."

 

There’s a significance to Georgetown’s embrace of its rivalry with Syracuse all right, whether or not the Orange Nation cares about it.  You couldn’t escape it at 7:00am when the first taxis started leaving from the Healy Gates for the MCI Center.  Or as hundreds of students packed the F street sidewalks at 10:00am.  Or in any of the joyous end of game back-slapping and high-fives.  Or during any of the post-game celebrations back in Georgetown.

 

The team whose players, whose fans treated the game as so significant, so important, who wanted to win so badly…got what they deserved.

 

What seemed so easy at the final horn was anything but from the opening tip.  If there’s one thing Georgetown has been able to do well against Syracuse over the past four season, it’s get out to an early run.  But there was to be no high-flying excitement in the opening moments on this day.  Jonathan Wallace’s near steal gave way to a tense, searching opening 4 minutes of basketball that saw both teams combine for just 4 points.

 

But within those four minutes, the tone of the game was already set.  Jon Wallace, playing at a high energy level seldom seen from the ex-class president from Alabama, grabbed two offensive rebounds on Georgetown’s first possession.  When a blocked shot turned into a Cuse 2-on-1 break, Jeff Green at full sprint broke up a pass and ended the threat.  On the boards, GTown’s guards collected four caroms in the first four minutes—three of them by way of Jonathan Wallace.  The first four minutes of the game were played at an extremely high level of intensity—one befitting a classic rivalry game such as Georgetown-Syracuse.  Rarely does a game give you such a feel as this one—we’re in for a battle today.

 

What the Hoyas had yet to do, however, was solve the puzzle of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone.  Early possessions saw Georgetown patiently work the perimeter, before trying to find Bowman or Hibbert in the gaps.  But a (smart) adjustment to pack in the defense by the Orange eliminated several good opportunities, and Brandon Bowman was left to miss badly from long range twice in the early going.  Only when Roy received the ball along the baseline and feigned a post move did Bobo finally break open for a bounce pass feed and layup.

 

In fact, when Demetris Nichols hit a three to give Syracuse a 6-2 lead with just under 15 minutes to go, one did start to notice the time and lack of offensive production.  However, as he’d do on several occasions during the game, Jeff Green stepped in and made an important momentum turning play.  Flashing to the Big East logo—helpfully placed there, Syracuse conspiracy theorists will tell you, as a visual aid to breaking the 2-3 zone—Green received a diagonal pass from Bowman and converted a tough layup to jumpstart the Hoya attack.

 

And then, Green and the Hoyas were off.  Jeff Green’s Mom’s Son ran a perfect backdoor play along the baseline to earn himself a reverse layup and a foul.  Big Jeff completed the personal 6-0 run with a jumper from just inside that helpful 2-3 zone visual aid for GU’s first lead of the game, 8-6.

 

At this point in the contest, Syracuse showed its first signs of coming apart.  Following Green’s (missed) free throw, Gerry McNamara committed a 10-second violation under no pressure.  To be fair, watching on tape it’s clear that Syracuse was shafted 2 seconds because the shot clock started before they’d gained possession of the rebounded FT.  But it’s still inexcusable as a senior point guard to not have time and situation in mind.  Then, on an unsettled situation, Eric Devendorf airballed an off-balance three pointer—hothead, hot temper, pretty cold shooter early on.  Finally, as Jon Wallace executed his new favorite move—the swooping drive and floater—the Syracuse 2-3 zone looked unsettled and slow to react.

 

The game was a close battle at 10-8 going into the under 12 timeout, but it was becoming clear that one team had a decided advantage.

 

A 10-point output over the next four minutes signaled Georgetown had once and for all solved the 2-3 zone.  Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green earned trips to the line (it’s a party in the lane and Sweetney and Shomnick are invited!), Brandon Bowman found the Big East logo to his liking, Jon Wallace continued his aggressive penetration, and Ashanti Cook connected on a sweet foot-on-the-line pull-up off a strong ball fake.  With each possession, the 2-3 zone—which tends to work best, in my estimation, when the 5 players, arms out, move in a manner roughly similar to the aliens in Space Invaders—looked less and less defined.

 

With each offensive possession, the Syracuse unforced errors climbed as well.  Brandon Bowman sparked two fast breaks, first by picking Gerry McNamara from behind, then by swooping in for a give and go with Darrell Owens off of Eric Devendorf’s fumble.

 

In each case, Brandon executed the break to perfection.  On the first, an assist to Ashanti Cook, he drew his man to the FT line, jump stopped, and threw a perfect leading bounce pass.  With Owens, Bowman executed a classic give and go, waiting the split second for the right moment to send Owens in for the clean-but-contested layup.

 

The sequence ended with Louie McCroskey airmailing a teammate and giving a wealthy MCI patron a souvenir basketball.  20-15 however, still much too close for the Hoyas’ liking.

 

It would get closer over the next few minutes as well.  If there was going to be a big Syracuse run for the Orange to wrest momentum back to their side, here was their one and only chance of the game, it turned out.  On two straight possessions, excellent blocks on the defensive end led to unsettled situations on the offensive end, with Eric Devendorf knocking down consecutive threes to bring the Orange within one at 22-21.  Timeout Georgetown, and the viewers at home are treated to their first viewing of the “Ship-a-Hoya” sign in the Syracuse section.  I still don’t get it.

 

This sequence of the game did illustrate a key theme however.  If you take two of the possessions prior to the two Orange blocks, you’ll find two cases where Orangemen were called for reach-in fouls helping out on gaps in the 2-3 zone.  As Georgetown continued to find these gaps with greater frequency at the end of the half, Syracuse continued to pile up fouls, eventually giving GU a healthy advantage in FTs attempted.  The 2-3 zone as played by Syracuse is an active, pressing defense.  But it can also be feast or famine.  Sitting underneath the basket by the SU bench, I can attest that every one of the Orange’s blocked shots in the first half were legit.  In fact, many were almost too easy—the middle man in the paint can often poach on low entry passes requiring a center to go up strong.  At the same time, however, if the defense gets lazy, reach-ins are often the only recovery, and this began to show by the end of the half.

 

The momentum Syracuse hoped to gain was dashed on GU’s first possession after the timeout, as Darrell Owens spotted up for a deep three pointer and a 25-21 lead.  Syracuse did finally get something significant during this sequence however—at 4:06 to go, Gerry McNamara hit his first shot of the game off an inbounds pass.

 

The last time GU beat Syracuse at the MCI Center in January 2002, the villain du jour was Preston Shumpert, who went out in the most ignominious way possible, scratching his eye early in the second half.  A fiendishly satisfying outcome for Hoya fans indeed.  But in many ways, McNamara’s fate today was sweeter.  The bane of Class of 2005-2007 Hoya fans’ existence, GMac totaled only 8 points in today’s game—5 of which were off of designed plays, and 3 from a deep three pointer.  Full credit here goes to Georgetown—had McNamara had a bitterly cold shooting day, that would be one thing.  But in the end, the pint sized devil from Scranton (not to be confused with the one that went down to Georgia and combined with a ballroom dance routine to produce a 10-page thread on Hoyatalk) succumbed to two things—Jonathan Wallace and Ashanti Cook.  We’ve all given J-Wall a ton of crap this year about his defense against opposing guards.  And, to be fair, perhaps part of his success today was that GMac isn’t terribly proficient at creating his own shot.  But there’s really no way around it—J-Wall and Shay Butter owned Ratboy, shadowed him all over the court, through screens, around picks, wherever he went.  Just a dominating performance from the Hoya backcourt.

 

As the half wound to a close, we had one of the more bizarre sequences at MCI this season.  First, an out of bounds play required a review by the officials to determine the proper number of seconds to put on the shot clock (2).  However, prior to the inbounds the game clock was set incorrectly…only it wasn’t corrected in time.  Unfortunately, the scorer’s buzzer announcing this came between the whistle to start play and the expiration of the shot clock, leading to…well, I’d say confusion, but what’s really on everyone’s mind is the apeshit ranting of Jim Boeheim.  On the re-re-start, now with 1 second to go on the shot clock, Jessie Sapp was forced to launch a deep three.  On the high carom, Roy Hibbert swallowed the rebound and went up strong for a layup and a foul.  And there.  Goes.  Boeheim’s.  Jacket.  Sitting probably 20 feet from Jimmy B in the second row of the student section, I was shocked he managed to escape without a technical foul, for all his gesticulating and mock indignation.  The official in the argument had the whistle in mouth the entire time, just waiting for an excuse.  The TV replay seemed to confirm my hypothesis—Boeheim likely escaped a T because he never said the “magic word”.  True, his first reaction after Hibbert’s layup (caught on tape) was to yell “That’s bullshit!”.  But really, what’s probably even funnier, the balance of most of his seemingly ranting argument was repeating the same phrase over and over again—we should have gotten the ball out of bounds.

 

At the half, the score was 33-30 Hoyas.  Still a battle.  An intense one at that—hell, Boeheim still hadn’t put the jacket back on and was ranting all the way down the tunnel.

 

Hey look, its Craig Kessler on the TV.  I have to give Craig a lot of credit for his performance today and really all season (I did at person at the Tombs later that night).  Sitting behind him (he was the “O” in HOYAS today on my side), I was constantly fearful for my life as he turn around and jump on the chair in front of me, in a full wig and face paint to encourage the crowd to get louder.  He’s pretty effing psychotic sometimes.  Gotta love that.

 

Side note—at halftime, the Big East syndicated folks did a Top 10 Big East moments countdown.  Somehow, GU’s victory over Duke ended up SHARING #3 with the Pitt-St. John’s game.  Losing out to #1—the first Nova-UConn game—is understandable, given that two Big East teams played in the game, which was a genuinely great contest.  But being beaten out by #2—in effect, a couple highlights of Rudy Gay dunking—was ridiculous.


For the half, Jeff Green led all scorer’s with 10.  Ashanti Cook had either six or eight, depending upon how you read my chicken scratch handwriting on my tiny folded up piece of note-taking paper (and increasingly requested read during timeouts this year, I might add).  Roy and Darrell had 5, Jessie Sapp a three-pointer, and Jonathan Wallace 2.

 

Georgetown shot only 39 percent in the half, however, and a 50 percent clip for the Orange certainly helped them stay close.  An impressive stat for Georgetown, however—only 2 turnovers for the half (indeed, for the game the Hoyas committed only 6).

 

The second half seemed ready to tip either direction on one issue—whether Syracuse’s 2-3 zone could hold up in the second half.  A return to GU’s early tentativeness or Cuse’s spectacular blocked shot orgy would spell trouble.  But if the Hoyas could get Green and Hibbert going, along with continued aggressiveness from their guards and the flashing of Brandon Bowman, good things were to come.

 

The half opened with the teams trading a pair of threes from Devendorf and Wallace, seemingly bringing us back to the back and forth of the first half.  But with Syracuse having again narrowed the GU deficit to one possession at 36-35, GU finally seized momentum for good.  As in the first half, Jeff Green provided the spark. 

 

On GU’s next offensive possession, Green found Ashanti Cook knifing through the lane past confused SU defenders for a layup.  And then, an emotional turning point in the game.  A hard ball fake by Gerry McNamara led to an even harder fall by Cook, who flipped over his man and landed hard next to the SU bench, lucky to have escaped with only a bruised tailbone.  Green remarked to the media that the play made him angry, more determined than ever to win the game.  Jeff responded in a big way seconds later, drawing a charge and igniting the GU fans at MCI.

 

But he wasn’t done.  Next possession, Jeff snatched an offensive rebound (there is no verb that can do it justice, although I’m fond of the announcers claim that he “took the air out of the ball”) and converted a three point play.  Then, on defense, a block on Devendorf.  Followed with the coup de grace, a spin move down the lane for a banking runner.  43-35.

 

Timeout Boeheim.

 

At this point it was over.  You know how I knew?  I turned around and looked at the GAAP kids.  They were going nuts.  Syracuse had been keeping the game close with a good shooting percentage despite being outplayed and outhustled on both ends of the court. Finally, 25 minutes in, the pace caught up to them.

 

In about 2 minutes, Jeff Green had an assist, drew a charge, had an offensive rebound and putback for a three point play, blocked a shot, and converted a layup.

 

That’s five different lines of a stat sheet filled up on five consecutive possessions.  I’m pretty sure Jeff Green would dominate the hell out of Yahtzee if he wanted to with production like that.

 

A sweet play out of the timeout to follow McNamara’s 5th points.  Grabbing the loose ball off a botched SU fast break, Jessie Sapp swooped in for…well crap, I didn’t know he could dunk.  Most surprisingly exuberant dunk-related moment for me at MCI since Victor Samnick’s opening dunk against UVA in 2001.  Best part about the play (and this is why I watch games on tape when I recap them): Eric Devendorf falls backwards and totally wipes out over the advertising barrier next to the GU student section after he saves the ball.  Good times!

 

GU’s healthy cushion paid dividends over the next few minutes, as a series of ragged offensive possessions (and a Devendorf breakout) trimmed the lead to 3 points.  Fortunately, SU missed a chip shot layup, leaving—who else—Jeff Green to convert a pretty spin move and bounce pass assist to Jon Wallace in the corner to restore order.

 

Then came the energy.  In what was, FINALLY, the decisive run that ended any hopes Syracuse had of winning, Georgetown simply outhustled the Orange.  Darrell Owens snuck down the baseline for an easy hoop off an inbounds pass.  Roy Hibbert grabbed his own board and putback his miss.  Brandon Bowman hopped along the sideline to save a steal and convert a smart bounce pass to Darrell Owens for a finger roll.  Then Owens finished the 10-2 burst with a deep three from the wing—one he’d been waiting two possessions to try.  58-46.

 

Game over.

 

All that was left was the partying.  Over the final 8 minutes, in fact, only 12 points were scored.  Some significant moments: Terrence Roberts earning the Preston Shumpert memorial award for overhyped player making an early ignominious exit, as he fouled out with 5:48 to go and 2 big points.  But hey, he made the student section chant LEFT-RIGHT a little slower…awesome man!!  Gerry McNamara hit his second three off an inbounds to bring his total for the game to 8 points (3 turnovers and 1 rebound).  And, finally, Jeff Green milking a GU possession down to the final two seconds before drawing a foul and converting his free throws.

 

What really put the icing on the cake, though, were the effort plays to end the game.  Simple things, like Roy Hibbert skying and throwing elbows to secure a rebound.  And things that come down to pure effort, like Jonathan Wallace and Darrell Owens both tapping a loose rebound to keep alive a possession with 2 minutes to go in the game.

 

A curtain call in the final seconds for Darrell Owens, Brandon Bowman, and Ashanti Cook.  Three guys with unbelievable talent, if not unbelievable consistency, over their years at Georgetown.  I’ve enjoyed watching them all develop from the student section—if I can say one thing about all of them, they’re never boring.  And they’re not done with their careers yet—not by a long shot.

 

Once again, as it was in January 2002, Syracuse dribbling out the clock to the raucous cheers of Georgetown fans celebrating a 15 point victory.  It was, as a rivalry game should be, a true battle of wills and a true test of each team’s heart.  And, for this day anyways, it was clear which team had the will and the heart to come out on top.  A banner day for Georgetown’s Senior Class—both those on the court and those in the student section, who had yet to taste the sweet, citrus taste of victory over Syracuse in their time on the Hilltop.

 

I listened to one other thing that night.  If you heard conversations around campus, there was another similarity to a GU-Cuse game of the recent past—the late February 2001 contest.  On that day, much as today, the buzz was the same: today Syracuse, in a few weeks, the NCAA Tournament.

 

Great ending.  But it’s not over yet.

 

(AHEAD: Jeff Green's Yahtzee-like box score line... Sometimes he's even better at making teammates into Good Ashanti and Good Darrel... the effort performances of the season for Ashanti Cook, Darrel Owens, and Jon Wallace... Prison Inmates Wear Orange.  True Soldiers Wear PLAYER EVALUATIONS.)

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Outgoing senior and Hoya Blue Treasurer Tom Ryan runs with the Big Flag on Senior Day.

PLAYER EVALAUTIONS

 

Ashanti Cook: Sometimes you can earn yourself a ton of respect just by showing up on a basketball court.  By even stepping back onto the court mere minutes after bruising his tailbone in a horrific looking fall (my mother actually called me to ask how he was doing last night!), Ashanti made one of the great contributions of yesterday’s game.  To a man, every comment I see in the press from players speaks to how badly they wanted to win this game, and how they would leave everything on the court to do so.  Ashanti did that, from the early moments when he nabbed the first of his 5 rebounds, to his skillful use of the deep jumper (pro quality stuff right there), to his work on the fast break with Bowman.  He was only 4-11 from the field, didn’t hit a 3-pointer, but as far as I’m concerned he walked off the court in his last home game a hero.

 

Brandon Bowman: In January 2004, I traveled to Miami to see Georgetown play the Hurricanes with my family.  And after that game, I wrote a recap that contained the first mention of what has become the go-to phrase to describe BoBo’s game:

 

Brandon turned it over 8 times. Brandon scored 22 points. Brandon committed the most egregious charge I've ever seen. Brandon had 8 boards. Brandon traveled at least three times. Brandon went 8-14 and 3-4 from 3, plus icing the game with Fts in OT. Brandon bricked a reverse layup. Brandon hit several post layups that defy physics. Good Brandon. Bad Brandon. Good Brandon. Bad Brandon.

 

You could try to go through his stats today, and see that 1-8 shooting line, and maybe you’d pull the same trick.  But you’d be way off.  The true measure of how GOOD Brandon was today isn’t in the stat line.  You have to see it, to see the subtle things Mr. Throw Dribble, Head-Down Driver did today to make his team better.  He flashed to the top of the lane to take entry passes.  He took a beating from reach-in fouls.  He ran FOUR, count ‘em FOUR absolutely textbook perfect fast breaks, getting an assist to his teammates each time except for one (when a foul was called that negated a shot attempt).  We’ve always wanted to see a more “mature” game from Brandon.  Well, the points weren’t there today.  But the maturity was everything you’d expect from a senior.

 

Jonathan Wallace: Frequently maligned for his defensive ability (I cringe when I think about a potential rematch with Marcus Williams), Jon showed up big time today.  Watching the game, I enjoyed glancing over at J-Wall or Ashanti during possessions, watching them play the chase with McNamara.  Whether it was fighting through screens or switching off up high, Wallace was a huge defensive presence today.  His early offensive rebounding was a tremendous boost as well.  Not at all a quiet game from Mr. Quiet Contribution—he was running all over the place from his opening possession near-steal.  A few floaters in the lane, a trademark pair of rainbow threes.  I’m looking forward to the two years preceding his Senior Day.

 

Jeff Green: This discussion begins and ends with his two minute sequence in the second half.  Here it is again, remembering these are consecutive possessions:

 

Assist

Draws charging foul

Offensive rebound and putback for a three point play

Blocked shot

Layup

 

There’s no better testament to Jeff’s broad impact on a game that those five plays.  During that sequence, Georgetown pushed a 36-35 lead to a 43-35 spread.  It was the most important mini-run of the game, because it finally broke GU away from Syracuse at a time when the Orange seemed to be hanging by a thread.  A 8-12 performance from the line is further cause for excitement.

 

Roy Hibbert: Comparatively quiet, but only because he’s placed next to Jeff Green.  The most impressive element of the performance today, like his teammates, was the aggressiveness and the effort.  The swinging elbows have become a trademark, but the sudden mean-streak and go-get-it mentality he brought to the office today was refreshing.  The offensive rebounding was best of all—his late second half bucket was a real demoralizer.

 

Darrell Owens: My favorite part of the game tape was watching Darrell hit the run-ending 3 pointer that put GU up by 12.  On the previous possession, he’d received the ball about three times in the same spot as his eventual shot, each time adjusting his position slightly, a subtle move to find a sliver of a gap in the Cuse 2-3 zone.  Patience pays off on the next possession.  If you watch Darrell enough, you’ll see him do that a bunch of times during the game.  Real sparkplug off the bench today, the two steals being perhaps the most important stat.  The KIND of steal too—running down a man from behind and throwing the body around—is what made it so impressive.

 

Jessie Sapp: We’ll see what Jessie has to bear on a potential starting job next year with the graduation of Ashanti Cook.  He’s played the understudy role will great skill and confidence in the past few games for sure.  Limited minutes today, but he gets the Demetrius Hunter award for great achievement in dunking during a Syracuse game for his fast break finish in the second half—scary to think that it was the only GU dunk of the game.

 

Amadou Kilkenny-Diaw: Who only played the final minute, but as a senior deserves a mention and a huge measure of credit for his contributions during his career.  During the 2003-2004 season, AKD was forced into far more action than anyone could have expected of him, backing up an often-foul prone and definitely injury-prone Courtland Freeman.  AKD seemed overmatched at times against the stars of the Big East—but from his first appearances to what you see of him this year, there is no question he’s improved leaps and bounds.  Not on the level of a Victor Samnick, a superb defensive stopper in his own right.  But AKD evolved quite a bit in his time on the Hilltop, to the point where he was a solid backup and at times a true defensive force.  Nice guy too—one the campus will miss as much as the team.

 

(AHEAD: We know the significance of the orange…The sign of the day was actually three of them…The return of my favorite promotional tradition at the MCI Center…The revenge of the Hoya Blue Yell Leaders…GAAP weekend traditions I wish I was a part of…Leaving the MCI Center for the last time as a student fan…HEY SYRACUSE!!  I Wiped My Ass With Your NON-GAME OBSERVATIONS)

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Senior Mark Murphy performs his famed rendition of

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Michael Segner and Stephen Medlock prove how white they are at the Hoya Blue after party.

NON GAME OBSERVATIONS

 

--After six seasons, this GU-Syracuse game was my 62nd and final appearance in the Georgetown student section at the MCI Center.  I can’t think of a more satisfying win to end my six year run on.  As with the other two great wins in my post-graduate time in the student section—Notre Dame and Duke—today’s win was a lot more special to me because I knew how much more in meant to the friends of mine who are still students and who hadn’t experience victories like these before. 

 

Here’s a list of my Top Ten Favorite MCI Center Student Section Memories of the past six seasons:

 

10. January 20, 2004: Georgetown 71-St. John’s 69: Perhaps it was, in some small way, revenge for the Marcus Hatten game.  In perhaps the most miraculous development ever in my time at the MCI Center, Craig Esherick designed a successful end-of-game play, as Ashanti Cook drove and dished to Courtland Freeman for an emphatic dunk with less than a second to go.

 

9. November 22, 2004: Georgetown vs. Temple: The first home game of the JT3 era at Georgetown.  The debut of the We Are Georgetown shirts and, for the first time in nearly two seasons, a reinvigorated student section.  My memory of this game is a conversation I had with a kid who was obviously a freshman at his first game.  Just before tipoff, he tapped me on the shoulder and asked: “Is it always like this here?  Is it always this crazy?”  I knew then we were onto something with the student section.

 

8. February 19, 2002: Georgetown vs. UConn: One of the most painful recent home losses in GU history—a classmate of mine lamented after this year’s home finale: “I can’t believe this is how my Georgetown career ended.”  But it will always be memorable for my favorite non-game observation of all-time.  At halftime, after nearly two years of trying and few close calls, one lucky Georgetown student (who my friend Jon predicted had a great shot at it) made a layup, free throw, three-pointer, and a half court shot in 30 seconds to win the Chevy Scholarship Challenge.  And then Chevy tried to shaft him by saying his foot was over the line.  A few weeks and an Athletic Department intervention later, he got the car.

 

7. January 29, 2001: Georgetown vs. Notre Dame: To this day, the most creative performance the student section has ever put on that I’ve seen.  My favorite student fan of all-time donned a full police officer’s uniform topped off with a “Hey Troy!  I need to see some I.D.” sign, a play on Troy Murphy’s recent Fake I.D. arrest.  In addition to the omnipresent “Murphy Sucks” chants throughout the game, in the second half the entire student section—without cheer sheets, mind you—all waved their I.D. cards during his free throw attempts.

 

6. February 25, 2006: Georgetown 68-Syracuse 53: A perfect ending to an amazing run of games and experiences at the MCI Center.

 

5. December 16, 2000: Georgetown 123-Howard 90: My first game as a student at the MCI Center.  After a series of cupcakes at McDonough Arena to open the season, I stayed an extra day after my last exam to catch the Hoyas’ first game downtown.  Unfortunately, about twelve hours before the game, I severely sprained my ankle playing Midnight ultimate Frisbee on Copley Lawn.  When I woke up in the morning, my ankle was about twice its normal size, I couldn’t stand up in the shower, and I was making plans to go to the Georgetown Hospital.  I called my mom to tell her I was going to the E.R., and the first words out of her mouth were: “You’re not gonna miss the game, are you?”  Needless to say, an hour later I was in the student section, wearing only one shoe and propped up on a railing.  But I got to see my first MCI game, and the highest scoring GU output ever at the Phone Booth.

 

4. January 28, 2002: Georgetown 75-Syracuse 60: A game that really only needs two words to describe: Preston’s Crying.

 

3. January 23, 2005: Georgetown 55-Notre Dame 54: The game that gave birth to the Legend of Roy Hibbert, scores of nodak songs, and really jump started the revival of Georgetown’s student section.  One of my favorite moments as a Georgetown fan was after I got back into the student section from the court following the game, I was standing on the staircase minding my own business, and out of nowhere I hear “JOOOOOOOHNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!”  I turn around and nearly get blindsided by Kurt Muhlbauer.  I told him: “Now you know what this is like.”  Who knew there’d be so many more like it only a season later.

 

2. February 24, 2001: Georgetown 72-Syracuse 61: The first “big game” I went to at the MCI Center, and my first taste of Georgetown’s biggest rivalry.  I had never heard an arena go so crazy at once as when Demetrius Hunter connected on the most unbelievable dunk I’ve seen in person at a Hoyas game during our opening run.  I still have the image of Kevin Braswell dribbling out the clock in my head, as the student section made their way into the aisles and onto the court, the Hoyas having all but secured an NCAA Tournament berth in one great afternoon.

 

1. January 21, 2006: Georgetown 87-Duke 84: When the final buzzer sounded sometime around 3:30pm, it had been roughly 17 hours since I’d arrived in front of the MCI Center with Hoya Blue to camp out for this game.  The best answer I can give as to why a 23-year old two years removed from Georgetown would do such a thing is—because you never know when a game like this might happen. 

 

--Big thank you to on Senior Day to two very important people in my life: Joe Greenwich and Jordan Miller.  They’re both seniors, but they share another important commonality: they’re the two guys who were my ticket proxies the last two seasons, who bought student season tickets on my behalf.  Thanks guys!

 

--One thing I’m proud to say for my last game in the student section was that I was I the group that was first to arrive at the MCI Center at approximately 7:30am.  Lots of early arriving die-hards throughout the rather chilly morning, and a great performance by all of them in the student section today.  One of the things I’ll miss most about being in the student section is hanging out with the die-hards an hour before the gate opens.  It’s actually one of the main reasons I’m not coming back for a 7th year in the student section—if you can’t do the die-hard thing, why bother?  But my friend and Young Alum section dweller Bryan Weir did have a point this summer: It won’t seem so bad paying for Young Alum tickets when you can walk into MCI 10 minutes before the Duke game and have your same assigned seat.

 

--In Starbucks near MCI at 7:45am, a friend and I talked with a D.C. Cop about the game today.  He found out we were already there to stand in line, and mentioned the crazy people who camped out on F Street for the Duke game.  Yeah, we told him, um, that was us.

 

--Moment that definitely made me laugh: during the security sweep of the student line (which is getting more invasive by the game), one of the guards loudly advised everyone:

 

“If you have any oranges on you, get rid of them now.  We know the significance of the orange.”

 

--Lots of bizarre costumes at the Phone Booth, including a guy dressed as a ref with money taped to his jersey, and at least one Boeheim wig.  But the winner for weirdness has to be this guy sitting near me who was dressed…as a llama.  He actually appeared on camera on ESPN Plus during halftime, talking on his cell phone.  Which is great for him—except he looked nothing like a f*(#ing llama.  If anything, he looked like he escaped from forced imprisonment at a Furry convention.

 

--I critiqued/made fun of Hoya Blue’s Yell Leaders most of the season for some of their less than stellar moments.  A lot of my ire/sarcasm was directed at the YL’s on the classic student section side, where I sat for this game.  And, sure enough, karma came back to me and I ended up sitting directly behind the only Yell Leader megaphone, so every time it’s YL—Hoya Blue Personnel Officer Michael R. Segner (the R stands for “Wait…does that say hobo?”)—used it, I got the full brunt of the cheer directly in my face.

 

By the way, Segner shaves his chest on a regular basis, including prior to the game in anticipation of being asked to be one of the guys with HOYAS spelled out on their chests (he was the Y).

 

--Among the many delightful songs played at the MCI Center during pre-game intros, an old favorite of the Phone Booth, “Pimpin’ All Over the World,” which was played about a billion times during the very early shoot arounds of the late Esherick era.

 

--Lots of great signs again today.  Near me we had “We Got 99 Problems…Beating Cuse Ain’t One” and “Patrick Ewing Jr. is the REAL Hoya Dance Team.”  Two signs share best-in-show honors though.  First, the fan near the SU bench with the simple yet incredibly utilitarian “Sit Down Jim” sign, which got great play on ESPN during his tirade.  Second, the three students in the back of my section with the orange lettered N.I.T. signs.  I caught them by accident in a photo I took, and it ended up being an amazing shot because of it.

 

--Can’t mention signs without the free giveaway today, a double sided blue sign with “Thank You Seniors” on one side and “We Are Georgetown” on the other.  Hopefully I can get a photo up in the recap so you can see them in action.

 

--Worst sign: the SU fan with the “Ship-A-Hoya” sign.  I still don’t get it.

 

--Great moment at halftime when several of the wounded veterans participating in the Wounded Warrior program were honored at center court and received a standing ovation from the crowd.  Always important to remember that things like basketball games are fun, but there are more important things in life.

 

--Another group who I was happy to see make an appearance were the 300 or so GAAP students who sat next to the student section today.  Incredible idea by the people in Admission and GAAP to pull off an event like that—and they could not have asked for a better opponent or result to show all of those prospective students how fun Georgetown can be.  I know when I was a GAAP volunteer for four years and a Blue and Gray tour guide for two, I used to always plug basketball games to students I talked to.  I’ve always believed that they’re the one thing that can unite the most diverse group of people on campus and be a fun experience all at the same time.  Those kids were really into the game too—I saw a lot of Kurt shirts mixed in, and they were doing all the cheers right along with the student section.  Awesome stuff.

 

--Big thanks to all the GU Pep Band seniors.  Until I made the move over to the “new” student section for the South Florida game, my favorite seat in the student section was the second seat in from the aisle in the third row, by the Pep Band.

 

--Wow.  What a great way to go out in my final game in the student section with respect to promotions.  Today’s game saw the return of the re-named but always the same in my heart Chevy Scholarship Challenge (now the Pontiac Shootout) after it’s nearly four season “Oh, f%$@, somebody won” ban.  Not that the contestant came ANYWHERE close—my guess is that for a few more games, nobody under 200 pounds or wearing appropriate shoes will even sniff the court.

 

--Another thank you, this one a personal one, to all of the Senior Class members of Hoya Blue who have done such a great job with the club this year.  I know it’s probably doubly satisfying to have played such a big role in the club’s renaissance this year, and to have seen such a great season in your final year at Georgetown.

 

A touching (yeah, what the hell, touching) Senior Day moment before the game, as Hoya Blue’s outgoing Treasurer Tom Ryan ran out with the Big Flag before the game.

 

--One of my favorite fans of all time is Hoyatalk’s Fan of the Game, who struggled for years with a Buffalo Bills-like streak of futility in the FOTG contest on the MCI Jumbotron before finally breaking through a few seasons ago.  Today he pulled off a classic air guitar routine during a second half timeout that had me rolling.

 

--I got about, oh, 500 requests to write non-game observations about Hoya Blue’s party last night.  We’re gonna do an uncensored version of the RECAPS at some point, I swear, where I put in all the bad stuff I can’t say about certain staff members, and do all the old party stories.

 

Anyhow, as for this one:

 

--I’ve seen the dance-off against Steve Medlock.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that in terms of greatness and importance to my life, the appropriate order should now read:

 

1. God

2. Nat Burton

3. Michael R. Segner

4. Everyone else

 

--Speaking of Steve though, there have been a number of accusations about Hoya Blue flying around lately, and the poor guy has had to bear the brunt of a lot of it.  But let me tell, there is NO WAY that any club could be considered overly hetero-normative whose Vice President has such an intimate knowledge of the lyrics to “It’s Raining Men”.  Not that I was standing next to him singing most of the song too or anything.  Did I mention both of us were there with our girlfriends?

 

If you ask most Hoya fans who had the best performance today, they’ll probably say Jeff Green.  And they’ll be wrong.  Because they didn’t see Murph-comma-Mark’s traditional performance of It’s Raining Men, which I’m convinced would be the single greatest halftime show in the history of Georgetown athletics if they’d let him do it, just once, even at a Field Hockey game or something.

 

--I’ve been racking my brain for 24 hours trying to figure out a good analogy to describe Kurt Muhlbauer’s dancing style.  I knew it was something dated, a little early-90s, not necessarily gangster, but with a little touch of the rap game thrown in.  And then it hit me.

 

He stole his moves from the Kris Kross video for “Jump”. 

 

Well, not the actual jumping, but the arm movements and the semi-squatting thing are dead on.

 

--I’ve also been informed that at least one member of Hoya Blue has the worst case of beer goggles ever (their words, not mine).  Given my lack of concrete verification, I’m gonna refrain from naming names.  After all, he deserves some slack, having been a Hoya since birth and all.

 

--After an exhaustive search, I finally figured out what the perfect party song is…

 

… “Hoya Basketball” by nodak89.

 

--Well, that’s it.  After 62 games in the student section at the MCI Center, I am officially moving over to the Young Alumni section for next season.  It’s been an amazing six years for me.  I’ve seen some incredible games—from the Duke game to the Jaron Brown game, from Roy’s dunk to Julius Page’s dunk over Ruben.  I’ve met a lot of friends of mine at the MCI Center, and I’ve seen a lot of people that I’ll recognize even today solely on the basis of sitting near them at a game.  My favorite moments will always be the looooooooong waits in line with a couple die-hard fans, just hanging out and talking about the team.  I actually miss a lot of those die-hards from last year, but at least I can feel comfortable knowing that now they’re running Hoya Blue. 

 

I did two things as I left the student section for the final time.  I jumped up to touch the Fire Exit, and inadvertently shattered it.  And I walked through the entire concourse and out the doors of the MCI Center, through a maze of many orange-clad supporters, completely silent, my only statement being to hold a blue sign over my head with my right arm extended: WE ARE GEORGETOWN.

 

That’s not a bad way to go out, I’d say.

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John Hawkes, SFS '04. Hoya Blue Legend.

John Hawkes is a 2004 graduate of the School of Foreign Service, but at basketball games he still cheers in the Georgetown student section.  Over the years, he has developed a gift of writing witty, in-depth recaps of nearly every game he attends, from game notes to individual player evaluations to the ever-popular non-game observations.  Hoya Blue is proud to introuduce John's Game Recaps as another means for your enjoyment of the Georgetown basketball fan experience.  Hoya Saxa.

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I BLEED HOYA BLUE!