Ge­orge­town can’t over­come misses, mis­takes

The Washington Times Daily - - Weather - BY NATHAN FENNO

NEW YORK | As the horn roared, the bas­ket­ball bounced harm­lessly off the back of the rim, Ge­orge­town sup­port­ers in court­side seats and be­spoke suits groaned and the hand-writ­ten “Sim­san­ity” sign high in the stands at Madi­son Square Gar­den dis­ap­peared.

At the 3-point line, Henry Sims stared at the bas­ket in dis­be­lief. Ev­ery­thing Ge­orge­town’s se­nior big man did Thurs­day af­ter­noon seemed to work. Then came his final, awk­ward heave as the clock’s red num­bers drained away.

Sims’ sec­ond straight dou­ble-dou­ble, the layup to keep Ge­orge­town alive and his strug­gle in the post with Cincin­nati road-grader Yancy Gates all fell away like the des­per­ate shot a step be­yond the 3-point line. That was his first 3-point try this sea­son.

All that mat­tered af­ter two over­times was Cincin­nati 72, No. 13 Ge­orge­town 70 in the Big East tour­na­ment’s quar­ter­fi­nals.

“It would have been nice to make the last one, ob­vi­ously,” Sims said, head bowed and voice low. “I’d much rather have the shot at the end.”

Be­fore the un­timely end, the 6-foot-10, 245-pound Sims hit run­ning hook shots. He backed down the 6-foot9, 260-pound Gates, look­ing more like a de­fen­sive end than a for­ward, and scored. Sims hit turn­around jump shots and re­verse layups.

Three years of er­ratic play for the for­mer top-100 re­cruit ended this sea­son. The Big East tour­na­ment was an ex­cla­ma­tion point, with two of his three ca­reer dou­ble-dou­bles. Dur­ing one news con­fer­ence, a re­porter asked coach John Thompson III, in jest, who No. 14 was.

If they didn’t know the an­swer al­ready, they did af­ter Sims’ long strides took him to the hoop for a layup that tied the game as time ex­pired in the first over­time.

But Sims’ 22 points, 15 re­bounds and le­gion of opened eyes couldn’t over­come Ge­orge­town’s missed free throws and crit­i­cal turnovers. The self-in­flicted mis­takes frit­tered away a lead that bal­looned to 11 points early in the sec­ond half.

“It’s un­think­able that we were able to dig it out,” Cincin­nati coach Mick Cronin said.

Un­ranked Cincin­nati hit only 2 of 21 3-point­ers. But 12 of Ge­orge­town’s 14 turnovers came af­ter the first half. Twice sopho­more Markel Starks missed the front end of one-and-ones at the free throw line. Sims missed a pair of free throws in the first over­time.

At the same time, Cincin­nati pounded the ball in­side to Gates. He bulled past Sims with un­usual agility for some­one so large and, at the end of the sec­ond half, scored 10 straight points. Gates fin­ished with 23 points and left Cronin look­ing like a proud par­ent.

Ge­orge­town’s mis­takes, small at first, piled up un­til, fi­nally, re­serve ju­nior Cash­mere Wright blew past se­nior Ja­son Clark in the sec­ond over­time. He sliced down the lane, free of Ge­orge­town de­fend­ers guard­ing against a kick-out pass for a 3-pointer, and bounced in the layup.

Seven point six sec­onds re­mained. A fran­tic, off-kil­ter final pos­ses­sion by Ge­orge­town ended with Sims’ er­rant 3-pointer.

Deep in­side the arena af­ter­ward, Thompson rubbed his face. He looked drained.

“We had some very . . .” Thompson said, then paused a few sec­onds as if to di­gest what oc­curred, “un­timely turnovers at key junc­tures. They got some sec­ond shots at key junc­tures, and I think that’s why we ended up com­ing in here sec­ond and they came in here first.”

Sure, Ge­orge­town will be awarded a No. 3 or 4 seed in the NCAA tour­na­ment come Sun­day. But Sims’ look af­ter the final shot that didn’t go in Thurs­day lin­gered. A good feel­ing, bounced away.

It be­came ap­par­ent quickly in the sec­ond half the De­mon Dea­cons had nei­ther the where­withal nor much in­ter­est in keep­ing pace with the Terps. A one-pos­ses­sion lead rapidly bal­looned into a 26point edge, with Wake coach Jeff Bzde­lik help­lessly call­ing three time­outs in the mid­dle of a 30-7 Mary­land run.

“I think we played al­most 38 or 39 min­utes the way coach wanted us to play it,” guard Sean Mosley said. “It was a good feel­ing, hav­ing all the guys scor­ing the bas­ket­ball and shar­ing the bas­ket­ball.”

It was, for once, a game with the sort of sta­tis­ti­cal lean­ings Tur­geon’s teams were de­fined by in his pre­vi­ous stops. Mary­land out­worked Wake For­est on the glass, rarely set­tled for lousy shots, was re­spectable at the foul line and played es­pe­cially stout de­fense in the sec­ond half on C.J. Har­ris, the Dea­cons’ lead­ing scorer who man­aged only one of his 14 points af­ter the break.

As much as the play­ers needed an af­ter­noon like this, so, too, did Tur­geon. He’s made no se­cret of the dif­fi­cul­ties he’s en­coun­tered in coach­ing this team while also tout­ing the en­joy­ment in ex­tract­ing what he can from an un­der­manned group.

Re­in­force­ments are on the way. At­lanta-area for­ward Charles Mitchell, the No. 76 re­cruit in the class of 2012 ac­cord­ing to Ri­, said Thurs­day morn­ing on his Twit­ter page he planned to at­tend Mary­land. But the cur­rent ros­ter showed it still can prove spunky near the end of a four-month odyssey.

“We were dis­ap­pointed with the way we fin­ished the sea­son, so this was huge,” Tur­geon said. “This has been a great day — a great day — for Mary­land bas­ket­ball. I can’t talk about ev­ery­thing, but it’s been a great day for us.”

It didn’t take long for the Terps to gaze to­ward Fri­day as a chance for an­other mem­o­rable 24 hours thanks to a show­down with the league’s reg­u­larsea­son champ.

“I’m look­ing real for­ward to it,” Stoglin said.

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