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March 23, 2007

Heartbreak in Jersey

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.-Vanderbilt's NCAA Tournament run came to an abrupt halt in Continental Arena on Friday night, as Georgetown's Jeff Green banked in a short jump shot with 2.5 seconds left, giving the Hoyas a dramatic 66-65 win over the Commodores in a Sweet 16 game.


Vanderbilt had just re-taken a one-point lead after Dan Cage sunk two free throws with 18 seconds left, leaving the Hoyas one last gasp. Green got the ball near the right side of the free throw lane, and appeared to travel before banking in a shot from about eight feet.

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings declined comment on the play, and instructed his players to do the same.

On the ensuing possession, the Commodores threw the ball in to point guard Alex Gordon, who threw up a shot just inside mid-court over a pair of Hoya defenders that was tipped by Jesse Sapp and missed by several feet.

Seniors Cage (17 points) and Derrick Byars (16) led Vandy in scoring in 38 minutes of action. Junior Shan Foster also scored 16 in 38 minutes.

"It was a terrific college basketball game, and we're very disappointed to have not come out on the good end of it," said Stallings. "But, I'm very proud of our team and very proud of all of the individual players, and their spirit and their competitiveness, and how they gave us a chance to win this game."

The Commodores fell behind 4-0 out of the gate, but then went on an 18-2 run keyed by two 3's and a 2 by Cage. Vandy built the lead to 13 at one point, and took a 32-24 advantage to the locker room.

The Hoyas quickly closed the lead in the second, tying the game at 36 on a DaJuan Summers 3, then took a 39-38 lead on Green's layup moments later at the 14:12 mark.

The lead changed hands several times throughout the half, and Vandy seemed to have the advantage when Roy Hibbert fouled out late in the game after fouling Byars on a 3 with 3:58 remaining.

Byars hit two of three shots to give Vandy a 60-57 lead, but the Hoyas battled back. Green got an offensive rebound and a put-back and was fouled, then hit the ensuing free throw. Moments later, Sapp converted a fast-break layup for a 62-60 Georgetown lead with 2:04 left.

Ross Neltner answered with a free throw to cut the lead to one at 1:36, but the Hoyas' Jonathan Wallace hit a long 2 just before the shot clock expired with exactly a minute left.

Byars converted a pair of free throws with 49 seconds left to pull Vandy within one (64-63), then the Hoyas' Summers pushed Cage in the back on a rebound on the Hoyas' next offensive trip.

Cage nailed both free throws, setting up Green's heroics.

The Commodores (22-12) saw a magical season in which they knocked off five-straight ranked opponents at one point come to an end. The Hoyas (29-6) advance to the Elite Eight after beating Vandy for the second time this season.


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