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March 8, 2008
Georgetown claims another Big East title
WASHINGTON — When it was duly noted at the postgame news conference that John Thompson III had accomplished something his Hall of Fame father didn't at Georgetown - consecutive Big East regular-season titles - the big man in the back of the room took exception.
"Ask them when they're going to compare you with your peers," John Thompson said. "You'll never make a damn dime being compared to ancient people. ... That's where you want to get, when they start comparing you to the people you're competing against, and not your father."
The son didn't respond to his father's words and was surprised by the fact Georgetown had never won consecutive titles. The younger Thompson was thinking more about the present: the 11th-ranked Hoyas' 55-52 victory over No. 12 Louisville on Saturday that clinched the second one.
"It feels the same, man," Thompson III said. "Winning the regular season is something that is truly special in any league."
And, just as he did last year on the first Saturday in March, the coach got to joke that he would sneak back into the Verizon Center late at night with his wife to cut the nets down - with no apologies for the run of success.
"It's my job to be greedy," he said. "I'm going to stay greedy as far as that goes. But you've got to be fortunate. This league is a monster."
In a punch and counter-punch game worthy of its billing, Georgetown (25-4, 15-3) survived Louisville's relentless defense and made just enough plays to win. The Cardinals (24-7, 14-4) matched a season high with 14 steals, but they were undone by 4-for-18 shooting from 3-point range, 10-for-18 shooting from the free-throw line, and a failure rotate the zone to cover DaJuan Summers in the final minute.
Summers' wide-open 3-pointer with 40 seconds to play, his only shot in the second half, was the winning basket. The assist came from Jonathan Wallace, the senior point guard whose other big Senior Day play was a double-clutch short jumper among the trees in the final 2 minutes.
"It was a grind 'em basketball game," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "We put ourselves in a situation where we could win. It just takes one blunder for you to lose the game in that situation. It was a great game. There were no easy shots. It was a lot of aggressive play out there by both teams."
Freshman Austin Freeman had 15 points for the Hoyas, who have won five straight, 12 of 14 and will be the No. 1 seed in next week's conference tournament. Georgetown, which shot 65 percent in the second half, has won 22 straight home games and is 6-0 in games decided by five points or fewer.
Roy Hibbert had 12 points, six rebounds and four blocks in his final home game.
Terrence Williams scored 14 points, and center David Padgett had 12 points but failed to get a rebound or an assist for the Cardinals, who beat Georgetown 59-51 at home last month and rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit this time. Louisville, seeking its first Big East regular-season title in its third year in the conference, will be the No. 2 seed in the tournament.
After Summers' 3-pointer, the Cardinals had three chances to tie. But, just as had been the case all day, the 3-pointers weren't falling. Jerry Smith (0-for-6 on 3s) missed with 21 seconds to play. After Georgetown's Jeremiah Rivers missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Earl Clark's contested 3-pointer was an air ball. Louisville got the rebound, but Edgar Sosa missed a 3 as time expired.
"It was a great season," said Pitino, whose team was ranked No. 6 in the preseason Top 25 but fell out of the rankings after injuries to Padgett and Juan Palacios. "It's a bitter pill to swallow when you lose, but we had a chance to win a championship."
The game marked only the second time the Big East regular-season title was decided in a game between teams tied for first entering the final day. Pittsburgh beat Syracuse 85-84 in 1988.
After the game, Summers carried around the Big East trophy, and his superstitious coach was thankful that Georgetown's odd decision to unveil new uniforms on Senior Day didn't jinx the outcome. Then he started to look ahead. For a team that is seeking to return to the Final Four, a regular-season title is just one step.
"We're still sitting at the table," Thompson said. "The game's still going on. Cards are still being played. The dice is still in someone's hand. So we can't pick ourselves up and start to feel good right now. We've got to keep playing."