Hoyas left to wonder why after latest early exit

Hoyas left to wonder why after latest early exit
March 23, 2013, 12:00 am
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Another early exit for Georgetown

PHILADELPHIA -- After another early round collapse, all Georgetown can do is ask why.

No, not why the Big East regular season and the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament's South region lost to No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast 78-68 on Friday night. Cocky from the tip and alley-oop dunking throughout, the soaring Eagles messed with Georgetown's will and skill on both ends of the court.

No, the why is about why this keeps happening. Why does a team that racks up wins during the regular season despite playing in (or now, played in) arguably the nation's toughest conference lose earlier than expected each postseason.

Fine, not each postseason, but four straight and five in six years as is the Hoyas current stretch of futility sure feels like forever and a day. Becoming only the seventh No. 2 seed in NCAA Tournament history to lose to a 15-seed is almost irrelevant when one's own recent history is brutal enough.

"All you can do is look up into the sky and say why is this continuing to happen to us," said junior guard Markel Starks after enduring his third such loss in as many years.

Of course, the "why" issue goes beyond simply losing. In their five NCAA Tournaments since reaching the 2007 Final Four, Georgetown (25-7), succumbed to a team with two digits to the left of their name despite a 2, 3 or 6 next to its own. Four times the Hoyas have been a two or three seed.

Inheriting the double-digit seed role previously played flawlessly by Davidson, Ohio, VCU and NC State, the Eagles (25-10) added a heaping of dose of flair and bravado with its interpretation. Their rousing win played before a crowd of largely impartial observers who eventually vocally backed the little guy added to the Big East giant's list of "why" results.

"I wish I could, trust me, more than anyone on this earth I've tried to analyze it, think about it, think about what I should do differently," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said, "and I don't know."

The Hoyas played the part of frustrated chaser throughout the second half after falling behind 52-31 thanks to being on the brutally wrong side of a five minute, 3-point shooting and fast-breaking 21-2 run. Thompson turned to full court pressure from there and with Markel Starks' offense and FGCU missing free throws, the margin shrunk. Starks drained one of his four 3-pointers free throws with 53 seconds left, pulling the Hoyas closer at 72-68.

The Eagles, who scored 54 second-half points against a team that allowed 55.7 per game on the season, closed the comeback door by making 6 of their 8 free throws. As the Hoyas momentum faded, the unwanted reality kicked in. Rather than adding to the program's storied past, they unwillingly contributed to the run of postseason futility.

"I honestly felt we were tough enough, which we were," Starks said. 'We were athletic enough, I felt like we had enough size. I felt like all the pieces were in line. We just got outplayed, just flat out outplayed."

Last time the Hoyas lost as a No. 2 seed, Davidison's Stephon Curry did the outplaying. This time, Eagles tattooed point guard Brett Comer's showy command paced the Eagles' victory. The brash playmaker with court vision to spare had 12 points and 10 assists, all of which seemed to result in a fast-break dunk or a wide open shot, often for Sherwood Brown (24 points) and Bernard Thompson (23).

Starks: "They made big shots, they got lobs, they were dunking all over the place. Maybe we just weren't tough enough today, who knows."

Otto Porter Jr. was not enough of the player that unanimously was named Big East Player of the Year. In what could be his final college game, the sophomore finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, but shot 5 of 17 from the field and never took command as he did for the Hoyas throughout the season.

Considered a potentially high selection in the 2013 NBA Draft should he forgo his final two years of eligibility, Porter said after that loss that no decision on his playing future has been made.

Most of the postgame post mortem focused on tying the devastating present with the losing past.

"It's something that we're just not doing," Starks said "We all live right, we all pray to God, we're all in the gym. We bring it every day. We're always well prepared for each game. It's nothing that throws us any surprises, but obviously it's something that we're not doing collectively as a program."

Taking the season as a whole, Georgetown did many good things, including sharing the Big East title with Louisville and Marquette by winning 12 of its final 13 regular season games behind its defense and Porter's All-American production. That triumphant stretch came after the team began conference play 0-2 and then lost its second-leading scorer Greg Whittington due to academic ineligibly.

Those are the basic details, but most of the college basketball world will only focus on the big picture. Once again under the brightest lights, Georgetown lost early, lost loud. From that perspective, few outside the program are likely to deem this season a successful one.

"Those that are going to say that, it's understandable because we have had some early exits against some significantly lower seeded teams," Thompson said. "That has happened. That being said, do I want to say we did not have a successful season because we lost this game today? I don't think I'm ready to say that.

"I'm not sitting here pounding my chest saying, "Oh, we had a great season, either."

When it comes to the feeling, the emotion behind that statement, there is no need to ask why.