March 3, 2009
It was an escape.
No two ways about it, what happened Saturday between Georgetown and Villanova was not a pretty game of basketball. The teams combined for 40-plus turnovers, with the Hoyas supplying 25. With the score 52-50 with five minutes remaining, you’d expect a tight finish. What you wouldn’t expect is that four minutes and about fifteen possessions later, you’d be looking at the exact same score. But when the defensive slugfest came to an end, the Hoyas were 56-54 victors. And, fittingly, for all the complaining by Villanova fans about last year’s game—when Corey Stokes was called for a bump on Jon Wallace 80 feet from the basket with 0.1 second remaining in a tied game—this year, they would have been desperate to foul the Georgetown point guard as he pushed the ball up the sideline.
While the debate over the merits of 07-08 Jon Wallace vs. 08-09 Chris Wright as the Hoyas’ main facilitator continues, one common theme is that Chris shows a second gear that the walkon from Alabama never had. And it showed Saturday afternoon.
With 3.5 seconds left on the clock, Chris did what needed to be done. He escaped.
And with that the Hoyas got out of Wachovia with a surprising win. And maybe started their own Great Escape.
As a current senior whose Georgetown basketball historical frame of reference is the last three seasons, this year has been a little hard to wrap my head around. Based off previous years, I—and probably the rest of the Class of 2009—figured a Sweet Sixteen was a nice bar to set for the season, challenging for the Big East regular season or Tournament championships a reasonable expectation, and an NCAA Tournament berth a given.
Now that’s all been thrown out the window, I’m trying to find a decent corollary to explain this year. The best one I can think of is—wait for it—Fulham F.C.’s 2007-2008 season in the English Premier League. Entering the last month of the season, the Cottagers had taken only 24 points from 33 matches, managing only four wins and enduring a 12-match winless streak. Relegation to the lower-level Championship was a mathematical near-certainty. And yet, over five weeks, Fulham put together four wins, three away from home, and when Danny Murphy headed home a 76th-minute winner at Portsmouth, Fulham managed to stay up in the Premiership for another season (and probably earned themselves another $60 million in TV revenue, but that’s neither here nor there.)
The Great Escape, as the season has come to be known, is not only evidence of the excitement throughout the league when the prospects of being relegated are just as pressing as those of winning a championship—although that’s a discussion for another forum—but proof that on occasion, a team can reverse a bad stretch, grit out a victory (in each victory, the game-winner was scored in the last 15 minutes), and make it back to their rightful spot: the Premier League, or the NCAA Tournament.
One further corollary: Over the course of the five-week stretch, had Fulham started Carlos Bocanegra instead of leaving him on the bench, they would have had four Americans in the starting lineup, just like the Hoyas.
We’re not there yet. There are a number of things that still must be fixed in the Hoyas’ remaining two games against St. John’s and DePaul. But Saturday afternoon, as we left Wachovia to board the buses back to D.C., visions of turnovers and Wildcat trips to the free-throw line still swirling in my head, only one thing really mattered:
Paul Campbell (MSB 09)