COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A heartbreaking defeat wasn't going to keep Georgetown from taking pride in the expectations it had defied all year. It didn't make the third-seeded Hoyas' 66-63 loss to No. 11 N.C. State, an upset in name only, any easier to accept.
Georgetown's courageous near comeback from 11 points down in the second half had encapsulated the Hoyas' faith in their underclassmen-heavy roster. Yet the Hoyas (24-9) fell short because their two most experienced players, seniors Jason Clark (10 points) and Henry Sims (four points), both were never at their best. The Wolfpack (24-12) won for the sixth time in seven games with three players each scoring 14 points.
"I think this is one of my favorite groups of guys that I was around my four years at Georgetown," a bleary-eyed Clark said. "People doubted us, but I think we worked hard for the success that we got. This loss hurts a lot, but I told the guys we've accomplished a lot."
Down 63-61 with 24.1 seconds on the game clock and 24 seconds on the shot clock, the Hoyas leaned on freshman Otto Porter (nine points, eight rebounds), who had the chance for an open 3-pointer after he dumped the ball inside and got an immediate return pass from Sims.
But in a rare moment of inexperience, Porter hesitated, dribbled and took and missed a much tougher shot from the baseline.
"I'm comfortable with his decisions," Hoyas coach John Thompson III said. What ached afterward was how much he had wanted his team to go further.
"There hasn't been a group that I've enjoyed coaching more," he said. "There are teams that have been more successful. But what this group has given this year, how they've embraced each other and embraced me is something that is very special."
Clark's errant running 3-pointer at the buzzer left the Hoyas with their fourth consecutive NCAA tournament exit at the hands of a double-digit seed, a game they led by double digits in the first half. That advantage came in spite of Sims, who went to the bench with more than 14 minutes left in the first half after a pair of offensive fouls. While he watched, a 3-pointer from Jabril Trawick and a pass from Mikael Hopkins to a cutting Greg Whittington -- all freshmen -- gave the Hoyas' their biggest lead at 25-15.
It didn't hold as N.C. State finished the half with a 15-2 run, capped by a steal and dunk by C.J. Leslie (14 points, eight rebounds). Six minutes into the second half, the Wolfpack were up 45-34, and Clark was on the bench. But Hollis Thompson ignited the Hoyas with his own 7-0 run en route to scoring 17 of his season-high 23 points in the second half, and three times Georgetown pulled to within three points.
A trio of second-half 3-pointers from Scott Wood (14 points) kept the Hoyas from reclaiming the lead. Georgetown fouled to turn a 61-54 deficit with 1:11 remaining into a one-possession game, aided by the Wolfpack missing three of their next five free throws, before Porter's miss.
"We weren't supposed to do anything, so to get to this point is successful," Sims said. "But we would have loved to do more."