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Georgetown suffers shocking, familiar NCAA tournament upset

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Sports,College,Craig Stouffer,Georgetown University

Florida Gulf Coast becomes seventh No. 15 seed to knock off No. 2

PHILADELPHIA - It can't be a fluke.

It can't be simply coincidence that Georgetown, again, after an extraordinary regular season, would find the world turned upside down at the NCAA tournament.

One of the country's toughest defenses unraveled. One of the nation's toughest teams bullied. The Big East player of the year stymied. The Big East coach of the year exposed.

It can't be a fluke because it's happened before. On Friday, it happened again.

The Hoyas weren't just upset but undressed in the second round of the NCAAs, 78-68, by No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast, a program with no tradition and no fear.

While the Eagles (25-10) became the seventh No. 15 seed to defeat a No. 2 seed, the Hoyas (25-7) were left dumbfounded by a fifth consecutive loss in the NCAAs to a much less-heralded, double-digit seed.

"Trust me," Hoyas coach John Thompson said. "More than anyone on this earth, I've tried to analyze it, think about it, look at it, think about what we should do differently, and I don't know."

In every way that Georgetown had surged to a share of the Big East regular season title and had become a Final Four favorite, FGCU was the better team at Wells Fargo Center.

The transformation was complete when the Hoyas had somehow trimmed a 19-point deficit back to seven with two minutes to play. Otto Porter Jr. (13 points, 11 rebounds) was reduced to chasing point guard Brett Comer (12 points, 10 assists), who scooped an underhanded lob to Chase Fieler (nine points) for a one-handed slam and ran down the court with his arms raised in triumph.

Comer set the tone with a driving layup on the game's opening possession. With FGCU ahead 24-22 at the break, he did as he pleased to start the second half, too, finding Sherwood Brown (24 points) for a 3-pointer and delivering a rim-rattling alley oop to Fieler to go up 29-22.

The Hoyas ran off six straight points only to get steamrolled right back by a 21-2 run that included two 3-pointers from Bernard Thompson (23 points), two slams by Eddie Murray (nine points) and a flagrant foul from Jabril Trawick (11 points) for the unraveling favorites. The Atlantic Sun champions hardly played like underdogs, shooting 56.5 percent from the field in the second half against a team that had allowed opponents to shoot 37.6 percent all season.

"I don't even think it was winning plays today," said Markel Starks (23 points, six assists), who hadn't shied away from the Hoyas' tournament failures in the days leading up to the game. "I think they just had our number. They were a little bit more animated than we were. They just flat out outplayed us. And then it was hard to shrink that lead. Did we make the winning plays early? That's up for debate."

Getting knocked in the mouth early inspired Porter to play like a man possessed at the defensive end for a portion of the first half. But he never dictated the action like he was able during Georgetown's 11-game winning streak during the season. It remains to be seen if it affects his potential decision to turn pro.

"Right now it just hurts," Porter said. "That's what I'm feeling right now, nothing else... The whole game I tried to be vocal out there, just get us back, but at the same time, it's hard when they're making shots and making plays."

Starks missed a chance to pull the Hoyas within two in the final minute with what would've been a third consecutive 3-pointer. He had promised himself that the Hoyas wouldn't hang their heads in the way they had after getting shocked by No. 11 seed North Carolina State the year before. And they couldn't, because Georgetown's latest upset left them too shocked to grasp that their unfortunate recent history was repeating again.

"That thought definitely ran through my mind," Starks said. "But eventually, this won't happen again "Eventually, we'll be able to get out of this and maybe we'll have some smiles on our faces."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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