Belmont Basketball had a Cinderella slipper fit and ready for wear at the ‘Big Dance.’ But after riding a sizzling, three-point bonanza to its second consecutive Atlantic Sun Championship, the Bruins’ clock struck midnight. Icy long range shooting and a talented, disciplined foe spelled an 80-55 defeat at the hands of second-seeded Georgetown in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Belmont got off to an encouraging start, as sophomore point guard Henry Harris (Nashville, Tenn.) flew in for a tip-in basket off a missed three-pointer from sophomore Andy Wicke (Hendersonville, Tenn.) for the game’s first points one minute in.
After two free throws from Georgetown’s 7-2 center Roy Hibbert, the Bruins answered with two free throws from senior Andrew Preston (Winchester, Ky.) and a gorgeous hesitation dribble drive basket in transition from Harris for a 6-2 lead two and a half minutes in.
A backdoor slam from Dajuan Summers cut the lead in half, but a banked three-pointer from sophomore Matthew Dotson (Centerville, Tenn.) extended the Bruin edge to five, 9-4, with 16:26 in the half. Belmont, after playing almost exclusively halfcourt man-to-man defense this season, threw a wrinkle at the Big East Champion Hoyas with a variety of zone defenses.
Georgetown struggled early to find an offensive rhythm against the Bruin defense, and after a bank shot from senior Boomer Herndon (Nashville, Tenn.) dropped, Belmont had an 11-4 lead less than five minutes in. The stout Belmont following, as well as the vast majority of Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum fans were cheering on the Atlantic Sun Champions.
But the Hoya defense stiffened and Georgetown went on a systematic 11-0 run over the next five plus minutes to take the lead. Big East Player of the Year Jeff Green scored eight of the points as Georgetown went ahead 15-11. A free throw from sophomore Will Peeples (Little Rock, Ark.) ended the scoring drought, before Jessie Sapp and reserve Tyler Crawford knocked down two straight three-pointers to give the Hoyas a 21-12 advantage.
Junior Justin Hare (Cleveland, Tenn.) got on the board moments later with a triple off a nice feed from Preston, but three more Georgetown treys – five straight Hoya baskets were from long distance at one juncture late in the half – followed as the lead swelled to 12, 30-18.
Preston’s diligence down low did draw a second foul on Hibbert, who had been controlling the paint. A baseline three-pointer from Harris and consecutive putbacks from Dotson and sophomore Shane Dansby (Pegram, Tenn.) sliced the margin to seven, 32-25, with 3:14 in the half. The Bruins proceeded to have four possessions to cut further into the deficit, but were unable to do so.
Georgetown scored the final six points of the half – a Summers three-point play and a Jonathan Wallace three-pointer – to go to the locker room up 13, 38-25.
Belmont had its chances in the opening 20 minutes – but 4-for-9 free throw shooting and a 21-10 rebounding hole inhibited the cause.
Preston opened the second half in fine fashion with a baseline reverse past Hibbert to cut the margin to 11, 38-27. But the BU center picked up his third foul moments later and was forced to the Belmont bench. Georgetown proceeded to score the next eight points, four each from its two frontcourt stars Hibbert and Green to push the score to 46-27, with 17:30 left.
Preston was reinserted, and he scored again on a nice post move, but another Jessie Sapp three-pointer upped the Hoya lead to 20, 49-29, nearly five minutes into the second half. Sapp – who was 2-for-27 from three-point range in Georgetown’s previous seven games – found his touch, making four of his six long range attempts.
Hibbert, whose immense size kept possessions alive and clogged the Belmont lane, scored twice more in close to make it 53-30 with under 12 minutes to go.
After torching the nets in the Atlantic Sun Championship to the tune of 12 first half three-point field goals, BU was simply unable to order an encore performance. Wicke, in particular, so integral to Belmont’s success and the Atlantic Sun leader in three-point shooting at 46 percent, had an usually rough shooting night. The gutsy sophomore missed his first eight three-point attempts before sinking a long triple in front of the Bruin bench to make the score 64-41 with just over four minutes remaining.
Hare followed with a left wing three-pointer and Preston added a lefty hook to trim the margin to 20, 66-46, with 3:27 remaining. The Bruins fought hard irrespective of the score, getting several second and third shot opportunities. Belmont earned the respect of its opposition and the knowledgeable basketball fans of North Carolina.
But the overall size and versatility of Georgetown was the difference. Bruin fan favorite Andrew House (Nashville, Tenn.) scored in the final minute as every active player on the two teams saw action.
Belmont shot 36 percent from the floor – including 6-for-26 from three-point territory. Preston acquitted himself well in his final collegiate game, scoring a team-high 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting. Hare added 10 points.
The Bruins also outrebounded Georgetown in the second half, 20-18.
Sapp scored a career-high 20 points for the Hoyas. Green scored 15, and Hibbert chipped in 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Belmont finishes the season 23-10.