Syracuse's narrow escape from UNC-Asheville on Friday reminded me of another 1-16 close call I covered, back in 1989. I was mainly there to cover Notre Dame, which beat Vanderbilt in the 8-9 game.
But the guys in the office made room for the Hoyas' escape, which was even more dramatic than this Asheville game. One similarity: Princeton thought it caught the short end of the whistle, too. Even classy Pete Carril made it clear where he stood.
From the Sun-Times, March 18, 1989. . .
By Herb Gould
PROVIDENCE, R.I. Top-seeded Georgetown got the scare of its tournament life Friday, but hung on to beatPrinceton 50-49 in the opening round of the NCAA East Regional.
Alonzo Mourning, the Hoyas' 6-10 freshman center, sealed the deal by blocking 6-3 Princeton swingman Bob Scrabis' shot from the top of the key with three seconds left.
"The game was in our hands. It was up to us. It's a dream you have your whole life, to knock off a No. 1 seed," said Scrabis, who led the
16th-seeded Tigers (19-8) with 15 points.
"I thought I took a good shot. He just made a heck of a defensive play. He's so big. It's tough to shoot over him," Scrabis said of Mourning, who led the Hoyas (27-4) with 21 points and seven blocked shots.
While eveybody else chuckled when Georgetown drew Princeton, Hoya coach John Thompson said he cursed. "It's like pulling root canal," he said of the Tigers' crisp, patient offense, which led to a surprising number of backdoor layups.
Instrumental in opening the defense was the play of 6-7 sophomore center Kit Mueller, from Downers Grove South, who had eight assists.
"You feel good, but it still hurts," said Matt Lapin, who had 12 points for Princeton.
"Princeton is the worst team in the world to play in the tournament," Thompson said. "Once we got to a point where we were chasing them, their confidence level rose and we were getting a little edgy."
When the Tigers left the court at halftime clutching a 29-21 lead, the capacity crowd of 12,106 at the Providence Civic Center gave them a standing ovation. Princeton received another ovation as it left the court a loser on the scoreboard, but a winner in effort.
The Tigers shut out Big East player of the year Charles Smith in the first half, and held him to four points all night.
Princeton, which didn't trail for the first 30 minutes, hit the first basket of the second half, then braced asGeorgetown made an 18-4 run to take its first lead, 39-37, with 10 1/2 minutes to play.
From there, the game seesawed until Mourning hit the front end of a one-and-one with 23 seconds left to put the Hoyas, who were held to a season low in scoring, ahead and set up Scrabis' last chance shot.
"That last play of the game, we'll have to take that up with God, when we get there," said Princeton's Pete Carrill, who thought Scrabiswas fouled.