Georgetown 66, Vanderbilt 65
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—With big man Roy Hibbert on the bench, Jeff Green knew he had to step up.
Turns out he might have taken one step too many as he lifted the Georgetown Hoyas into a regional final for the first time in 11 years.
Green squeezed between two defenders, spun and banked in a short, off-balance shot with 2.5 seconds to play to lead Georgetown to a 66-65 victory over Vanderbilt in the East Regional semifinals Friday night.
Replays seemed to suggest Green traveled by picking up his pivot foot. None of the three officials saw it that way.
“No,” Green said when asked about a possible traveling violation. “There were a lot of guys in there. I probably got pushed. They didn’t call it. The play was good, and that’s all I can say.”
Vanderbilt forward Ross Neltner wasn’t complaining about the lack of a call, and he was double-teaming Green with Shan Foster on the play.
“I didn’t really see anything,” Neltner said. “We’ll watch the tape, but it’s inconsequential at this point.”
The reality is second-seeded Georgetown (29-6) is headed to the East Regional final for a matchup against top-seeded North Carolina. The Hoyas accomplished it with 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert on the bench after fouling out with 3:58 to play.
Vanderbilt (22-12) had one last chance to win the game but a long 3-pointer by Alex Gordon did not come close. Green, the Big East player of the year, contested it, preserving the Hoyas’ seventh straight win and 18th in 19 games.
“With Roy absent I had to step up,” Green said. “He is a big target down there. I had to take his place, get those rebounds he was able to get and do other things. But as a group I think we all had to step up.”
The sixth-seeded Commodores had taken a 65-64 lead with 17.9 seconds to play when Dan Cage hit two free throws after being fouled collecting the rebound of a Patrick Ewing Jr.’s missed jumper.
After a timeout, Jessie Sapp gave it to Green at the foul line extended and let the 6-foot-9 forward go to work.
Green started to make a move, fumbled the ball. He recovered, made a turnaround move and banked home the short jumper with two Vandy players trying to stop him. Replays seemed to indicate he might have walked by switching his pivot foot.
“Well the play was to try to look for the backdoor,” said Green, who finished with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting. “Then after that, just try to get something toward the basket. When I went into my move, I kind of fumbled it a little, hurried up, tried to find it, pick it up. Just tried to get it up off the glass and it went in.
“That was a good play, a fumble play, a bumble play I had to make,” Green said. “I got lucky, and it went in.”
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings refused to ruin Green’s big moment.
“I’m certainly not going to take away from the dignity of this game,” Stallings said. “I haven’t seen the replay. Don’t care to. He made a great shot.”
Hibbert had 12 points and 10 rebounds—mostly in the second half—to help Georgetown rally from an eight-point halftime deficit. Freshman DaJuan Summers added 15 points, including three clutch 3-pointers in the second half.
Cage and SEC player of the year Derrick Byars had 17 points apiece to lead Vanderbilt, looking to reach the regional final for the second time in school history. Foster added 16 points.
Neither team led by more than four points in the final 17 minutes, which featured eight lead changes and four ties.
Georgetown seemed ready to take control when Jonathan Wallace hit a 3-pointer with 6:21 to play to put the Hoyas ahead 54-51.
However, Byars scored on a layup, and Hibbert picked up his fourth foul on a block with 5:43 to play.
After Foster put the Commodores ahead with the last of their eight 3-pointers, Ewing committed a turnover and Foster drove for a basket and a 58-54 lead with 4:45 to go.
Sapp, who was 2-of-10 from the floor, suddenly got clutch and nailed his first 3-pointer to cut the edge to a point with 4:12 left.
Hibbert then made what seemed a crucial error, fouling Byars on a long 3-point attempt. He slowly walked off the court, and it seemed the Hoyas season was done.
Byars eventually hit two free throws to make it 60-57.
But Green stepped up again. The junior tipped in a missed layup by Summers and was fouled, converting a three-point play to tie the game at 60 with 3:58 to go.
Sapp put Georgetown ahead 62-60 with a driving layup with 2:03 to play.
After Neltner made one of two free throws with 1:36 to go, Wallace hit a jumper with 63 seconds to play for a 64-61 lead.
Byars cut the margin to a point with two free throws with 48.8 seconds left, and Cage put Vanderbilt in position for the upset with his free throws.
That set the stage for Georgetown’s best player to come through with its big man only able to sit and watch.