Belmont no match for Georgetown in 74-59 loss

TOM WITHERS AP Sports Writer Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- As the final seconds ticked off on Belmont's season, ending its dreams of a first NCAA win, some of the Bruins faithful began to sing.

"I'm Belmont 'til I die," the fans crooned. "I know I am. I swear I am. I'm Belmont 'til I die."

Nothing could be done.

Georgetown was just too much.

The third-seeded Hoyas, behind a swarming defense and strong second-half shooting, advanced in the Midwest Regional on Friday with a 74-59 win over No. 14 seed Belmont, which failed for the fifth time in five tournament appearances to pull off the upset that has been so tantalizingly close in the past.

"Georgetown is a better team than we are," Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. "They're kind of supposed to be a better team than we are. But it should have been a better game from start to finish. I just would like for us to have been more competitive."

This was supposed to be Belmont's year to advance deeper in March. One of the Bruins' goals before the season started was to not only get to the NCAA tourney for the fifth time in seven years, but to win at least one game. A one-point loss to Duke in the season opener had boosted the Bruins' confidence they could, as guard Drew Hanlen said, "play with the big boys."

But the Hoyas were too big, too fast, too strong.

The Bruins were overmatched.

"Those guys are big and long," Belmont center Mike Hedgepath said.

Jason Clark scored 21 points, Otto Porter added 16 and Georgetown's ruthless defense bottled up Belmont's shooters. The Bruins, who came in making an average of nine 3-pointers per game, made 10 of 27 from behind the arc -- not nearly good enough to pull off the upset.

Henry Sims had 15 points, and the third-seeded Hoyas (24-8) shot 61 percent from the floor to advance to Sunday's third round of the Midwest Regional and a matchup with No. 11 seed North Carolina State, which beat San Diego State in the day's opener at Nationwide Arena.

Georgetown's previous two seasons ended with embarrassing opening-round losses to Virginia Commonwealth and Ohio, scrappy mid-majors who made the big, bad Hoyas look silly. This time around, Georgetown played like the Georgetown of old, using inside muscle and a swarming defense that choked the life out of the Bruins.

"They're well taught, and they've got great athletes," Byrd said of the Hoyas, who went 12-6 in the Big East. "If Syracuse is better than that, I'm glad we didn't play Syracuse."

Georgetown was enough. More than enough.

The Bruins had their 14-game winning streak stopped and fell to 0-5 in NCAA appearances.

Blake Jenkins scored 17 to lead Belmont, but senior Kerron Johnson, the Bruins' leading scorer, had just 4 -- 10 below his average.

"We forced a couple of shots inside instead of kicking it out to shooters like we're normally pretty good at," Hanlen said. "Sometimes we tried to make the hero play instead of just a smart play."

Leading by nine at half, Georgetown never let Belmont get closer than six in the second half.

Sims controlled the inside and Clark handled things outside for the Hoyas, who look like a team capable of making a deep tourney run.

After Belmont got within 58-49 on Hanlen's 3-pointer with just under six minutes left, Georgetown went on a 13-2 run to end any doubt -- along with Belmont's season.

When the final horn sounded, the Hoyas looked relieved. And with good reason. Their season was still alive.

"Finally got the monkey off our back," guard Markel Starks said.

Not the Bruins. They'll have to wait another year before getting a crack at doing more than just making the NCAA field.

The win they covet remains out of reach.

"I'm proud of our team," Byrd said. "I'm proud of our year. Those seniors just won three straight regular-season championships and two straight tournament championships and 57 games in two years. "And when I get a little perspective, I'll feel a little bit better than I do right now."