Las Vegas Sun

May 16, 2021

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Silencing Arizona’s fans with a win against Georgetown

I never got caught up in the seeding part of the NCAA Tournament. No matter where the committee placed you, it was always going to be a tough game and you were always going to have to play your best.

We never got any breaks, and I didn't expect to.

In 1987, we were in a bracket with Princeton and nobody wanted to be with Princeton because they had a great coach, Pete Carril. They never had the talent, but they were so hard to beat because of that system Pete ran.

That year, they took Georgetown to the last shot of the game. They had Georgetown beat, but lost on a questionable goaltending call.

As a coach, you looked bad when you lost to them because you always had better players. I couldn't believe that we drew Princeton.

In 1991, the year after we won the national championship, we drew Georgetown in the second round.

They weren't great that year, but nobody wanted to play them because they had Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo in the same starting lineup.

Imagine having to face those two great shot blockers. It was probably the best two shot blockers on the floor at the same time for a college team.

John Thompson didn't start Mutombo until February, but once he was in the lineup, Georgetown was unstoppable. They would be a tough opponent for anyone.

I remember watching the selection show and telling some friends, "Mark my words, we will have to go through Georgetown." Sure enough, when the pairings came out, we had Georgetown.

We had to play them in Tucson, Ariz., and that was tough for us because we had such a heated rivalry with Arizona. It was like a road game because their fans were so rough on us.

Our fans who traveled to the game said they were treated so badly. They would go into restaurants and have a hard time being served.

To this day, John Thompson will tell you that was the only time Georgetown got cheered on the road. They were always considered the villains because they were a pretty rough and physical team. But when they took the court against us in Arizona, they received a standing ovation.

You could say we got the last laugh. We beat Georgetown and advanced to the Final Four. And our players left a gift for Arizona's players.

We were assigned the Arizona locker room, which had this big basketball decoration inside it in with Arizona's logos and colors. Well, our guys shouldn't have done this, but they each autographed the ball after we won.

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