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Remembering Princeton-Georgetown 1989

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff  March 17, 2010 07:39 PM

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. _ It seemed fitting yesterday, on the 21st anniversary of Princeton's near upset of top-seeded Georgetown in the first round of the 1989 NCAA East Regional, the Hoyas returned to the scene of that memorable NCAA tournament game. Former coach John Thompson, now a radio color analyst for Westwood One, was on hand to call the first-round action between the third-seeded Hoyas, coached by his son John Thompson 3d, and the 14th-seeded Ohio Bobcats at 7:25 tonight at the Dunkin' Donuts Center.

But two decades ago, Thompson dodged a huge bullet when Alonzo Mourning, then a 6-foot-10-inch freshman center, blocked the last-gasp heave of Princeton's 6-3 swingman Bob Scrabis to help the top-seeded Hoyas preserve a 50-49 victory in the opening round of the East Regional at the-then Providence Civic Center.

Certainly, the subject of whether Mourning's block was a foul or not has been debated between Thompson and his son, a Princeton man himself (Class of 1988).

``Everyone fusses about some shot,'' said the elder Thompson. ``But I always tell him that his claim to fame is that they almost beat us.''

Ever since, no 16 seed has ever come as close to beating a No. 1.

``What's so funny about it, I heard Bobby Knight say this and it's very, very true what Bobby said, but the emphasis on seeding was never significant to me,'' Thompson said. ``I never went into the tournament being concerned about who was seeded against who and I heard Bobby say that.

``The other day I was on the radio show and somebody said, `Well you were No. 1 and Princeton was No. 16,' '' Thompson said. ``Well, I didn't know what the [heck] Princeton was. I knew how they played and I didn't want to play against that system.''

Pete Carril's deliberate Princeton offense, predicated on precise execution, precise passing and backdoor cuts to the basket, seemed to catch the fancy of Richmond coach Chris Mooney.

``I was in junior high school being recruited by Princeton,'' said Mooney, who went on to play for Carril at Princeton before graduating in 1994. ``I was just floored. That was probably the first time I saw [Princeton] play on national television. They were up 28-20 at the half. Georgetown had stormed through the Big East tournament; they won like by 35. And Princeton played incredibly well. And I just _ I couldn't believe it.

``They had a shot at the end to win the game that was blocked.''

But was it? ``I think Coach Carril might argue there was a foul on the play,'' Mooney said. ``It was great. It didn't change Princeton basketball so much, as it changed the perception of Princeton basketball. It was a huge game and not only good for Princeton, but good for the NCAA Tournament.''

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