COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jason Clark exhaled. Henry Sims breathed a similar sigh of relief when the final buzzer sounded.
The Georgetown Hoyas won a NCAA tournament game. Finally.
I was in Providence in 2010 when Armon Bassett went for 32 points and a young, baby-faced guard named D.J. Cooper pulled the shocker and knocked off the third-seeded Hoyas. I was also in attendance last season in Chicago when No. 6 Georgetown was beaten by VCU in the Hoyas first game of the Big Dance. The last time Georgetown has been relevant in the NCAA tournament? Try five years ago when the Hoyas knocked off North Carolina in overtime to advance to the Final Four.
Georgetown coach John Thompson III started many a practice the same way, asking his team who had played in an NCAA tournament contest? Not a hand went up. This senior class -- which includes Clark and Sims -- was in serious jeopardy of being the first in the JT3 Era to leave without a postseason win.
"It's relief more than anything else," Clark said after scoring 21 points in the Hoyas 74-59 victory over Belmont. "Now we can say we've one at least one, but we're looking to get more."
This wasn't supposed to be the team, of the four that Clark and Sims have been on, that went dancing. In the loss to Ohio, Georgetown was led by lottery pick Greg Monroe. Last season, these guys had senior guards Chris Wright and Austin Freeman.
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"It's a little bit surprising," Sims admitted.
This group has shocked everyone. After losing its starting backcourt, no one ranked the Hoyas in the preseason. In fact, most pegged them as an NIT team -- which was the case when Clark and Sims were freshmen. But the Hoyas used improved leadership, chemistry and a freshman class that accepted and thrived in its role to spend most of the year in the Top 25.
"It's not just about talent," Sims said.
The regular-season success was nice, but ultimately that wasn't what was important to the guys in the locker room. Georgetown knew that they'd be judged by what they did in the postseason.
"Absolutely," Georgetown sophomore big man Nate Lubick said. "We knew that -- and also that everyone was picking us to be upset."
Remember, this was a Belmont program that nearly knocked Duke off a few years ago, one that has no shortage of shooters. But the Bruins were thoroughly dominated against Georgetown on Friday afternoon and were never truly threatened the entire game.
"We wanted to prove people wrong," Sims added.
Next up is a matchup against No. 11 N.C. State on Sunday.
This Georgetown team doesn't blow you away, but JT3 has assembled pieces -- and length. The Hoyas are difficult to score against -- and have enough offensive weapons with guys like Clark, Sims, Hollis Thompson and freshman Otto Porter.
And now they also have that monkey off their backs.