- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2001

VILLANOVA 59, GEORGETOWN 56

Welcome to the bubble, boys.

In a refrain that has become painfully familiar to the current crop of Hoyas, No. 18 Georgetown foundered at the finish again last night, dropping a 59-56 decision to Villanova at MCI Center.

The Hoyas (19-5, 6-5 Big East), who do not play again until Saturday at Rutgers, have staggered through a 3-5 stretch after opening the season 16-0 and have done little to impress the NCAA tournament selection committee since mid-January.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed," Georgetown coach Craig Esherick said. "The season's not over, but we've got to work now. We've got to be ready to buckle down in practice. This is when you find out whether you've got some people who want to jump ship or not. We've had a very good year up to this point, and we just have to work through some things."

Last night, the Hoyas appeared to have worked through Saturday's 103-79 loss at Providence. Despite a miserable offensive first half that saw them fall behind by as many as 14 points, the Hoyas used some vintage blue-and-gray fullcourt, trapping defense to claw even and pull ahead of the Wildcats early in the second half. Villanova (15-8, 6-5) played all but three minutes without senior point guard Jermaine Medley, who injured his right leg Saturday against Connecticut, and the Hoyas took advantage of his absence by hounding the Wildcats' shaky backcourt duo of Gary Buchanan and Derrick Snowden into nine turnovers against just three assists.

Capitalizing on a stretch in which Villanova scored just three field goals in nearly 14 minutes, the Hoyas forged ahead 45-36 on back-to-back 3-pointers by Anthony Perry and Gerald Riley with 9:52 remaining.

And then the drought descended.

Facing a Villanova zone designed to snuff Georgetown power forward Mike Sweetney (14 points) while allowing the outside shot, the Hoyas went frigid from the field. The numbers are staggeringly futile. Georgetown made just four field goals and scored just 11 points over the last 9:50, conjuring visions of similar stretches that doomed them in home losses to Pittsburgh and Notre Dame earlier this season.

Villanova wasn't exactly playing a potent brand of offense. Standout center Michael Bradley (24 points, eight rebounds) provided the team's only source. But Bradley was enough against the can't-make kids from the Hilltop. Behind Bradley, Villanova sputtered ahead 53-51 with 3:17 remaining, setting up the incomparable Georgetown brick brigade. The Hoyas' next nine possessions went as follows: Perry misses an open 3-pointer; junior point guard Kevin Braswell misses an open 3-pointer; Braswell commits a turnover in the lane; sophomore guard Demetrius Hunter misses a forced 3-pointer; Perry misses another open 3-pointer; senior center Lee Scruggs misses a 15-footer; Hunter makes one of two free throws; Braswell makes one of two free throws; Perry misses yet again from deep.

"I'll tell you one thing: We've got to work on our shooting," Braswell said after the Hoyas finished a season-worst 18-for-67 (26.9 percent) from the field and 7-for-32 (21.9 percent) from behind the arc. "They were packed back in that zone giving us open 3-pointers, and we didn't make them pay."

Despite that horrid stretch of nine futile possessions, Georgetown trailed by only 55-53 with 54 seconds to go after Perry's final miss. And as Villanova came down with the rebound, the 11,173 fans in attendance rose to their feet in anticipation of a defensive stop and a game-breaking play for the Hoyas. What they got was a backbreaker from Buchanan, who played keep-away with his mates until 15 seconds remained on the clock, then stepped back and drilled a 25-footer from the wing. Hunter answered to pull Georgetown within 59-56 with 5.6 seconds left. But after the normally golden Buchanan made just one of two tosses, the game ended fittingly as Braswell hurled one more desperate clanker off the back of the iron from 30 feet.

"We'll just have to go watch film of games we played earlier this season, when we were playing with confidence and energy," said Braswell. "Basketball is all about confidence. If you're playing with confidence, then you've got it. Right now we're not, and I'm not sure why.

"The worst thing is we've got a week to sit around and think about it before we play Rutgers. It definitely hurts. It's hard to think about the fact that we blew another game that we're now 3-5 since starting 16-0. You just have to live with it, let it eat you up inside and try to erupt on Saturday."

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