- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Hoyas got a running start for today’s matchup with transition-happy Connecticut during a punitive Thursday practice session.

Displeased with the opening act of his team’s toughest two-game power play of the season, Georgetown coach John Thompson III elected to make the Hoyas’ only full practice between brutal road meetings at No. 16 West Virginia and No. 4 Connecticut (13-1, 1-1 Big East) a memorable one.

“They’re lucky there’s only so much running you can do in a short turnaround,” said Thompson, still rankled about his team’s lack of focus and intensity in a 68-61 loss to the Mountaineers on Wednesday. “We’re not good enough that we can overcome lapses that are within our control.”

Thompson wasn’t as displeased with the result of his team’s foray to Morgantown as he was with the manner in which they were beaten. After building an 11-point lead late in the first half, the Hoyas (10-3, 2-1) missed nine consecutive shots spanning intermission during a 13-0 West Virginia run that allowed the Mountaineers to pump up the locals, find their offensive rhythm and take command of the game.

Perhaps half of the Georgetown shots during the run qualified as dubious, with the two most outrageous attempts belonging to senior guard Ashanti Cook. Three Hoyas turnovers contributed to the comeback. But the most glaring issues during the lapse came on the defensive end. The Hoyas repeatedly lost West Virginia’s array of gunners thanks to careless or lazy defensive footwork and communication and allowed a slew of offensive rebounds to the Big East’s weakest rebounding team.

The Mountaineers, who had outrebounded only two teams all season (Louisiana-Monroe and Washington & Jefferson), beat the Hoyas 33-29 on the boards, and 6-foot-4 senior Mike Gansey collected a stunning five offensive caroms.

That rebounding futility is especially disconcerting with Connecticut next on the docket. The Huskies lead the Big East in rebounding margin (+11.4) and specialize in pounding opponents with the nation’s deepest frontcourt.

“Rebounding is desire, first and foremost. You can work on technique all you want to, but at some point you have to go get the ball,” said Thompson, who watched his trio of seniors (Cook, Brandon Bowman and D.J. Owens) combine to score just 16 points and suffer numerous defensive breakdowns. “That’s what I told our guys at 2 a.m. in the locker room when we got back from West Virginia. The next couple of days we can sit around and talk about gameplan and scouting reports, and we can go through a whole laundry list of things that we do to prepare for the game. But at the end of the day, when they throw it up, we have to go get the ball.

“Connecticut gets after it on the boards, and they transition from defense to offense very quickly. Those are the two things we have to limit. And that comes down to intensity and desire.”

Obviously, it will take more than just a jump in energy level to upset a Connecticut team that has won 14 of its last 15 home games — the lone loss came in February against eventual national champion North Carolina — and is expected by most experts to win its fourth regular-season Big East crown in the last five years. But without a boost in intensity, particularly from its senior clique, the Hoyas might not have the talent to keep the game even competitive.

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