- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 15, 2006

Georgetown missed a prime shot at an upset yesterday against No. 4 Connecticut as an anomalous day from behind the arc dooming the Hoyas to a 74-67 loss at the Hartford Civic Center.

After brutal back-to-back road games against ranked squads from West Virginia and Connecticut, the Hoyas (10-4, 2-2 Big East) return home for what should be a relative breather Tuesday night against South Florida, perhaps the league’s weakest team.

Aside from the loss, however, yesterday’s performance at Connecticut (14-1, 2-1) had nothing in common with Wednesday’s flat and frustrating night at West Virginia.

Coach John Thompson III made two massive requests of his men entering their battle with the Big East’s resident bullies: Keep the deepest frontcourt in the nation off the offensive glass and limit their transition baskets.

The Hoyas became the first team to accomplish both goals against the Huskies this season, holding Connecticut to season lows in both offensive rebounds (five) and fastbreak points (seven). But atypical shooting performances by both the Hoyas (8-for-28 from 3-point range) and Huskies (60 percent from the field) conspired to doom Georgetown to its 11th consecutive loss in the series.

“We’re not going to start three of 19 from 3-point range very often, because we have some guys who can bang it, and we were getting wide open looks all game,” said Thompson, whose team entered the contest as the Big East’s best 3-point shooting team at 40 percent. “But I thought we settled for threes too quickly in the first half. When we started running our offense and going inside in the second half, we got some easy scores and really pushed them.

“On the flipside, they couldn’t miss, which hasn’t been their strength this season, but great players make big shots, and they’ve got an awful lot of big-time players.”

Yesterday’s top Huskies player was 6-foot-11 senior forward Hilton Armstrong (19 points, five rebounds, six blocks), who has made an even bigger leap in production for UConn than Georgetown’s Roy Hibbert has for the Hoyas.

Forget chic player of the year pick Rudy Gay (12 points, five turnovers), the Baltimore swingman who is routinely invisible in UConn’s halfcourt sets. Armstrong authored a handful of highlight-style plays yesterday.

He was the Huskies only reliable halfcourt weapon in the first half, staking Connecticut to a 33-24 lead at halftime, as Georgetown missed uncontested 3 after 3. And on consecutive possessions that defined the second half, Armstrong posterized Georgetown’s Brandon Bowman (20 points, five rebounds) to put the Huskies up 60-53 with 4:17 left and then swooped baseline around and through Hibbert (12 points, six rebounds) for a scoop-and-one dazzler that gave UConn a 63-55 lead and forced Georgetown into hack-and-heave mode during the last three minutes.

Armstrong’s 8-for-10 performance defined the day for the Huskies, who were well defended by the Hoyas but made one difficult clutch shot after another to answer every Georgetown surge in the second half. For the game, Georgetown battled the league’s top rebounding team to a draw (27-27), had more assists (15-12), more steals (9-3), fewer turnovers (14-16) and earned nearly a third more field goal attempts (63-45) but simply didn’t shoot well enough from behind the arc to earn the victory.

Individually, Bowman played perhaps his best game of the season, exhibiting a nice combination of aggressiveness and smarts in routinely taking advantage of the Huskies’ block-happy tendencies to leave their feet. Hibbert and sophomore forward Jeff Green (13 points, eight rebounds) both had superb spurts. And sophomore point man Jonathan Wallace was splendid against UConn’s relentless pressure, contributing five assists while committing no turnovers in 34 solid minutes.

Senior guard Ashanti Cook (six turnovers) was the only Georgetown starter who struggled with anything other than 3-point accuracy. But Thompson was in no mood to crow about moral victories after the defeat.

“Sure, I can look around and find positives. But the bottom line is that this is a game I really thought we could have won,” said Thompson. “We didn’t come here to hang in there with them. We came here to win.”

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