Though Georgetown left Syracuse on Saturday afternoon with yet another scar on its postseason resume, the Hoyas might have discovered the solution to the primary problem that has plagued them all season.
Positives have been few and far between for Georgetown, which has won just three games since Jan. 1. But Saturday's 98-94 overtime loss at then No. 23 Syracuse qualifies as just that for a squad that takes the floor against South Florida on Wednesday having lost seven times in eight games.
Without context, the numbers paint a futile picture of a team in full meltdown mode. Consecutive overtime losses have left the Hoyas (13-10, 4-8 Big East) wallowing in 12th place in the nation's power conference.
The reality of the situation is somewhat less bleak. Yes, the Hoyas head to Tampa, Fla., facing must-win desperation against the Bulls (8-16, 3-9). But the team's NCAA tournament profile remains relatively strong. Thanks to the nation's toughest schedule, marquee victories against Connecticut, Memphis and Syracuse and an RPI of 37, ESPN's Joe Lunardi has the Hoyas as one of the "last four teams out" in his latest projection.
And then there's the context. Georgetown lost at Syracuse, but it rallied from 16 points down to force overtime. Against the Orange, the Hoyas looked nothing like the listless squad responsible for the first six losses during the skein. Georgetown seemed to grow up Saturday while mounting a rally in front of the largest crowd to watch a college game this season (31,841), finally finding a leader and an identity in the form of sophomore point guard Chris Wright.
"You've got to look for positives," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "You've got to find growth. And for one of the first times this season in that situation [down double digits], I looked around the huddle and I could see that we felt we were still in it, that we could still win it. That's progress."
That confidence had been absent throughout the team's funk, predominantly because Georgetown hadn't located a leader. Upperclassmen Jessie Sapp and DaJuan Summers auditioned for the part, but both seemed to lack consistent play and emotional stability. Center Greg Monroe was thrust into the role because his talent, but he's still more of a deferential freshman than a dominating force.
Enter Wright. Perhaps on some level, it was inevitable that the Bowie native would eventually become the on-floor face of the Hoyas. As the heir apparent to Jonathan Wallace at the point, the former McDonald's All-American with exceptional quickness and no-fear demeanor was a logical choice to take the reins of the team.
There had been many flashes of brilliance before, but that transfer of power didn't officially happen until Saturday, when Wright willed the Hoyas into overtime with a 25-point, six-assist performance.
Wright scored 13 points during Georgetown's sprint from a 16-point deficit with 8:14 remaining, keying the run to overtime by forcing the pace and making five of his six shots. He coolly rained in a 26-foot jumper with 12.7 seconds remaining to tie the score at 83-83 and force the extra period. Wright also gathered his teammates around him instead of arguing after fouling out on a seemingly clean strip of Syracuse's Jonny Flynn with 49.8 seconds remaining in overtime and the Orange leading 91-89.
"We were playing more off our instincts and just making shots," Wright said about Georgetown's surge. "We were playing together and being unselfish."
Wright was the comeback catalyst and Georgetown's unquestioned leader at Syracuse. And when the Hoyas begin their six-game stretch run Wednesday at South Florida, the loss against the Orange could represent the team's greatest victory of the season. Perhaps for the first time in a month, the Hoyas will take the floor with no confusion and newfound resolution.
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