Georgetown reached back to its old-school roots Tuesday night to snap its five-game losing streak, parlaying a season-best defensive effort into a 57-47 victory over the Scarlet Knights at the Verizon Center.
Back in the winner's column for the first time in three weeks, the Hoyas (13-8, 4-6 Big East) look to claw closer to the .500 mark in conference play when Cincinnati visits the District on Saturday.
Georgetown forced a season-high 21 turnovers and held the Scarlet Knights (10-13, 1-9) to a season low in scoring.
“We can all sleep a little better tonight,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “Losing is awful. I don't know how long it's been since we won, but it seems like a month. Tonight we got a win and took a baby step. Now this is over, and we have to focus on the details even more heading into the game against Cincinnati.”
The Hoyas almost looked like one of John Thompson Jr.'s teams during a first half in which they held Rutgers to just six field goals while forcing 12 turnovers en route to a 27-18 lead.
“I really like what I saw in that first half because we shot the ball poorly but didn't let that bleed over into other facets of the game,” said Thompson, who noted multiple times that his team was guilty of just that during the losing streak. “We did a very good job of helping each other and anticipating instead of reacting to plays.”
The Hoyas contested every Rutgers shot and seemed to come up with every loose ball, playing with a hardness and intensity rarely seen this season before or during the five-game slide.
“This is an ugly, dirty game,” Thompson said. “None of those guys in there are cute, and we're going to have to continue to make the hustle plays in order to be successful in this league.”
Offensively, it wasn't exactly the stuff of the 1985 Lakers, but the Hoyas did get yet another strong performance from freshman center Greg Monroe (10 points, seven rebounds, six assists and four steals) and a long-awaited return to form from Jessie Sapp.
With leading scorer DaJuan Summers saddled with foul trouble and benched for virtually the entire first half, the Hoyas needed to find a scorer. And after a career-worst scoring stretch that saw Sapp average 3.2 points on 27.3 percent shooting during the Georgetown skid, the senior from Harlem, N.Y., knocked down four of his five shots against Rutgers, including two from 3-point range, to lead the Hoyas with 11 points.
“Jessie stayed after practice yesterday for about an hour just shooting shots,” Thompson said. “He put the work in, and it showed tonight. We need this guy over my left shoulder to be Jessie Sapp. ... Are you back, Sapp?”
Replied Sapp: “I'm back. ... Those are shots I've been making all my life. Shots I should make. Tonight I stopped thinking so much. I relaxed and just played, and they went in.”
Though 11 points is a relatively modest effort, it marked Sapp's first double-digit performance in his last 14 starts. More importantly, it restored the confidence of the only scholarship senior on a young squad that had been flailing in search of leadership.
The only negative for the Hoyas from the drought-halting game was a sloppy final 10 minutes that saw a team that has had trouble down the stretch all season give back half of a 20-point lead to Rutgers and dangerous freshman Mark Rosario (20 points on 4-for-8 shooting from behind the arc).
“It's the first time we've been up like that in quite a while, and I think we got a little too comfortable,” Thompson said. “But the way things have been going lately, we'll take the win.”