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VCU shocks Georgetown, ends season

Wright’s return not enough for Hoyas

- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 19, 2011

CHICAGO -- Ten seconds passed as the question hung in the air.

Chris Wright rubbed his eyes once, twice. They brimmed with tears. He stared across the locker room at nothing in particular. There wasn't a sound.

"I just feel bad for myself and my teammates," the senior on the Georgetown basketball team finally said. "It's just tough, tough to end like this."

One month ago, Georgetown ranked No. 9 in the country. That felt like a dusty, distant memory Friday night. Eleventh-seeded Virginia Commonwealth pounded sixth-seed Georgetown 74-56 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the United Center to end the Hoyas' season.

A VCU (25-11) team mocked by ESPN analysts Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale when it was picked for the tournament capped Georgetown's month-long spiral. The Hoyas lost six of their final seven games, the last three by a combined 57 points.

With Wright back at point guard after missing three games because a broken bone in his left hand, this game was supposed to be different for Georgetown (21-11). But the problems that buffeted Georgetown during the losing streak didn't disappear when Wright stepped back onto the court.

Most glaring was on defense. The 12 3-pointers VCU hit weren't the story. It was the wide-open looks that accompanied the shots.

"There were some stretches when we didn't communicate well," junior Jason Clark said. "We didn't close out on them. I don't think guys were tired. I don't know what it was. It was just mental lapses we can't afford to have."

Coming out of halftime where Georgetown players said they made defensive adjustments, VCU's Ed Nixon immediately sank an open 3-pointer. Like watching a replay, minutes later Bradford Burgess and Joey Rodriguez followed with back-to-back threes to cap a 14-4 run. Both were wide-open.

"We thought they were going to make an adjustment, but they didn't. I'm glad they didn't," said VCU's Jamie Skeen, who wasn't surprised by the margin of victory. "They actually started playing harder toward the end of the game."

By then, after VCU built a lead that ballooned to 25 points, it was too late. Spindly Brandon Rozzell came off the bench to sink six 3-pointers and score 26 points for VCU, driving the school's band leader to rip off his shirt in excitement after one shot.

"You can sit here and analyze who didn't rotate, who didn't do this, why it didn't happen," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "We gave good shooters open shots and they made it."

Wright, absent since Feb. 23, looked rusty. In three games without him, Georgetown averaged 20 points less per game. Teammates expected the offense to regain its early-season rhythm with Wright's ability to penetrate, pass and lead. But he gutted out a 3-for-13 night from the field with four turnovers in 33 minutes.

"People may not be able to see it, but a lot of guys came in this game more confident with him on the court," Clark said. "He's a huge part of our team. He came out and he played his game."

Fellow senior Austin Freeman couldn't get untracked, either, hitting only three shots. Freeman, Wright and Julian Vaughn are part of a senior class that won only one NCAA Tournnament game in four years.

Afterward, Georgetown's locker room seemed baffled by what, exactly, had gone wrong. On Friday. In the last month. All they knew was the once-promising season was suddenly over.

"We were prepared mentally and physically and the coaches did everything they could," Wright said. "But we didn't make the plays ... and we lost."

Added Thompson: "In the last four years there have been a lot of highs and lows. That's the nature of the beast. But you'll be remembered by how the season ends."

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