- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2005

STORRS, Conn. — Georgetown never had a chance to spoil Calhoun’s big night.

Georgetown probably would have needed a season-best performance to compete with No. 15 Connecticut on the road under ordinary circumstances. On a night when 62-year-old Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun was seeking his 700th victory, the task for the Hoyas was something on the order of climbing Everest … barefooted.

Predictably, the Huskies blasted the Hoyas 83-64 last night before an adoring crowd of 10,167 at Gampel Pavilion, extending Georgetown’s stretch-run swoon to four games and further dimming the at-large NCAA tournament hopes of the Hoyas (16-10, 8-7 Big East).

“We were definitely focused and pumped up for this game,” said Connecticut forward Charlie Villanueva, who led all scorers with 24 points on 7-for-12 shooting. “We wanted to do this for Coach, and we did.”

Georgetown returns to action Saturday night at MCI Center against Providence seeking to regain some momentum heading into next week’s Big East tournament. The Hoyas, either the league’s No. 5 or No. 6 seed depending on Saturday’s result and the weekend matchup between Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, will need at least two and possibly three more victories for an at-large berth.

The Hoyas kept it interesting for the first eight minutes, breaking a recent pattern with a solid start that had them leading 19-15 after Jonathan Wallace’s jumper from the left wing with 12:08 remaining. But after starting the game 5-for-6 from 3-point range, the Hoyas eventually fell back to reality, crumbling when Calhoun decided to shift to a fullcourt press.

Connecticut (20-6, 12-3) finished the half on a 26-7 run, with the fullcourt trap ruffling the Hoyas into a series of turnovers that led to easy Huskies hoops in transition.

Baltimore product Rudy Gay (20 points) was one of three Connecticut players who keyed the run. Gay finished the half with 16 points and was dazzling both with his length at the point of the press as a defensive force and with his high-flying finishing antics at the other end as an as-advertised dunkosaur. But perhaps the most noticeable improvement for the Huskies since the teams’ first meeting nearly two months ago was the play of point guard Marcus Williams (11 points, eight assists).

The sophomore passing maestro cut the Hoyas apart with his drive and dish abilities, displaying the qualities that have made him the nation’s No. 2 assist man (8.0). Many of those passes wound up in the hands of Villanueva, who continued his brilliant play over the last month against the hapless Hoyas.

The Huskies finished the half with a 41-26 lead, riding their trap-and-transition philosophy to a gaudy 69.6 percent shooting effort from the field. The Hoyas could muster little offense aside from a gutsy effort by overmatched freshman forward Jeff Green (17 points, six rebounds).

While Connecticut clearly had the Hoyas outclassed in talent, Georgetown failed to demonstrate the resilience that has made it an excellent second-half team for most of the season. And when the lead ballooned to 54-32 with 14:44 remaining in the game, frustrated Georgetown coach John Thompson III benched three of his starters — Brandon Bowman, Ashanti Cook and Darrel Owens — for the rest of the action. The three upperclassmen watched while Green and fellow freshmen Roy Hibbert (12 points, eight rebounds) and Tyler Crawford (nine points) became the focus of the offense and refused to back down against the defending national champions.

“For the most part, we need those guys to play well to have success,” Thompson said of the statement he made to Bowman, Cook and Owens, who combined for just 13 points as the Hoyas failed to trim an opponent’s lead to single digits in the second half for the first time in conference play this season. “They were not playing well at that point, so I wanted to go with some of the younger guys and see what they could do. I thought they gave us a boost.”

After the game, Thompson seemed more disappointed in his charges than he has at any time this season. No doubt he expected a more impassioned performance from his upperclassmen in a game that provided the Hoyas with a season-saving opportunity.

“Most of what I talked about with the team after the game concerned that stretch [against the Connecticut press] late in the first half,” Thompson said. “But there were some big-picture comments as well because of our performance and how the way our guys go about their business affects the big picture.”

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