- The Washington Times - Friday, March 4, 2005

Georgetown coach John Thompson III has a message for the Hoyas: last call.

Thompson benched his three upperclass starters for most of the second half during Wednesday’s 83-64 loss at No. 15 Connecticut. Tonight he will see how that trio responds in a critical regular-season finale against Providence at MCI Center.

“This is a big game because we’re close to something that we want to accomplish, that nobody thought we could accomplish at the beginning of the year,” said Thompson, whose Hoyas (16-10, 8-7 Big East) could play themselves off the bubble and into the NCAA tournament with victories tonight and in Wednesday’s opening round of the Big East tournament. “The younger group [of Hoyas] will have more opportunities to do this. But those guys will have fewer chances. Sometimes you need to sit down and watch to have certain things click in.”

Thompson’s decision to sideline guard Ashanti Cook and forwards Brandon Bowman and Darrel Owens was not a snap reaction to one spurt of subpar play in Storrs. It was a calculated message delivered to three slumping leaders the team desperately needs if it is to emerge from its four-game swoon.

During the slide, Georgetown’s first multigame losing streak, Bowman and Owens have struggled on defense, one of the primary reasons the Hoyas have allowed more than a dozen points more than their season average during the skein (74.0 as compared to 61.9).

Cook, a junior from Inglewood, Calif., who was Georgetown’s best clutch player for most of the season, has vanished on both ends of the court, playing perhaps the three worst games of his career in losses at St. John’s, to Villanova and at Connecticut. He failed to score in double figures in any of them while shooting 7-for-30 from the field.

“The message was clearly sent and received,” said Owens, who will be asked to assist Bowman today in guarding versatile Providence forward and league-leading scorer Ryan Gomes (21.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists). “Coach explained after the game that in order for us to be successful, Brandon, Ashanti and myself have to play well. We all have to pick it up and do whatever is needed to help this team win. … We’re not hanging our heads. We still have a chance to accomplish our goals.”

With a victory tonight over Providence (13-16, 3-12 Big East), Georgetown would be the No. 6 or No. 7 seed in next week’s Big East tournament. If Notre Dame beats Pittsburgh in South Bend today and the Hoyas win, Georgetown will advance to Madison Square Garden as No.6 and play the league’s No. 11 seed (currently Rutgers) at 9 p.m. Wednesday. If the Panthers beat the Irish and Georgetown wins, the Hoyas would be the seventh seed and face the 10th (currently Seton Hall) at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The Hoyas are 3-0 against the Scarlet Knights and Pirates this season, meaning a two-game burst off the bubble is within reason.

“There are a lot of people running around out there like Chicken Little talking about the sky falling, but when you looked at this [recently completed] stretch of games back before the season started, you knew it was going to be a very difficult way to finish,” Thompson said. “We hit this tough stretch, and we have not come through it as we wanted to. But we’re still in the mix, and now we have to respond to having some tough times.”

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