- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Hoyas are poised to author a payback performance.

One month ago, Georgetown limped out of Morgantown, W.Va., after its most miserable showing of the season, a 68-61 loss to West Virginia.

Georgetown blew an 11-point first-half lead, thanks to a 6:25 scoreless stretch overlapping intermission that had more to do with Georgetown’s lack of focus than the formidability of West Virginia’s signature 1-3-1 zone.

The Hoyas were outrebounded 33-29 by the Big East’s weakest bunch on the boards. Six-foot-4 forward Mike Gansey was particularly scrappy, pulling down 10 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass.

And the trio of Georgetown seniors — Brandon Bowman, Ashanti Cook and D.J. Owens — already saddled with an underachieving label lapsed in the leadership department once again, disappearing in the clutch and finishing with just 16 combined points (still a season low in conference play).

Silence reigned on the four-hour bus ride back to the Hilltop. But reality rained once coach John Thompson III herded the team off the bus and into McDonough Gymnasium for a little 2 a.m. chat.

The typically composed Thompson peeled a little paint in the Georgetown locker room that night. He told his players there were a few very good reasons they had never played in an NCAA tournament and challenged them to increase their intensity and focus. He demanded they display a sense of urgency.

As Thompson said the following day, “I told them we can sit around and talk about gameplan and scouting reports, and we can go through a whole laundry list of things that we do to prepare for the game. But at the end of the day, when they throw it up … we have to go get the ball. And that’s intensity and desire.”

Georgetown (17-4, 8-2 Big East) has lost just once since.

The Hoyas responded to that one-sided discussion by putting together the program’s most impressive run in a decade. Two days later, they pushed current No. 1 Connecticut from tip to whistle in Hartford, falling 74-67 primarily due to an anomalous performance from 3-point range (eight of 27). A week after that, the team parlayed its newfound resolve and increased intensity into a team-defining, confidence-boosting upset of then-No. 1 Duke.

The 87-84 win against the Blue Devils was the second in a streak that has now reached seven games, ushering the Hoyas back into the national polls for the first time in four seasons and making Thompson and his team one of the hottest stories in college hoops.

Georgetown added a second top-10 victory (then-No. 9 Pittsburgh) to its resume last week. And the Hoyas have recently acquired another elite characteristic: the capacity to completely dismantle middle-tier league teams. Thanks to routs of Cincinnati, DePaul and St. John’s, Georgetown’s average margin of victory during the streak is an impressive 10.6 points.

The inevitable conclusion is that when the 9th-ranked Mountaineers (17-5, 8-1) take the court tonight at MCI Center, they’ll be facing a different team than the one they beat in Morgantown.

“Obviously, our confidence is much higher than it was a month ago,” Georgetown sophomore guard Jonathan Wallace said before the Hoyas’ latest win — a 64-41 defeat of St. John’s. “The Duke game played a major role in turning our season around, because it was the first time that we performed at that kind of level in that spotlight against that caliber of competition. A victory like that is huge for your confidence, because you say, ‘Hey, if we can beat Duke, we should be able to beat any team that steps in front of us.’ ”

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