- The Washington Times - Monday, February 20, 2006

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Georgetown’s funk is now official.

Completing the transition from soaring to slumping in one week, the 17th-ranked Hoyas dropped their third straight game yesterday, falling to No.4 Villanova and its four-guard frenzy 75-65 at the Pavilion.

“It’s real bad. It feels tough right now. It’s been a long week,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “That’s the nature of this league. You look at it, and you can sit back and say, ‘Whoo, they’ve lost three in a row,’ which is not good. It’s something we’ve got to fix. But we’ve played some pretty tough teams along the way. We have to bounce back. We have a game against a very tough Rutgers team coming up. … Our guys know what we have to do.”

Villanova committed only three turnovers and hit 44 percent of its 3-pointers, an offensive opus that cemented Georgetown’s longest slide of the season.

But the good news for the Hoyas (17-7, 8-5 Big East) is that their brutal three-game stretch — against No. 9 West Virginia, at Marquette and at Villanova, which have combined for a 28-9 conference record — gives way to a stretch-run of relative softies. Games with Rutgers (on Wednesday) and South Florida, which are a combined 5-20 in Big East play, sandwich against struggling Syracuse (18-8, 6-6).

The bad news, of course, is the team could have lost the momentum and confidence it gained during its seven-game winning streak, replaced perhaps by the psychological specter of a five-game slide to the finish last season that cost the Hoyas an NCAA tournament bid. While this team faces far less jeopardy on that front, the Hoyas don’t want to enter the postseason on a down note.

Yesterday’s loss was perhaps the most predictable of the three; few teams can stop Villanova’s backcourt parade of Randy Foye (22 points, eight rebounds), Allan Ray (20 points), Kyle Lowry (13 points) and Mike Nardi (11 points). After all, this was the same group of league-leading Wildcats (21-2, 11-1) that downed top-ranked Connecticut 69-64 six days ago and could vault to No. 1 this afternoon.

Despite the small lineup, Villanova outrebounded Georgetown 31-30, including 13 offensive boards.

“The offensive rebounds killed us,” Thompson said. “Going in we knew that they shoot too well, they score too well, to give them second and third shots. We have to get those [rebounds].”

Six-foot-9 Georgetown forward Brandon Bowman had no rebounds and scored just four points. Sophomore forward Jeff Green had 15 points and six assists, bouncing back from an eight-turnover showing against Marquette. Senior guard D.J. Owens went scoreless and has missed eight of his last 10 3-pointers.

“Where we are right now we need everyone to play well for us to win,” Thompson said when asked about Bowman. “When everyone plays well, we can beat anyone. … Hopefully in a couple of years, we won’t need everyone to play well to win. But that’s where we stand right now.”

Sophomore center Roy Hibbert (20 points, 12 rebounds) continued to blossom in the post, pounding ‘Nova for its thin frontcourt. Senior guard Ashanti Cook had 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range.

But their performances weren’t enough against Villanova. While Georgetown didn’t unravel down the stretch as it did against West Virginia and Marquette, the Hoyas simply could not match the Wildcats’ offensive efficiency.

Villanova increased the intensity when the Hoyas clawed within 59-57 on a layup by Hibbert with 5:37 left. Behind dribble-drives of Lowry and Foye and the 3-point marksmanship of Ray, the Wildcats scored on seven consecutive possessions.

“They totally controlled the game out there, and they made shots when they had to,” Thompson said. “Our league is so tough. I think we have a handful of teams who are capable of winning the national championship, and I think Villanova has clearly shown that they are one of those teams.”

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