- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 3, 2007

Now it’s Georgetown chance to play streak-snapper.

Five days after their 11-game, Big East roll was ambushed at Syracuse, the ninth-ranked Hoyas (22-6, 12-3 Big East) are primed to spring their own emotional trap today on floundering Connecticut (17-12, 6-9).

Since John Thompson III arrived in 2004, Georgetown has reversed its position in the Big East hoops hierarchy. With the arrival of the final weekend of the regular season, Georgetown is just one victory from locking down the top seed in next week’s conference tournament.

There’s just one last league score to settle.

Incredibly, Georgetown hasn’t beaten Connecticut in a decade, a stretch of 11 games that stands as the longest such streak between any Big East teams.

Victor Page led Georgetown the last time the Hoyas clipped UConn in February 1997. Hours before tipoff at Hartford Civic Center, Georgetown’s John Thompson Jr. had learned he would not be a first-ballot inductee into the Hall of Fame. His players then notched a 52-51 triumph for the slighted sideline legend.

Much has happened in the interim. Coach Jim Calhoun and the Huskies have collected two NCAA titles (1999 and 2004). And Georgetown has seen the exit of Thompson Jr., the futility of the Craig Esherick era and the rebirth of the program under Thompson III.

But one thing has been consistent during the decade of change on the Hilltop: Connecticut has owned Georgetown.

The Huskies have beaten the Hoyas in Hartford and Storrs, Washington and Manhattan. Connecticut’s average margin of victory during the 11 games is 12.9 points. And only two of the 11 meetings could be accurately described as close games: a 75-74 affair in the District in 2002, and a 66-62 battle in the quarterfinals of the 2005 Big East tournament. Perhaps it was that 2005 season that cemented Husky hatred among Thompson III and this season’s nucleus of key Georgetown juniors.

Connecticut almost single-handedly doomed Georgetown’s NCAA resume in the younger Thompson’s first season, beating a Georgetown team that likely finished one victory shy of an NCAA berth three times. If the final loss at Madison Square Garden was the most painful, a 19-point loss at Gampel Pavilion just a week earlier was likely the most humiliating.

In the ultimate setup game, Thompson’s slumping Hoyas arrived in Storrs that night for what the Connecticut athletic department already had determined would be Calhoun’s 700th victory. A cake was on display, former Huskies were in attendance, and the jumbotron carried praise for Calhoun at every timeout, many well before the game was decided.

Six months later, when Calhoun selected the Hoyas as his dark horse pick to win the Big East in 2005-06, Thompson wasn’t flattered; he was still fuming from the season before.

And Thompson is not a man to cast aspersions. He has not once personally referenced the dubious recruitment of Khalid El-Amin, who was sent home by Thompson Jr. on his official visit to Georgetown before choosing Connecticut in 1997. Thompson never commented on the situation after Connecticut lured Baltimore’s Rudy Gay to Storrs in 2004 in part through a pay-for-play exhibition game against Gay’s AAU team, a move that has since been banned by the NCAA. And Thompson never has publicly commented either on last season’s computer theft by UConn guards Marcus Williams and A.J. Price or on Calhoun’s questionable 11th-hour pilfering of St. John’s commitment Doug Wiggins. But he hasn’t missed such moves either, and he wants no part of compliments from that quarter.

“Let’s just say that they have done some things at Connecticut that we will never do here at Georgetown, and you can print that,” Thompson said last year.

A decade later, the roles finally are reversed. The Huskies have struggled this season because of an infusion of youth. The team’s top three performers, guard Jerome Dyson (13.8 points), forward Jeff Adrien (13.3 points and 9.7 rebounds) and center Hasheem Thabeet, all are either freshmen or sophomores.

The Huskies still are an excellent defensive team, leading the Big East in rebounding and field goal percentage defense, but they are a poor offensive team, particularly in the halfcourt. They have beaten only one team in the RPI top 50 this season (Syracuse). And they’ve won only two league games on the road, both against Big East bottom feeders (St. John’s and Rutgers).

Such struggles don’t bode well for a UConn team that arrives today to play a Georgetown squad with considerably more at stake. Not only does today’s game offer Georgetown the opportunity to snap its Connecticut losing streak, cement the team’s first No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament since 1989 and likely lock up at worst a No. 3-seed in the NCAA tournament, it also represents, perhaps, the final home game for junior forward and league player of the year candidate Jeff Green.

“I’m going to play my heart out,” Green said. “[Beating Connecticut] was one of my goals this year. We’ve beaten every team in the league since [I’ve] been here except UConn. It’d be a great win to finish out the season. It’s going to a very intense game.”


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