- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2008

HARTFORD, Conn. | Georgetown entered Monday night’s game at Connecticut staring at a brutal three-game stretch to open Big East play.

The Hoyas left XL Center with a statement: They still are a force in the nation’s premier conference.

Georgetown blistered No. 2 Connecticut 74-63 to strike the first major blow of the Big East season. The 11th-ranked Hoyas (10-1, 1-0) never trailed in the league opener for both teams, notching the program’s first road win against Connecticut, the preseason conference favorite, since 1997.

“The commissioner isn’t handing out any trophies after tonight,” said Georgetown coach John Thompson III, whose charges return home to face No. 3 Pittsburgh (12-0) on Saturday, then visit No. 7 Notre Dame on Monday. “But it is a good win. For this group to come on the road and hold them off down the stretch is a promising sign.”

The final score doesn’t do justice to how thoroughly the Hoyas thrashed the home team. With less than three minutes left, Georgetown sophomore point guard Chris Wright (16 points) flipped home a coast-to-coast slashing layup to put the Hoyas ahead 74-57. That prompted the vocal minority of Hoyas fans to chant from the rafters.

Finding an MVP from such a strong performance isn’t easy, but perhaps the best place to start is Georgetown’s starting frontcourt of freshman center Greg Monroe (16 points, four assists, three steals), junior forward DaJuan Summers (18 points, three assists) and sophomore reserve Julian Vaughn.

That threesome kept the considerably larger Huskies (11-1, 0-1) off the glass, helping Georgetown nearly match the Huskies in rebounding (31-28). Equally important, they stifled Connecticut junior All-American Hasheem Thabeet, who finished with four points, seven rebounds and seven blocks. The 7-foot-3 center came in averaging 14.8 points and 11.1 rebounds.

Operating in Georgetown’s matchup zone, Monroe and Summers fronted Thabeet brilliantly during a first half that saw the Hoyas erupt to an 18-3 lead and a 36-27 edge at intermission. And when Monroe committed his third foul just a minute into the second half, Vaughn performed beautifully on the defensive end in Monroe’s stead as Thompson worked a furious offense-defense substitution scheme.

“I think that’s the earliest I’ve ever gone offense-defense,” Thompson joked. “I thought Julian gave us great minutes. He was a presence out there. … Thabeet just had one of those nights. Everybody has them from time to time. Thabeet’s not going to go through many more nights like that for the rest of his life.”

Nor are most of the members of a Connecticut roster, which is brimming with NBA prospects. The Huskies finished with 17 turnovers and only six assists.

“We looked like we had never seen a matchup zone before,” Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. “I want to congratulate Coach Thompson for coming in here and giving us a lesson on how to play basketball with enthusiasm, execution and energy. I don’t care what the scoreboard said; we got beat by a solid 20 points.”

Senior forward Jeff Adrien, who finished with 15 points, single-handedly kept the Huskies in the contest. At one point, he scored six straight points inside to cut Georgetown’s lead to 49-45 with 11:40 remaining.

But every time Connecticut made a push, the Hoyas answered. Just as they have all season, the Hoyas got to the line time and again down the stretch, exploding past defenders off the dribble and consummating their trips to the line by closing the game with 18 consecutive connections from the stripe.

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