- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Georgetown’s last stand was simply stagnant.

The Hoyas entered the weekend hoping a pair of home victories against top-10 teams Marquette and Louisville would resurrect their fading NCAA tournament hopes. Instead, the Golden Eagles and Cardinals officially interred Georgetown in its own building.

No. 6 Louisville finished off the dreadful 72 hours for the Hoyas with a 76-58 drubbing on Monday night at Verizon Center. The loss guarantees Georgetown (14-12, 5-10 Big East) will conclude its regular season with a losing league record for the first time in five seasons under John Thompson III.

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Now left to scramble for an NIT bid, the Hoyas head to Villanova on Saturday hoping to salvage a winning record for the season after dropping 11 of their past 15 games.

“Is this frustrating? Absolutely,” said Thompson, whose young charges began the season 12-3 with victories against Connecticut, Memphis, Syracuse and Maryland before both their confidence and chemistry foundered in the past six weeks. “One of the good things about this league is that we still get to go to New York [for the Big East tournament]. We’ve got a chance to grow, a chance to improve, a chance to go to New York and play.

“It’s the same group of guys who at the beginning of the year felt good about themselves. And right now, they don’t for obvious reasons. We’ve got to get that feeling back.”

If there is a silver lining for the Hoyas, it’s a Big East slate that closes against league doormats St. John’s and DePaul (combined 4-24 in conference play). While that two-game finish could send the Hoyas to the Big East tournament on a multigame winning streak for the first time since early January, the Hoyas will have to play with far more intensity than they displayed against the Cardinals (22-5, 13-2) to have any chance of reversing the slide.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of Monday night’s performance was that the Hoyas came out flat in a must-win situation against a top-10 team in a nationally televised game.

The results of that lack of passion were immediate and decisive: Louisville parlayed Georgetown’s soft defense into a 26-13 lead by making its first nine field goal attempts. Paced by outstanding performances from versatile veteran forwards Terrence Williams (10 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists) and Earl Clark (22 points, eight rebounds), the Cardinals shot a remarkable 70 percent from the field before intermission, connecting on all six of their 3-point attempts to build a 41-24 lead with 3:02 remaining.

Thompson attempted to counter Louisville’s torrid start and his own team’s soporific one by adding senior guard Jessie Sapp, freshman guard Jason Clark and sophomore swingman Omar Wattad to the team’s most consistent starting duo of center Greg Monroe and point guard Chris Wright. The smallish but spunky lineup responded, helping the Hoyas shave the massive margin to 41-33 with 18:28 remaining courtesy of a 9-0 intermission-overlapping run from Sapp.

But the Hoyas could get no closer, particularly given that Wright (12 points) and Sapp (nine points, four steals) were the only two Hoyas who matched the tip-to-whistle intensity of the visiting team. Left to play virtually two-on-five, Sapp and Wright eventually fell prey to forcing shots as the score got out of hand down the stretch.

“I think that’s part of my role on this team to try and be a leader,” said Wright, who teamed with Sapp to shoot just 6-for-22 from the field but shared plaudits from the crowd with the senior for their effort. “I noticed that the energy was down and tried to do something to get us going. … [We’re close to breaking out of the slump], and that’s what hurts the most because we feel like we’re right there and we just can’t turn the corner.”

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