- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2009

— Welcome to the nadir.

In the span of four days, temporarily 12th-ranked Georgetown has lost its identity, its edge, its swagger… and back-to-back games to unranked teams for the first time since John Thompson III’s debut season in 2004-2005.

If Thursday night’s 17-point home loss to West Virginia rated as a painful reality check for the Hoyas, Sunday’s 65-60 loss to lowly Seton Hall redefines dismal. Increasingly disappointing performances in consecutive losses to Duke, West Virginia and Seton Hall appear to have Georgetown in a tailspin and have left its once-promising season in jeopardy.

“There’s still a lot of ball to be played,” Thompson said. “We’re not at the halfway point yet in the league, but we’re in a hole. We’re in a rut. We’re in a bad situation right now, and we’ve got to figure out collectively how to get out of it.”

The final 37 seconds of Sunday’s debacle at Prudential Center provided a microcosm for both the entire game and Georgetown’s current slump. In spite of yet another dispassionate effort on both ends of the floor, the Hoyas still had the opportunity to escape with a victory when freshman pivot Greg Monroe corralled a defensive rebound with just under a minute remaining and the Hoyas trailing the Pirates 61-60.

Both of Seton Hall’s undersized centers had fouled out at that point. And while the 6-foot-10, 250-pound Monroe (17 points, seven rebounds) hadn’t enjoyed one of his more inspired performances, most of the 9,800 fans who had come to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Seton Hall’s Final Four team probably expected the Hoyas to pound the ball inside to Monroe with the game on the line.

After all, the Hoyas (12-6, 3-4 Big East) hadn’t found any other form of consistent offense on an afternoon in which they connected on just three of their first 18 attempts from behind the 3-point arc.

Aside from senior guard Jessie Sapp (eight points, nine rebounds, four assists), the Georgetown backcourt had been on the floor in name only over the first 39 minutes. Thompson called a timeout and instructed his players to look first to Monroe, second to Monroe and, if that failed, to go to the rim.

Said Thompson: “Coming down the stretch there, we wanted to try and get it inside or penetrate and get to the basket.”

What transpired down the stretch was a stark departure from that mandate. On Georgetown’s initial possession, Monroe got a quick touch along the baseline, but the Pirates swatted the ball out of bounds. It would be the last time he touched the ball in the halfcourt offense.

Seconds after the inbounds pass, sophomore Austin Freeman launched a 3-pointer from deep in the corner opposite Georgetown’s bench. It was a clean look, but the slumping swingman’s heave clanged off the side of the backboard.

After another timeout and a 1-for-2 performance at the free throw line from Seton Hall’s Jeremy Hazell (23 points on 5-for-21 shooting), the Hoyas were down two points with the ball and 36.8 seconds remaining.

Monroe again was primarily defended in the heart of the Seton Hall zone by 6-7 freshman walk-on Matt Cajuste. And again Georgetown eschewed its big man for a 3-pointer - this one a miss by DaJuan Summers.

Another split at the line for Seton Hall left the Hoyas trailing 63-60 with 22.2 seconds remaining, Georgetown followed with another a quick miss from behind the arc, this one an airball from Sapp.

Though Seton Hall (10-9, 1-6) iced the game with two free throws at the opposite end, Georgetown’s Chris Wright completed the stretch-run stagger by tossing up another airball from 3-point range at the buzzer.

“The last two minutes there I think all we took was 3s, and that was not the plan,” said Thompson, clearly frustrated by his team. “It’s not whether we’re in a [shooting] slump or not. It’s the decisions to take those shots that is more of a concern. Our decision-making in certain situations has to change, has to get better.”

And it probably has to get better quickly because the competition ramps up considerably over the next week. The Hoyas travel first to Cincinnati (13-7, 3-4) on Wednesday and then to Marquette (17-2, 6-0) on Saturday.

“We got to find a way to move forward,” said Sapp, who seemed as mystified by the team’s spiral as his coach. “I don’t know how to get over it right now. I really don’t. … I’m not going to get over it for at least a couple of hours, probably not until [Monday], but I have to be strong for my team. We have to find a way to get better.”

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