- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2009

Momentarily at least, let’s hold up on the hoopla concerning Georgetown hoops.

The Hoyas entered Saturday’s home date with Pittsburgh riding the wave of a 10-1 start and an 11-point victory against second-ranked Connecticut earlier in the week. They left Verizon Center reeling two hours later after a 70-54 drubbing and newly aware that December results mean very little in the larger scheme of college basketball.

Pitt likely will be ranked No. 2 behind only North Carolina when the new polls arrive Monday. As for the Hoyas, they’ll need to shake off this shellacking quickly with another ranked foe, Notre Dame, on the horizon Monday night.

“You can’t get too high after a win or too low after a loss,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said reasonably. “[Sunday] morning we leave for South Bend, [so] you can’t dwell on [this].”

A bit later, JT III conceded what every eyewitness knew: “We have to get better. How? I’m not sure.”

Give the man high marks for candor. Seven consecutive wins against Maryland, American, UConn and a pastry box full of creampuffs perhaps raised unrealistic hopes among some of the faithful. With a roster composed mostly of talented underclassmen, the Hoyas could indeed be very good. They aren’t yet, but who cares? There is, after all, no such thing as January Madness.

In his fifth season, Thompson has a gaudy 110-38 record that matches favorably with the early achievements of his Basketball Hall of Fame daddy on the Hilltop in the 1970s. Yet John the Younger is fully aware that the road is long and full of potholes on the way to national titles and acclaim. Saturday’s particular pothole need not make the wheels come off his basketball buggy, but some retooling is in order.

Pitt’s physical team took it to the Hoyas pretty good after Georgetown hung tough to trail by just three points at halftime. The Hoyas were lucky to be that close after consistently failing to penetrate the Panthers’ aggressive man-to-man defense and letting the visitors dominate the boards.

For a bit in the second half, Georgetown somehow continued to stay in contention, actually gaining a 40-40 tie with 14:12 left on a 3-pointer by DaJuan Summers. But when the Panthers took off on a 17-4 run in the next 6 1/2 minutes, the Hoyas might as well have headed for the airport and South Bend a day early.

“We really respect Georgetown and everything they do,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon insisted after the carnage was complete.

That sounds nice, but I doubt that it warmed any cockles in Thompson’s heart. That’s always what coaches say after beating somebody badly, the better to avoid saying anything that might motivate the enemy for the next time around.

Pitt’s traditionally mean and merciless deportment on the court always gives Georgetown trouble, and the numbers in this one illustrate better than adjectives just how outclassed the Hoyas were.

For the dismal afternoon, Georgetown shot just 35 percent - and the figure was that high only because Summers went 7-for-11 and hotshot freshman center Greg Monroe was 6-for-13. Otherwise, the Hoyas were 5-for-27, which translates as either 19 percent or yuck! Eyeglasses, anyone?

The Hoyas also were manhandled on the glass, collecting exactly 23 rebounds to Pitt’s 48. When a good team shoots 47 percent and keeps getting second and third opportunities, it usually doesn’t lose.

Fortunately, Georgetown won’t have to deal with Pitt again unless they tangle in the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden more than two months hence. By then, perhaps the Hoyas will be ready to consistently play well against the best opposition. Certainly they aren’t there yet.

“You have to bounce back … You’re going to have to figure out what to take from [Saturday’s loss],” Thompson said.

One thing the Hoyas surely should take from it is humility. There’s no way this team will be cocky now, and maybe that ultimately will prove a blessing. We’ll see.

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