- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 5, 2011

CINCINNATI | Wearing a crisp suit and bandaged left hand, the easy answer could be found on the Georgetown basketball team’s bench.

Chris Wright, the senior point guard, broke a bone in his left hand Feb. 23. The small crack is becoming a large fissure in No. 17 Georgetown’s once-promising season.

Cincinnati took advantage of Wright’s absence to pound Georgetown 69-47 at Fifth Third Arena Saturday afternoon. It was Georgetown’s worst loss this season and fourth defeat in the last five games. The Big East Tournament, where Georgetown plays Wednesday as the No. 8 seed, looms.

“Do we miss Chris and need Chris? Absolutely, 100 percent,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “(But) the group that’s down there in that locker room, we can win whether Chris is out there or not. … We have to get to that point. We have to be able to make those threes, to have presence. We have to execute.”

Georgetown’s offense crumbled without a ballhandler to replace Wright, who is expected back before season’s end. Entering the game with the eighth-best field goal percentage in the country — 48.5 percent — Georgetown shot just 32.1 percent and hit only 4 of 18 3-pointers.

Beset by foul trouble to starting forwards Julian Vaughn and Nate Lubick, Georgetown couldn’t get a consistent inside game going. Three-pointers weren’t falling. Ball movement wasn’t the same as with Wright. And Cincinnati’s game-long press wore out Georgetown.

“They don’t get the ball up as quick without him,” Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates said. “They got frustrated and I think they were also tired. They were taking on an extra load with (Wright) hurt.”

Added Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin, who compared the atmosphere to Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium: “It’s hard to adjust this late in the year without great players (like Wright).”

It also forced Austin Freeman to bring the basketball off the court to help break the press. Gates believed the press wore out Freeman, keeping him from finding an offensive groove.

Freeman, who finished with a game-high 21 points, missed eight of his first 10 shots.

“I tried to get to the basket, tried to get fouls, tried to be aggressive,” Freeman said.

That didn’t work. Cincinnati, on the other hand, turned a ragged, back-and-forth game into a runway midway through the second half. Georgetown trailed by three, but Cincinnati went on a 16-3 run that turned the game into a rout.

During one stretch, Gates hit a pair of free throws, Georgetown immediately turned over the ball, Sean Kilpatrick sank a 3-pointer from the corner and pushed the lead to 53-39.

“The game was tight, they got some successive threes and at the same time we didn’t get the execution we needed on the other end of the court,” Thompson said. “All of a sudden, a 2-3-4 point game becomes a 10, 15-point game.”

There were other mistakes. Like Freeman air-mailing a pass into the second row of Georgetown’s bench. Moses Avegba travelling on what would’ve been an easy dunk. Vaughn picking up his fourth foul less than two minutes into the second half. Throw in Wright’s absence and you’re left with a memory Georgetown wants to erase in New York City.

Whether the Wright’s break will heal enough by Wednesday to help fix Georgetown’s is an open question.

“We have to deal with it. We don’t have a choice,” Thompson said. “I’m not going to say everything is peachy. … We are a much different team without Chris. We can sit here and be frustrated or we can go forward and figure it out.”

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