John Thompson III would rather listen to a 24-hour loop of Dick Vitale caterwauling about “diaper dandies” and “PTP-ers” than admit his team was facing a must-win situation against Connecticut on Wednesday, but the scenario wasn’t entirely far-fetched.
No, Georgetown wasn’t in danger of falling out of the Big East title race or losing a comfortable NCAA tournament position. But with three unimpressive victories and three losses — including Saturday’s ugly performance at Pittsburgh — in their last six games, the Hoyas needed to show they could hang with one of the conference’s perceived “big boys.”
With Dickie V calling the game and a fired-up Verizon Center crowd on hand, No. 14 Georgetown did that and more, sending the slumping Huskies to their fourth straight loss, 58-44, in a clinical defensive effort.
“It was good to have this type of performance because I thought we played well on both ends of the floor,” Thompson III said.
In that loss against Pittsburgh, Thompson III was disappointed in his team’s defensive execution, and early in the game against UConn, it looked as if it might be more of the same. The Huskies opened by hitting six of their first seven shots, drawing a quick timeout from the Hoyas’ coach.
“I don’t know what I said,” Thompson III said, before guard Jason Clark interjected with “Play harder.”
“Our transition defense wasn’t good, we had some poor decisions on the offensive end, and so it was, ‘Fellas, let’s not do this,’ ” Thompson III added.
From that point on, however, the Hoyas (17-4, 7-3 Big East) put the clamps on the Huskies, using a stifling zone defense and their sheer size to fluster UConn (14-7, 4-5) and force it to take increasingly bad shots that repeatedly drew exasperated looks from coach Jim Calhoun.
After the Huskies’ opening salvo, they would go on to shoot 12 of 53 for the remainder of the game to finish with season-lows in field-goal percentage (30 percent) and points.
“I think our defensive communication and our intensity through the whole game was very good,” Thompson III said.
The Hoyas have had shooting issues of their own, and while Wednesday’s game wasn’t a spectacular output of offense, it was positive in that Hollis Thompson finally reasserted himself after several strangely quiet performances.
The junior forward led the Hoyas with 18 points and nine rebounds, displaying the confidence in his shot that appeared to be missing during a lackluster two-game stretch in which he scored 15 points combined.
“I thought this was one of the better games Hollis has played, because he did so many things,” Thompson III said. “I look at the stat sheet and he had 18 and 9, but he was key in the zone defense. This was the antithesis of the Pittsburgh game, where I thought he was floating. Today, he was active in every aspect of the game.”
Thompson paired with center Henry Sims to score the final 17 points of the first half and give Georgetown a 31-21 lead that it would never relinquish.
“I think we’re just running our offense,” Thompson said.
UConn attempted to get back into the game on several occasions, cutting the Hoyas’ lead to six midway through the second half, but Georgetown responded each time, most emphatically when Sims threw down a tomahawk dunk with 5:44 left to give the Hoyas a 51-39 advantage that was far greater than the 12-point lead would indicate.
“It felt good,” Sims said. “It was definitely a momentum shift and made the crowd come alive.”