Georgetown tries to make sense of another early NCAA tournament wash-out


Georgetown senior guard Chris Wright mulls the end of his college career after the Hoyas lost to Virginia Commonwealth on Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament. (Toni L. Sandys/WASHINGTON POST)
March 19, 2011

The three scholarship Georgetown seniors whose collegiate careers ended Friday night compiled a resume that includes 88 wins, three NCAA tournament berths and a Big East regular season championship.

But the sixth-seeded Hoyas’ 74-56 loss Friday night to 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth in the first round of the NCAA tournament also ensured that the teams led by Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Julian Vaughn will be remembered, fairly or unfairly, for their lack of accomplishment when it mattered the most.

Friday’s loss marked the third time in the four years since Georgetown’s 2007 Final Four run that the Hoyas had been upset in the NCAA tournament by a double-digit seed. In 2008, Davidson (a No. 10 seed) sent Georgetown (No. 2) packing in the second round. Ohio (No. 14) did the deed in the first round in 2010.  

This year, the Hoyas were shown the door by a VCU squad whose coach said he wasn’t surprised in the slightest that his team had won so thoroughly.

“The reason you do everything you do in the regular season is for now,” Vaughn said. “It’s disappointing that we couldn’t give this team and these fans a deeper run when we had such high hopes on the year.” 

Vaughn sighed.

“But it happens sometimes,” he continued. “You’ve just got to roll with it and stay positive and just hope that the younger guys remember what this feels like and turn it around next year, because we’ll be watching.”

If the answer to what has ailed Georgetown in recent postseasons lied somewhere in the blue carpet spread across its locker room at United Center, one of the Hoyas surely found it after the game. Following a loss that capped a 21-11 season, Georgetown’s players stared blankly at the floor in silence. Two assistants sat hunched over in one corner, their heads in their hands.

John Thompson Jr., the patriarch who led the Hoyas beyond the NCAA tournament’s opening weekend eight times in more than 26 years as Georgetown’s coach and whose shadow still looms over the program, waited in an adjacent training room for his son, Hoyas Coach John Thompson III, to return from a postgame news conference.

“I think that once the season is over, you know, as a coach, as the head of a program, you go through introspection, and we’ll take time, and I’ll do that,” John Thompson III said after the game. “A lot will be discussed about this group and what they have and haven’t done in the postseason. We’ll evaluate that.” 

The players acknowledged that in last season’s NCAA tournament loss, when the Hoyas gave up 97 points to Ohio of the Mid-American Conference, they had overlooked their opponent.

Following Friday’s 18-point defeat at the hands of a team that finished the regular season in fourth place in the Colonial Athletic Association, those same players swore such an oversight had not occurred this time around. Still, something was amiss.  

Georgetown gave up 17 points off 17 turnovers against VCU. The Hoyas committed 26 personal fouls, and they failed to rotate efficiently enough on defense. VCU shot 48 percent from three-point range. The only time this season the Rams had scored at a higher rate from beyond the arc was when they shot 52.9 percent en route to a six-point win over Virginia Military Institute on Dec. 8.

“Going forward, we’ve just got to remember how this feels, you know, twice now,” sophomore forward Hollis Thompson said. “Twice the burn. We’ve got to realize that we can’t take anything for granted. We’ve got to make every single hustle play because it’s a dogfight, and if we don’t fight, we going to go home. We going to die.”

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