STORRS, Conn., March 2 -- Georgetown would've needed a superb effort to beat 15th-ranked Connecticut on an ordinary night. But this was no normal night, with Coach Jim Calhoun on the verge of his 700th career victory and the Huskies poised to move into a first-place tie in the Big East standings. The Hoyas were completely overwhelmed as U-Conn. cruised to an 83-64 win at Gampel Pavilion.
Georgetown dropped its fourth game in a row and fell to 16-10 overall and 8-7 in the Big East. The Hoyas' hopes for their first NCAA tournament bid since 2001 dimmed even further; they now face a must-win game against visiting Providence (13-16, 3-12) on Saturday night to have any shot at being considered for an at-large berth.
Connecticut's Charlie Villanueva (game-high 24 points) gets past Georgetown's Ashanti Cook.
(Bob Child -- AP)
Calhoun, in his 19th season at U-Conn., became the 19th Division I coach (and the seventh active coach) to win 700 games and was honored with a cake and a postgame ceremony.
"Every one of the 700 wins came about because of so many great players, so many great assistants, and I happened to be the guy yelling, screaming and stalking on the sidelines," Calhoun told the fans following a video that featured congratulations from some of those great former players as well as fellow 700-game winner and Saturday opponent Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim.
Calhoun was very much that yelling, screaming, stalking-on-the-sidelines guy on Wednesday night, despite the fact that his team was comfortably ahead for much of the game. He drew a gasp from the crowd of 10,167 midway through the second half, as he pulled off his suit jacket while calling a timeout to stem a 5-0 Georgetown run that cut the Huskies' lead to 17. (He eventually put the jacket back on.)
The Hoyas never challenged the Huskies during the final 25 minutes; Georgetown faced a double-digit deficit during the entire second half, the first time that has happened in league play. U-Conn. has been on a tear lately; the Huskies (20-6, 12-3) have lost only once since the start of February (to No. 2 North Carolina) and are tied with Boston College atop the Big East.
Georgetown got very little from its three most experienced players: senior forward Darrel Owens (nine points), junior guard Ashanti Cook (three points) and junior forward Brandon Bowman (one point, 14 below his team-high average).
Georgetown Coach John Thompson III sent the trio to the bench for good with 15 minutes 39 seconds left and the Huskies ahead, 53-32. Instead, Thompson used a rotation of four freshmen (Jonathan Wallace, Jeff Green, Tyler Crawford and Roy Hibbert) and two sophomores (Ray Reed and Sead Dizdarevic) for much of the final 15 minutes. They played hard and cut the Huskies' lead to 13, but the outcome was never in doubt. Green finished with a team-high 17 points, and Crawford added nine on 4-of-4 shooting.
"For the most part, we need those guys [Owens, Cook and Bowman] to play well for us to have success," Thompson said. "They were not playing well at that point, so I wanted to go with some of the younger guys just to see how they played. I thought they gave us a boost."
The Huskies were just too talented. The Hoyas couldn't slow down U-Conn. sophomore point guard Marcus Williams, who flat-out flew down the court and slung passes through the smallest of spaces. Williams had eight of the Huskies' 23 assists (equaling his Big East-leading average) and set up several impressive dunks for Rudy Gay (20 points) and Charlie Villanueva (24 points).
Georgetown started well, shooting 5 for 11 from beyond the three-point arc to take a 19-15 lead with 12:08 left in the first half. But the Huskies blew open the game with an 18-5 run over the final seven minutes of the half. The Hoyas couldn't handle U-Conn.'s trapping press, repeatedly throwing away the ball, and they scored only two points in the final five minutes of the half.
Meantime, Gay dominated, scoring the Huskies' final 10 points of the half, including a dunk following a steal, a tap-in off a missed shot and a soft baseline jumper just before the buzzer. U-Conn., which shot a remarkable 69.6 percent, took a 41-26 advantage into the locker room.
"Most of the talk [in the postgame locker room] was about the end of the first-half stretch," Thompson said. "That's what it came down to. [But it was also] big picture, because our performance and how guys go about their business affects the big picture."