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Hoyas Falter Late to Volunteers

Tennessee's J.P. Prince, left, and Bobby Maze swarm Georgetown point guard Chris Wright in the second half. Wright had zero turnovers in 38 minutes.
Tennessee's J.P. Prince, left, and Bobby Maze swarm Georgetown point guard Chris Wright in the second half. Wright had zero turnovers in 38 minutes. (By Phelan M. Ebenhack -- Associated Press)
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By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 29, 2008

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Nov. 28 -- There was no lack of heart in Georgetown's first game of the season against a ranked opponent. But no amount of effort was enough against the depth and athleticism of No. 12 Tennessee -- at least at this stage of the Hoyas' rebuilding process.

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The result was a 90-78 loss on Friday in the second round of the Old Spice Classic that shed light on the Hoyas' vulnerability when they fail to execute fundamentals such as rebounding and protecting the basketball.

The loss sent Georgetown (3-1) into Sunday's consolation game against Maryland, whom they've faced just twice since 1980.

While Georgetown hung with Tennessee for much of the game, clawing back from a 39-37 deficit at halftime to take an eight-point lead with 9 minutes 11 seconds remaining, the rally was undermined by turnovers down the stretch (20 in all) and the Volunteers' clutch shooting.

If there were glimmers of good news in the final statistics -- point guard Chris Wright's 38 minutes without a turnover or Omar Wattad's career-high nine points, including 3 of 3 three-point attempts -- Coach John Thompson III was is no mood to celebrate them.

Tennessee's 90 points were the most surrendered by one of Thompson's teams in his eight-year career as a head coach -- 250 games at Georgetown and Princeton before that. It also was the most surrendered by the Hoyas since a 94-70 loss to Connecticut in the 2003-04 season under Craig Esherick.

Until Friday, the Hoyas had held opponents to 29.6 percent shooting and 55 points per game. Tennessee shot 52.7 percent.

"Our team played better for longer stretches today," Thompson said. "But effort alone does not make you win. Our team has to come away with a better understanding of how we have to go about things."

Tennessee (5-0) was led by junior forward Tyler Smith (21 points) and got 37 points from its reserves, including three three-pointers in the final 4 1/2 minutes from Cameron Tatum (17 points).

"Our five guys are good, but our 10 is perhaps what makes us better and different," Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl said. "We go to the bench, and we don't fall off."

Thompson, however, balked at a reporter's suggestion that the Volunteers' depth was the pivotal factor, saying that would be an "easy" out.

"They executed well," Thompson said of Tennessee. "They did what they had to do. They got key stops, key turnovers. They made baskets at key points in game. You have to give them all the credit in the world. Their tenaciousness was good."

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