For Hoyas, 'a Blip' or a Sign of Things to Come?

By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 25, 2009

After his team got steamrolled by West Virginia on Thursday at Verizon Center, Georgetown Coach John Thompson III characterized the 17-point loss as "a blip."

"Today is not the norm," Thompson insisted after the game.

But with one-third of the Big East season completed, the Hoyas' most ardent fans are wondering what is the norm for Thompson's young squad, which has looked alternately dazzling and disjointed in splitting its conference games.

Is Georgetown (12-5, 3-3) the brash bunch that traveled to Connecticut and toppled the nation's No. 2 team to open Big East play? Or is it the squad that got blown out at home by the unranked Mountaineers on Thursday without battling hard down the stretch?

The 75-58 loss marked the first time the Hoyas had lost to an unranked opponent at Verizon Center since Jan. 8, 2007, when Villanova walked off with a 56-52 victory.

Whether the West Virginia loss was a blip, as Thompson argued, or a telling window on a team with more talent than experience will become clear in the coming week. The Hoyas launch into a three-game stretch of Big East road games today, traveling to Prudential Center in Newark for a 2 p.m. contest against Seton Hall (9-9, 0-6), then to Cincinnati (13-7, 3-4) on Wednesday and to Milwaukee on Saturday to face 11th-ranked Marquette (17-2, 6-0).

Seton Hall has lost its last six games and remains winless in the Big East. But the Pirates have forced overtime against their last two home opponents. Plus, today's halftime tribute to the 20th anniversary of Seton Hall's 1989 Final Four team may provide extra inspiration.

Georgetown can find its inspiration from trying to move beyond a dispiriting defeat. The outcome was striking against West Virginia, and so was the halfhearted manner in which the Hoyas lost. Despite a marked advantage in size, Georgetown was outscored in the paint and outrebounded. The Hoyas shot poorly from everywhere. And while the ability to score can inexplicably desert a player, the ability to defend is more a matter of choice. Yet the Hoyas displayed a lack of urgency on the defensive end, even after West Virginia's lead reached double figures and the clock ticked down.

"I think the last two or three minutes was unacceptable," Thompson said yesterday when asked about his players' effort. "Prior to that, frustration at one end [offense] led to confusion at the other [defense]."

Thompson said he identified two priorities when the Hoyas regrouped for practice.

"West Virginia got a lot of uncontested shots, so our attention to detail at the defensive end has to get significantly better," he said. "And at the offensive end, we have to do a better job of reading the defenses and executing our offense."

Asked if he felt the West Virginia loss would represent a turning point, Thompson invoked a favorite philosophy.

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