Thompson Says Georgetown Needs to 'Relax and Play'

By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 18, 2009

In too many games of late, Georgetown's offense has ground to a halt. Far too often, those lapses have come when it mattered most.

A typical sequence: The Hoyas race toward the basket, their opponent in pursuit, and stop as if they've hit an invisible wall. They pass the ball around the perimeter in methodical fashion until one player fires a shot.

When the carefully calibrated system of getting the ball to the open man produces points, it's a study in teamwork and efficiency. But when it doesn't, as has been the case in critical stretches of the last eight games, it has left the young Hoyas looking frustrated and tentative.

With a once promising season unraveling down the stretch, Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said yesterday that his Hoyas need to loosen up on the court.

"When you go through difficult stretches, it's natural to start to wonder, question and be apprehensive," said Thompson, whose squad started 12-3 but has lost seven of its last eight games. "We're at the point where we need to relax and play."

Whether this means a subtle or a substantive change in Georgetown's approach should become clear tonight, when the slumping Hoyas (13-10, 4-8 Big East) face South Florida (8-16, 3-9) in Tampa.

Led by sophomore Chris Wright's season-high 25 points, Georgetown stormed back from a 16-point second-half deficit to force overtime against Syracuse on Saturday. While the result was yet another defeat, 98-94, the late-game surge showed encouraging grit and scrappiness.

Wright said the key was "playing more off our instincts."

If this signals a fundament shift in the way Georgetown attacks opponents, the Hoyas need to make the transition quickly.

Having fallen to 12th place in the Big East, Georgetown has only six regular season games remaining to state its case for an NCAA tournament bid. Three of those games are against teams ranked in the top 12 -- No. 10 Marquette, No. 7 Louisville and No. 12 Villanova.

Jerry Palm, who analyzes teams' NCAA tournament chances at, says Georgetown faces a "pretty sizable" hurdle.

"Thirteen and 10 is just not a good enough record, almost no matter who you play," Palm said. "They need to get hot. Their margin for error is pretty much gone. If they can crawl back to .500 [in the Big East], I think they may be all right. Anything short of that? I don't know how they survive without a strong run in the conference tournament."

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