By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 10, 2010; 12:57 AM
PHILADELPHIA - With the clock winding down and his team trailing by a point Thursday night at raucous Liacouras Center, Georgetown Coach John Thompson III chose not to call a timeout because he thought Temple looked unsettled, vulnerable.
But instead of taking advantage of an Owls' defense that wasn't set, the Hoyas did exactly the opposite. Sophomore forward Hollis Thompson appeared to panic, barreled into the lane and rushed up a shot with five seconds left to play. The miss helped seal the ninth-ranked Hoyas' first loss of the season, 68-65, before a crowd of 9,509.
"I thought we had them in scramble mode, thought we had some openings," John Thompson said. "You come down to the end like that, you have to trust each other. Was that the shot that we wanted to get? No. But that's where we ended up."
The Hoyas (8-1) came to Broad Street seeking the best start to a season in Thompson's seven years at the helm. But for the second straight year, the ninth contest tripped them up. This time, they have Ramone Moore, the Owls' defense and a poorly played final possession to blame.
Moore scored a game-high 30 points for Temple (6-2), and the Owls' vaunted defense held the Hoyas to 43.8 percent shooting, including 31.3 percent from three-point range, as Coach Fran Dunphy earned career win No. 400.
Still, Georgetown had its opportunities.
"I thought it was winnable the whole game," said point guard Chris Wright, who finished with 10 points and five assists. "We weren't on our 'A' game. I thought we were a step behind on a lot of things."
Julian Vaughn (14 points) pulled the Hoyas to within 66-65 with 46 seconds remaining with a gritty layup in a crowded lane. Temple's Juan Fernandez missed a three-pointer at the other end with 15 seconds showing on the clock, and Wright grabbed the rebound.
Then Hollis Thompson took a calculated risk. After Thompson missed his drive into the lane - he appeared to attempt to draw contact from Lavoy Allen, who was standing directly beneath the hoop - Austin Freeman (14 points) was forced to foul. Rahlir Jefferson sank both of his free throws to clinch the win.
"Losses like this, it sucks right now," Wright said. "But I think it will help us down the line."
John Thompson, to a certain degree, agreed with his point guard's assessment.
"There were many, many teachable moments that we'll learn from," Thompson said, squeezing a magic marker tight, forcefully clicking the top on and off. "In the long run, we will learn. We will get better. We will not make the same mistake and be in a position where we have to come back."
Temple had a pretty big hand in putting the Hoyas in that position, too. With one of college basketball's stingiest defenses, the Owls entered the contest limiting opponents to 55.4 points per game (11th in the nation) and a mere 37.2 percent from the field (23rd). They used that trademark aggressive man-to-man defense to harass the Hoyas into 17 turnovers, two second-half shot-clock violations and a host of uncharacteristically poor shots.
"I would probably say yes to that," Thompson said, asked whether Temple was the best defensive team his team has faced. "They do a very good job of not giving you any open looks, and they did that tonight."
Jason Clark added: "I would say it was one of the toughest defenses. They do a good job of packing it in and not letting anything get inside."
Despite Temple's tenacious defense, the Hoyas remained a threat throughout the second half.
After trailing by seven points at halftime, they wasted little time pulling to within a pair of points about two minutes into the second half after trailing by as much as 11 in the opening 20 minutes.
The Hoyas kept the game close, then Wright pulled them even. After a steal and layup cut the Georgetown deficit to 56-54, he hit a couple of free throws 17 seconds later to knot the score at 56. That, however, was as close as the Hoyas would come to taking a lead.
"I felt we were in good position," Wright said. "We just needed a stop and to come down the court and get a bucket [on the final possession]. But unfortunately we didn't."