By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 1, 2011; 12:17 AM
Monday was one of those times.
With leading scorer Austin Freeman contained and Jason Clark struggling, Wright scored 16 of his season-high 24 points in the second half to help the 13th-ranked Hoyas fend off Louisville, 62-59, and win their fifth straight Big East Conference game, extending their longest such streak in four years.
The victory moved the Hoyas (17-5, 6-4) into sole possession of seventh place in the nation's toughest conference, while Terrence Jennings's 18 points and seven rebounds weren't enough to keep the No. 15 Cardinals (17-5, 6-3) from dropping into a tie for second place.
"Things were there for him," Coach John Thompson III said of Wright, who also had five rebounds and went 8 for 8 from the free throw line. "It's true, it's not just coachspeak, not just me standing up here talking: We have an unselfish group. In as much as Austin Freeman is Austin Freeman, we still have other guys who will put the ball in the basket."
Georgetown opened an 11-point lead with about 12 minutes left to play, but Louisville's long-range shooters warmed up after a cold first half. Consecutive three-pointers by Peyton Siva, Chris Smith and Kyle Kuric sparked a 15-4 Cardinals run, which culminated with a layup by Jennings that tied the score at 49 with 7 minutes 12 seconds remaining.
Louisville entered the game averaging a conference-leading 9.1 three pointers per game, and another from Mike Marra with 6:19 left to play gave the Cardinals their first lead since the opening minutes, 54-53. For the game, Louisville shot 8 for 23 from long range.
Moments later, Wright and Hollis Thompson made back-to-back shots that turned the game back in the Hoyas' favor. Wright first scored a spinning, driving off-balance scoop in the lane that tied the score at 55.
"I work on that," Wright said jokingly. "That's something in my repertoire. I thought the ref was going to call a foul, but I'm glad it went in."
John Thompson added: "That's one of those, as a coach, you're like: 'No, no, no, no, no. Yes'. When it dropped through the basket."
After Wright's clutch score, Thompson (six points) made a three-pointer that put the Hoyas ahead for good, 58-55.
"Julian [Vaughn] set a great screen and I saw an open shot," Hollis Thompson said. "I wasn't really thinking about time and score." Looking at John Thompson, he added with a smile, "Maybe I should have."
On Louisville's ensuing possession, the crowd of 12,164 groaned as the Cardinals grabbed three consecutive offensive rebounds before Siva was fouled. Siva converted both free throws, cutting the Hoyas' lead to 58-57.
But one point was as close as the visitors would come. Clark and Wright each went 2 for 2 from the line in the closing seconds, and Siva missed a three-pointer at the buzzer. Clark's free throws were his first points of the game on a night when he went 0 for 6 from the field.
"That is not acceptable," Thompson said of his team's work on the glass on that critical Cardinals possession. The Hoyas were out-rebounded, 33-28, for the first time in four games.
Freeman, who had averaged 24.3 points in the previous five games, was held to 13 points and committed six of the Hoyas' 16 turnovers. He also missed his first free throw in five games (1 for 2).
That, however, did not matter thanks to Wright's late heroics and another strong effort from the defense.
The Hoyas held the Cardinals to 35.1 shooting for the game and a wretched 25.9 percent in the first half.
One of Georgetown's priorities at the defensive end was shutting down Siva, who engineered Saturday's upset at U-Conn. with a pair of clutch layups in double overtime, came into the night as arguably the Big East's hottest scorer. Consider the job accomplished. Siva was limited to five points on 1-for-5 shooting and committed a career-high eight turnovers.
As a result, Siva's hot streak is history and most of the postgame discussion focused on Wright, who had his biggest offensive outburst since pouring in 28 points in the NCAA tournament loss to Ohio last March.
"I have to see how the game is going to determine my role," he said. At Villanova, "Austin was hitting shots all over the place, early and often. So I was a playmaker. Today, I was open. I just felt like if I kept attacking, good things would happen."