Georgetown's Julian Vaughn is starting to establish himself in the paint

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 12, 2011; 11:50 PM

For most of the season, Georgetown's Julian Vaughn seemed content to be a complementary piece on a team celebrated for its star guards.

But not anymore. It could be argued, in fact, that Vaughn is now one of the Hoyas' headliners after a four-game stretch in which he's grabbed critical rebounds, discovered new confidence in his hook shot and been a consistent contributor in the clutch.

"At both ends of the court, Julian is playing at a high level, and it's coming at a time when we need it," Hoyas Coach John Thompson III said, "I don't want to think of it as a 'stretch.' I want to think of it as, 'This is who he is now.' "

Vaughn's role has indeed undergone a makeover since he was sent to bench early in last month's win at Villanova. When he returned in the second half, a more determined and focused senior center hit all seven of his free throws - and seized three rebounds at the defensive end in the final 10 minutes - to key the Hoyas' victory.

And so began the best two weeks of Vaughn's college career - and Georgetown's season.

On Sunday, Vaughn and the 11th-ranked Hoyas (19-5, 8-4) put their seven-game winning streak on the line at Verizon Center against Darius Johnson-Odom and Marquette (15-9, 6-5).

"This is my last go 'round," Vaughn said of his recent surge. "So I definitely want to play well."

The Reston native has scored in double figures in three straight games for the second time as a Hoya, notching 10, 14 and 12 points, respectively, in wins over Louisville, Providence and Syracuse. He also averaged eight rebounds in those contests.

But it's not just an uptick in scoring and rebounding that stands out. It's also when and how Vaughn's been doing it. Of the 45 points he's scored the past four games, 35 have come in the games' final 20 minutes.

"It takes him a while to get into the rhythm of how he's being" defended, Thompson said. "Once he settles into that rhythm, he's been much more effective in the second half."

Vaughn added, "I'd rather be a second-half guy than a first-half guy."

Vaughn's production in the post has been bolstered by the hook shot he honed over the summer in workouts with former Hoyas star Roy Hibbert, now a starter for the Indiana Pacers. It's always been in Vaughn's repertoire. He just hasn't had the confidence to deploy it.

"We would work out right there," Vaughn said, gesturing toward a basket in the corner of McDonough Arena. "If I can make it over Roy, I can make it over anybody. The hard work is starting to pay off because it's starting to go down. The last couple of games it's been effective, so I'm going to stay with it."

Against Syracuse, Vaughn sank four hooks - one with his left hand and the others with his right - as Georgetown ended a nine-game drought at the Carrier Dome.

"That's been his go-to move," Thompson said. "Maybe he's just throwing it up there more now. It's a shot I believe in. If executed properly, it's very difficult, if not impossible, to get blocked. It's just whether you make it or you miss it."

Against Marquette, though, the biggest challenge for Vaughn and the Hoyas will be twofold: containing the potent Golden Eagles and leaving Wednesday's emotional win in Upstate New York behind them.

Johnson-Odom, a 6-2 junior guard, and Jimmy Butler, a 6-7 swingman, are scoring 16 and 15.5 points per game, respectively, for a balanced and efficient attack that authored upsets against Notre Dame and Syracuse and is averaging 78.5 points (18th nationally) 17.1 assists (12th) and is shooting 48.3 percent from the floor (13th).

"Everyone is just real, real focused," Vaughn said. "It's the most focused we've been as a group. We've done a real good not getting too excited over the big wins. We just want to keep it going."

Hoyas note: In addition to being one of the first reserves off the bench, center Henry Sims is seeking to expand his duties by running for vice president of the Georgetown student body. "Just trying to help make Georgetown a better place," he said Thursday. Asked if he planned to publicly endorse Sims's candidacy, Thompson joked: "I need to see what his platform is. We've got to hold off and find out his views and opinions and, more important, those of" junior Jed Feiman, Sims's running mate.

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