By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 9, 2011; 11:58 PM
NEW YORK - Georgetown's run in the Big East tournament lasted a mere two hours.
The Hoyas made one turnover after another in the first half, couldn't stop Connecticut guard Kemba Walker in the second and got a total of zero points from their centers. As a result, the 21st-ranked Huskies earned a 79-62 victory and left the No. 22 Hoyas wondering how their fourth consecutive loss might affect their seeding in the NCAA tournament.
Georgetown matched the Huskies shot for shot for the first nine minutes, but then everything fell apart for the turnover-prone Hoyas, who dropped to 0-4 without injured point guard Chris Wright.
After Hollis Thompson tied the score at 15, Walker (game-high 28 points) led the Huskies on a decisive 14-4 spurt that was fueled by Georgetown's carelessness with the ball. They threw it away. Kicked it out of bounds. Bobbled it. In all, the Hoyas committed 10 of their 16 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes and were outscored on second-chance points, 10-2.
"We went through a stretch where we were just turning the ball over," said Hoyas Coach John Thompson III, whose team was bounced in its Big East tournament opener for the second time in his seven-year tenure. "Just giving it to them, which led to easy transition baskets."
Connecticut Coach Jim Calhoun said the Huskies' game plan was to apply more pressure to Georgetown's ballhandlers than they did in the teams' first meeting, a 78-70 U-Conn. win in Hartford last month.
"We felt we had to be more aggressive, go out and play them," Calhoun said. "We put more ball pressure on them, overall trapping, and we didn't do that the first time when were a little more passive. That led to the turnovers."
Said Freeman: "It was us being careless with the ball. Teammates bobbling and it going out of bounds or just them picking it up."
Turnovers were far from the only problem facing the Hoyas (21-10). Centers Julian Vaughn and Henry Sims both finished without a point. Vaughn has one field goal in his past four games and was held scoreless for the second straight contest.
"We just got to get it together," Vaughn said in Georgetown's hushed locker room. "We miss Chris, but it shouldn't affect us that much. I just have to try to put it behind me. [The NCAA tournament] is a new tournament, new opponents, a new start."
Sims added: "We haven't been ourselves. I don't know what it is. We have to play ourselves out of it."
Vaughn played only 12 minutes, while Sims received seven. The Huskies, meantime, outscored the Hoyas, 38-26, in the paint, blew out an opponent for the second time in as many days and advanced to face top-seeded Pittsburgh in Thursday's quarterfinals.
"They were not playing well so we went with a different lineup," Thompson said of his centers. "They were not producing."
Much of what led to Georgetown's undoing was self-inflicted. The Huskies' leading scorer did the rest.
"We wanted to give [Walker] different looks," Thompson said, referring to switching from man-to-man to a zone defense, "try to get it out of his hands early and hopefully make him kick it out."
It didn't work.
Walker, who plays much bigger than his generously listed 6-foot-1, 172-pound frame, scored 17 points in the second half to ensure there would be no comeback for Georgetown. He also had six rebounds, three assists and two steals.
"He has a lot of weapons," said Clark, who spent a significant amount of the afternoon chasing Walker. "You can't guard him one on one, you have to have help from everybody else and get the ball out of his hands."
In the coming days, the Hoyas' focus will turn to another point guard: their own, and more specifically, the broken bone in his left hand. Although they don't know where or when they're playing in the first round of the NCAA tournament - that will be decided Sunday by the selection committee - the next week figures to be critical to Wright's immediate future.
"We miss Chris, absolutely," Thompson said. "One-hundred percent at both ends of the court and in every way. That being said, the group that's playing right now, that played today, has to be better."