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For Once, Hoyas Flourish at Finish

Turnover-Filled Win Is Fine by Thompson: Georgetown 56, Villanova 54

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 1, 2009; Page D01

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 28 -- There was an all-too-familiar stretch late in the second half of Saturday's game against Villanova in which Georgetown squandered its biggest lead.

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All it took was three successive turnovers by the Hoyas and a jump shot, a layup and pair of free throws by the Wildcats, and Georgetown's eight-point margin was slashed to two.

Had the final five minutes mirrored the season to date, the Hoyas would have trudged home with another dispiriting loss that underscored the liability of youth in a conference as tough as the Big East.

But on this day, Georgetown halted its late-game slide against 10th-ranked Villanova, clamped down on defense and fed the ball to the player who has proven most fearless in the clutch. Sophomore Chris Wright did the rest, scoring the last four points to clinch a desperately needed victory, 56-54.

And for the first time in weeks, a Georgetown game ended with broad smiles and slaps on the back all around.

It was an inelegant contest, to be sure, with the teams combining for 45 turnovers (Georgetown's DaJuan Summers accounted for eight of the Hoyas' 25) and woeful shooting from three-point range.

But having slogged through nine losses in the previous 11 games, Georgetown Coach John Thompson III saw no need to quibble over matters of style.

"I'll take a win," Thompson said, "and we'll fix the turnovers."

The victory was Georgetown's fourth over a ranked team this season and its first since Jan. 14, when the Hoyas toppled then-No. 8 Syracuse at Verizon Center. And it was achieved with smothering defense and the added satisfaction of having held Villanova, which boasts the Big East's top-ranked offense, to a season-low 54 points.

"It feels real good -- especially on the road, in a hostile environment," said Wright, who finished with 13 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds. "That was a big win for us. And it's nice the way we won and closed the game out. In the past, we've given up games like that."

Late-game collapses have been Georgetown's undoing since mid-January, with panicked decision-making and halfhearted defense undermining early leads.

Saturday against Villanova, Georgetown never trailed after Nikita Mescheriakov (11 points) put the Hoyas ahead, 24-23, with a jumper with 3 minutes 47 seconds remaining in the first half. But given the Hoyas' recent slide, simply protecting a second-half lead was every bit as much reason to celebrate as clawing back from a major deficit.

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