Georgetown basketball looks to rebound against Villanova after loss to South Florida

The Hoyas' Greg Monroe, with ball, went dormant against South Florida after picking up two quick fouls in the second half.
The Hoyas' Greg Monroe, with ball, went dormant against South Florida after picking up two quick fouls in the second half. (Toni L. Sandys/the Washington Post)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 6, 2010

Over the course of a college basketball season, there are bound to be games in which balls that ought to swish in inexplicably pop in and out of the basket instead. Just as certain, there will be games in which an aggressive move that has worked for a player all season suddenly draws an official's whistle.

That's why Georgetown Coach John Thompson III drills into his players the importance of controlling every element of the game that they can control, such as shooting high-percentage free throws and keeping turnovers to a minimum.

The Hoyas' failure to do either against unranked South Florida on Wednesday night was, from the coach's perspective, perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the 72-64 loss.

While crediting South Florida with soundly outplaying his team, Thompson said after reviewing tape of the game that his team played "out of character."

Nearly to a man, the Hoyas echoed that analysis.

"We had [14] costly turnovers," junior guard Austin Freeman said. "I missed free throws, too. They capitalized on us not getting back in transition and blocking out."

Junior forward Julian Vaughn cited the same shortcomings -- careless turnovers, poor free throw shooting [11 of 22] and lax defense in the second half, when South Florida's Dominique Jones scored 22 of his game-high 29 points.

"We didn't play hard enough to win the game," Vaughn said. "We have big goals this year. Playing like that, we're not going to achieve anything."

The loss capped a four-day span in which Georgetown (16-5, 6-4) showed two radically different faces to its hometown fans. On Saturday, the Hoyas looked as if they could beat any team in the country, routing then-No. 8 Duke with dazzling shooting by its three principals, Freeman, Greg Monroe and Chris Wright. On Wednesday, they looked as if they could lose to anyone.

And it raised puzzling questions about the Hoyas on the eve of a huge game Saturday at the Verizon Center, where Georgetown will host No. 2 Villanova (20-1, 9-0), the lone Big East team yet to lose in league play.

Just what is the character of this Georgetown team? And how tenuous is its identity, now that the Big East season has passed its midpoint?

When its big three players are on, as they were against Duke, Georgetown is close to unstoppable. But if one struggles, the Hoyas can look average. And they are particularly vulnerable if one fouls out, as Monroe did against South Florida. With a thin, inexperienced bench, Georgetown has little cushion if its starters founder.

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