Defense, that old Georgetown standby, has returned to the 15th-ranked Hoyas just in time to give them a chance to get back into the Big East Conference basketball race. After a three-game slump two weeks ago, Georgetown has shut down the opposition guard play that led to those losses.
Today, in a 2 p.m. game at Capital Centre, Georgetown looks for its third straight victory. If the Hoyas play defense as they did Wednesday against Boston College, they should get it against Connecticut, a team they have defeated 12 straight times since the 1981-82 season. The Huskies (9-6, 2-5 and last in the Big East) haven't played in a week, after losing a 79-72 overtime game to St. John's.
Georgetown (13-4, 3-3) held the Big East's leading scorer, Boston College guard Dana Barros, to eight points in its 58-36 win over the Eagles Wednesday. Using a triangle-and-two defense, Georgetown frustrated the Eagles into 29.7 percent shooting and just eight field goals over the final 30 minutes.
"We vary our defenses," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said, "and that's one of the defenses we're capable of playing."
The Huskies have talented guards in 6-foot-4 junior Phil Gamble, who usually doesn't start, and 6-5 sophomore Tate George, who usually does. They are second and third on the team, respectively, in scoring at 14.9 and 9.9 points per game. Gamble had 19 points and seven rebounds when Connecticut upset Syracuse at the Carrier Dome earlier this month. He is a 42 percent three-point shooter (33 of 79).
Up front, Connecticut brandishes 6-11 junior forward Cliff Robinson, the club's leading scorer at 18.8 points per game and rebounder at 8.4 per game. He worries Thompson. It's the type of inside-outside combination that beat the Hoyas when they lost those three straight games to Providence, Boston College and St. John's.
But in its last two games, Georgetown's front court has played much better. Thompson has put 6-5 Bobby Winston on the wing of his 2-3 zone on defense, and Winston has begun to penetrate more on offense, scoring a season-high 12 against BC. And, despite committing four fouls in eight minutes Wednesday, senior 7-foot center Ben Gillery displayed more of the aggressiveness around the basket that he showed in a career-high scoring game against Syracuse.
"I'm just trying to relax more," Gillery said. "I'm still trying to work on my confidence level. I just try to get motivated before the game, think about what I'm going to do."
"I'm elated with Benjamin," Thompson said, "because his confidence is a mile high. He got in foul trouble, but that's understandable because he hasn't been playing a lot. But I like what I'm seeing more and more with Ben, and I think he's really going to help us coming down the stretch. We have a different look when a 7-foot guy walks out on the court as opposed to a 6-7 center."
In other local games today, Virginia plays host at noon to Wake Forest, which upset third-ranked North Carolina Thursday night. The Cavaliers lost to in-state rival Virginia Tech by two Wednesday. The Demon Deacons are led by sophomore forward David Carlyle, who scored 21 points (18 in the second half) against Carolina.
Tonight, American University (7-10, 3-3 Colonial Athletic Association) plays host to Navy (4-11, 1-5), a team that the Eagles haven't defeated since 1982.
George Mason, (11-6, 4-2 and third in the CAA) plays at James Madison in search of its fifth straight victory. George Washington is looking for a win in January. The Colonials have lost eight straight, and need a win tonight at Massachusetts to avoid going zero for the month. Since starting 5-1, George Washington (7-10, 1-7 in the Atlantic 10) has managed to beat only Indiana (Pa.) and Rutgers.