HARTFORD, CONN., FEB. 6 -- Georgetown's season has been one of patterns, and a disturbing one continued tonight against Connecticut. The Hoyas fell behind early in the second half, came back late, but fell short in the end, losing, 66-59, in front of 16,016 at the Hartford Civic Center.
Like Monday night against Villanova, the Hoyas suffered through a drought during the first five minutes of the second half, allowing nine straight points and eventually falling behind by 12. Georgetown scrapped back, actually taking the lead late in the game.
But Connecticut's 6-foot-11 forward Cliff Robinson scored three straight clutch baskets to push the Huskies ahead, then Phil Gamble scored on a big three-point basket at the two-minute mark that put the Huskies up by four.
The Hoyas were in the midst of missing on four straight possessions. By the time Mark Tillmon scored with 1:13 to play, Connecticut was up by 58-54. They hit six straight free throws in the last 1:23 to put the game away.
Georgetown, with five conference losses, is fading in the Big East regular season race. The Hoyas, at 4-5 and 14-6 overall, are now in fifth place, just behind Seton Hall, their opponent next Tuesday night at the Meadowlands.
Still, though they shouldn't worry about getting in the NCAA tournament, they should be concerned about their halfcourt offense or lack of one. Georgetown shot better tonight (42 percent, 23 of 55), but it has been forced into near abandonment of its inside scoring game.
Perry McDonald, incredibly, was held to a single point tonight, well below his season's average of 11.9 points a game. In the last three games, McDonald has scored 11 points, eight of those coming against Boston College.
Inside, Georgetown got a point from McDonald, one from Anthony Allen, and two from Anthony Tucker. And that's it. Tillmon had 19 for the Hoyas, Charles Smith added 18, and Jaren Jackson had 10.
And the Hoyas, who were first nationally in rebound margin (up by almost 11 a game) before tonight, were beaten soundly on the glass by Connecticut, 34-25. The Huskies outscored Georgetown in the paint, 32-14.
Robinson was a major reason for that. He had 16 points, six rebounds and nine blocked shots, one below the conference record. After last week's game with Connecticut, which the Huskies lost by 60-59, Hoyas Coach John Thompson said when Robinson comes to play, he is very tough.
It wasn't meant as an insult, but Robinson apparently took it that way.
"I told him," Connecticut Coach Jim Calhoun said, "no one should ever say that about you. They can say you played lousy, but they can never say when you're ready to play. Tonight, when you go out there, you show Coach Thompson you're ready to play basketball."
"Tonight was all business," said Robinson. "We didn't let them get too much inside, and we did a good job on the glass."
"Robinson played well," Hoyas swingman Bobby Winston said. "He was a force inside. He altered a lot of shots. He's played well this year for Connecticut. He's a big man."
The Hoyas managed to get back in the game after Willie McCloud hit two free throws with 13:09 left and put Connecticut up by 47-35. Unlike other times this season, however, Georgetown didn't get back in the game with defense, but with perimeter shooting.
Jackson and Tillmon both hit three-pointers within two minutes to cut the lead in half. Calhoun was then hit with a technical, and Jackson hit one of two free throws. Dwayne Bryant (six points) then made a tough baseline jumper and was fouled. The free throw brought Georgetown within two, 47-45, at the 8:44 mark.
After Robinson tipped in his own miss, Smith answered from 18 feet, then knocked in a three-pointer from the left wing to give the Hoyas a 50-49 edge with 5:48 to play. But Robinson was calling for the ball, and he got it.
He scored on a turnaround in the lane. Tillmon canned a right baseline jumper, but Robinson responded with his own baseliner, from eight feet, to put Connecticut up by 53-52 at the 4:08 mark.
Smith missed from the top of the key, but McDonald grabbed the offensive board. Allen tried a turnaround in the lane, but Robinson got a hand in his face and may have gotten a piece of the ball.
Gamble then missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Winston slapped the ball away from Robinson, who had grabbed the offensive board. McDonald was called for a charge on McCloud with 2:30 to play, just as he tossed in a short jump hook.
Gamble then got away from Smith, and was open on the left side. His three-pointer gave the Huskies a 56-52 lead. Smith missed at the other end, and McCloud was fouled going after the rebound. McCloud started the parade to the foul line with 1:23 to play.
Tillmon then hit his shot, but by then Georgetown was fouling.
"I don't think they forced us to do anything," Thompson said. "We just didn't put the ball in the basket. We got shots that we wanted, in fact, we hit shots better than we had been."
Early on, it looked like Georgetown would extend both its win streak against the Huskies (the Hoyas had not lost to them since 1982) and its 11-0 streak at the Civic Center. They got out to an 18-9 lead, but then went 4:14 without a point.