A Dec. 9 Sports article incorrectly identified the University of Illinois basketball arena as Alumni Hall. It is Assembly Hall. (Published 12/13/2005)
Illinois 58, Georgetown 48
-- The Georgetown men's basketball team left the University of Illinois on Thursday night following its 58-48 loss knowing that it had finished its series of early-season tests. But any lessons that were learned along the way took a backseat, for one night at least, to the frustration of a missed opportunity against the 11th-ranked Illini. A dismal start to the game doomed the Hoyas, who fell to 3-2, and ruined any chance for an upset.
"It's hard right now because we just lost. We lost a game where if we had done some things differently -- not trying to take anything away from them, everyone in the country knows they're a great team -- hopefully it's a learning process for us," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said. "We still have a young group, a group of guys who are coming together. You play this game to learn lessons that will help you later on in the year."
Thursday's game marked the end of the rigorous portion of the Hoyas' pre-Big East schedule, a five-game stretch in which they traveled to four states and won three games. Georgetown's schedule now reverts to a more familiar form; its next three games are at home, against Fairfield (on Sunday), Stetson and Savannah State -- which have a combined record of 2-17.
All of the Hoyas' previous tests -- like their recent trip to Oregon to face a team that hadn't lost a home non-conference game in six years -- were a prelude to this one. Illinois (9-0) won 37 games last season (including a 74-59 victory at MCI Center), and two starters from that team, which lost in the national final, returned: guard Dee Brown (16 points) and forward James Augustine (10 points and 13 rebounds).
A steady snowfall did little to thin out the sea of orange inside of Alumni Hall; a sold-out crowd of 16,618 watched Illinois win its 26th consecutive home game. Sophomore Jeff Green missed his first three shots but finished with a season-high 21 points, all of which came in the second half for Georgetown. Senior guard Ashanti Cook added 10; no other Hoya scored more than six points.
Georgetown's 7-foot-2 sophomore Roy Hibbert was held to just four points -- 12 under his season average -- in 33 minutes, though he added seven rebounds and six blocked shots. The Illini rotated 6-10 sophomore Shaun Pruitt and 6-8 junior Marcus Arnold on Hibbert -- Illinois Coach Bruce Weber referred to it as "tag-team wrestling" -- and made it difficult for Hibbert to establish position inside.
Weber and his staff do a breakdown of five-minute "wars" in a game, and he stressed to his players the importance of winning the first one. The Illini certainly did that; after the first five minutes, they led, 10-0. They were the aggressors, swinging the ball on offense to set up three-pointers for Rich McBride, and stifling the Hoyas at the other end of the court. Roy Hibbert's put-back of a Jeff Green miss finally put Georgetown on the board with 14 minutes 29 seconds left in the half.
The Hoyas missed five lay-ups in the first 20 minutes, and made only 5 of the 22 shots they attempted. They got two easy baskets in the final two minutes: a Darrel Owens fast-break lay-up (which ended a nine-minute drought in which the Hoyas didn't record a single field goal), and a Cook cut and lay-up off a pass from Hibbert.
Georgetown gave up 13 offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes; on one occasion, Brian Randle just blew by two flat-footed Georgetown players to snare a weak-side rebound that led to an easy lay-up and a 22-9 lead.
Rebounding was a problem throughout the game for the Hoyas. Illinois, which shot only 32.3 percent from the field, grabbed 21 offensive rebounds -- which led to 16 points -- and held an overall 44-31 rebounding edge.
"The way we're playing offensively, any extra possession is so helpful for us," Weber said.
"They did a terrific job of going after the ball and we were just watching," said Thompson, whose team had 17 more rebounds than Oregon on Saturday. "We'll fix that."