Ge­orge­town fum­bles and stum­bles

Hoyas turn the ball over on four of their fi­nal five pos­ses­sions

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sports - BY TARIK EL-BASHIR el­bashirt@wash­post.com

Ge­orge­town had am­ple op­por­tu­nity Satur­day to steady a sea­son that sud­denly had started to teeter. But, in the clutch, its best play­ers crum­bled un­der the strain of their own mis­cues, and West Vir­ginia handed the 13thranked Hoyas a 65-59 de­feat at Ver­i­zon Cen­ter that se­verely re­duces their mar­gin of er­ror for the rest of the sea­son.

With three losses in their first four con­fer­ence con­tests, the Hoyas are off to their worst start in league play since 2003-04, the sea­son be­fore Coach John Thomp­son III ar­rived. The Moun­taineers (10-4), mean­time, im­proved to 2-2 in the Big East be­hind a scin­til­lat­ing 28-point per­for­mance from Casey Mitchell.

“We’re the same group of guys that was in there two or three weeks ago, and now we just have to get back to the things that put us in that po­si­tion,” Thomp­son said of the Hoyas’ 11-1 start.

What made the de­feat all the more dis­tress­ing for Thomp­son and his play­ers was the fact that the af­ter­noon could have ended muchd­if­fer­ently had they made a play or two in crit­i­cal mo­ments.

TheHoyas (12-4) ral­lied from a seven-point sec­ond-half deficit to knot the score at 52 on a sec­ond straight three-pointer from Austin Free­man, who, af­ter a score­less first half, fin­ished with 11 points. But as it turned out, it only pro­vided fans with a false sense of hope. Mo­ments later, Moun­taineers for­ward Kevin Jones stepped back and knocked down an open three-pointer, and the Hoyas never could catch up.

Ge­orge­town’s last gasp came with 2 min­utes 35 sec­onds left to play af­ter Ja­son Clark (16 points and five re­bounds, both team highs) con­verted a three-point play to pull the Hoyas to 62-59. But in­stead of pulling closer, they com­mit­ted four con­sec­u­tive turnovers — a forced pass by Chris Wright and then three lost balls by Clark— on their fi­nal five pos­ses­sions to end the game. Clark’s last turnover came with 10 sec­onds re­main­ing as he fum­bled the ball while at­tempt­ing get it to Free­man, who wasn’t able to han­dle the pass cleanly.

“ That hurt us a lot,” Clark said. “We had plays de­signed. We wanted to get up good shots. But we turned the ball over, which didn’t let us get that.”

West Vir­ginia Coach Bob Hug­gins cred­ited a “gim­mick” de­fense with con­fus­ing the Hoyas in the wan­ing mo­ments.

“ They switched it up,” Wright said about a scheme the Moun­taineers called a tan­dem de­fense. “It was a man-to-man [de­fense] but one man was left wide open and John Flow­ers was sit­ting in the mid­dle of the lane. We tried to stay with our stuff. He threw a lit­tle gim­mick at us and it paid off.”

Odd de­fenses aside, the Hoyas had no one to blame but them­selves.

They were out­re­bounded 3223, in­clud­ing 15-4 on the of­fen­sive glass. Ge­orge­town en­tered the game as the con­fer­ence’s worst of­fen­sive re­bound­ing team, av­er­ag­ing only 10.1 per.

“It’s ef­fort,” Clark said. “We have to do bet­ter. We have to want it more than the other team.”

Also, the Hoyas’ best play­ers weren’t that — again. Free­man, com­ing off a sea­son-low six points in Mon­day’s loss to St. John’s, at­tempted only two shots in the open­ing 20 min­utes and went score­less in a half for the first time since Ge­orge­town’s star­tling NCAA tour­na­ment loss to Ohio in March. Wright shot 3 of 13, in­clud­ing 1 of 7 from three­p­oint range, and fin­ished with nine points. Since the start of con­fer­ence play, the se­nior point guard is 12 for 43 from the field and 2 for 21 from be­hind the three-point arc.

“It’s some­thing I can’t do,” said Free­man, who moved past Roy Hib­bert into 15th place on Ge­orge­town’s all-time scor­ing list. “My team­mates need me to be ag­gres­sive and get my shot and also help them get easy shots, too.”

Said Wright, who also had a game-high five turnovers: “It’s frus­trat­ing. But it was more than just shoot­ing. Me and [the other guards] have to get down there and re­bound, we have to get stops.”

Other rea­sons for worry: Front-court play­ers Ju­lian Vaughn, Henry Sims and Nate Lu­bick com­bined for only 12 points and seven re­bounds, and Ge­orge­town man­aged fewer free throws than its op­po­nent for the third time in four games, 24 at­tempts to 11.

It all added up to a loss that could come back to haunt the Hoyas.

TONI L. SANDYS/THE WASHINGTON POST

Ja­son Clark tries to shoot past twoWest Vir­ginia de­fend­ers. Clark fin­ished with team highs in points (16) and re­bounds (five).

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