Hoyas’ aim is to win four at MSG

Ge­orge­town seeks a tour­na­ment ti­tle

The Washington Times Daily - - Weather - BY EL­LIOTT SMITH

Apolo­gies to those folks in Springfield, Mass., In­di­ana and To­bacco Row, but Ja­son Clark be­lieves the cra­dle of bas­ket­ball is found at the corner of 8th Av­enue and 31st Street in New York City.

“I love play­ing in Madi­son Square Gar­den,” Ge­orge­town’s se­nior guard said. “It’s my fa­vorite place to play. It’s the at­mos­phere of be­ing in such a his­toric build­ing, and a lot of great play­ers have gone through and done great things. I love play­ing in that build­ing.”

Clark and the rest of the Hoyas will get their op­por­tu­nity to shine un­der the bright lights at MSG be­gin­ning at 2 p.m. Wed­nes­day in the Big East tour­na­ment when Ge­orge­town (22-7) faces No. 13 seed Pitts­burgh (17-15) in the sec­ond round.

“We owe them one,” said Clark, re­fer­ring to the Hoyas’ 72-60 loss to the Pan­thers on Jan. 28.

The Hoyas had a golden op­por­tu­nity to fin­ish in sec­ond place and earn a dou­ble bye for the tour­na­ment, but Satur­day’s loss to Mar­quette, com­bined with a tiebreaker dis­ad­van­tage with Cincin­nati, dropped them to the fifth seed and gave them a much tougher road to the ti­tle.

“It was a big dis­ap­point­ment,” Clark said of the loss to the Golden Ea­gles. “That’s a big jump from two to five. But we’re not think­ing about that any­more. We know we have to win games Wed­nes­day, Thurs­day, Fri­day, Satur­day, and I think this team is pre­pared to do that.”

If Ge­orge­town does pull off a deep tour­na­ment run, it will take quite a bit to tra­verse a sched­ule with the Pan­thers, Bearcats and Syra­cuse loom­ing — all teams the Hoyas lost to this sea­son.

“You have to quickly turn it around,” coach John Thompson III said. “Men­tally as well as phys­i­cally, you have to be tough.”

And while Ge­orge­town’s play­ers were up­set to not re­ceive the dou­ble bye or the No. 2 seed, Thompson was less con­cerned about the bracket break­down.

“You start say­ing who’s nine, who’s 13, who’s four, who’s one — those things don’t mat­ter,” the coach said. “Syra­cuse has shown that they are No. 1, but af­ter that, the num­ber next to your team GE­ORGE­TOWN VS. PITTS­BURGH To­day: TV: Ra­dio:

doesn’t re­ally mat­ter be­cause on any given night we can all beat each other.”

One of the coach’s big­gest chal­lenges is how to game plan within a con­stricted amount of time. The Hoyas spent the early part of this week pre­par­ing for Pitt and St. John’s and will ad­just on the fly if they con­tinue to ad­vance.

“You don’t re­ally know who you are go­ing to play, so you can’t fo­cus on other teams that much,” for­ward Hol­lis Thompson said. “You have to fo­cus on your­self and what you need to do to get bet­ter. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”

Of im­me­di­ate con­cern are two is­sues that flared against Mar­quette but have been lin­ger­ing with the Hoyas all sea­son — free throw shoot­ing and press of­fense.

The Hoyas shot a sea­son-low 56 per­cent from the line against Mar­quette and rank 14th in that statis­tic dur­ing con­fer­ence play. In what fig­ure to be tight, lows­cor­ing af­fairs, Ge­orge­town must find a way to solve its free throw woes.

“All of us, from my­self on down, re­al­ize that we have not been good at that, and that it’s im­por­tant,” John Thompson said. “You just get them at the line and you work on it.”

Given the way the Hoyas bum­bled against Mar­quette’s press — Ge­orge­town’s big­ger lineup had trou­ble mov­ing the ball out of the back­court — Thompson knows that his team has given op­po­nents a win­dow on how to frus­trate them of­fen­sively.

“Do I an­tic­i­pate us get­ting pressed be­cause of our show­ing the other day? Ab­so­lutely,” he said.

In the grand scheme of things, per­haps this week’s tour­na­ment isn’t of para­mount im­por­tance for the Hoyas — most NCAA tour­na­ment pro­jec­tions have the Hoyas safely in as a No. 3 seed — but for the play­ers, es­pe­cially the se­niors, this trip to New York means ev­ery­thing.

“It’s so im­por­tant,” Clark said. “I’m go­ing up there with the mind­set that this is my last go-round, and I don’t want to lose. Henry [Sims] and I are telling the guys that we don’t want to go out with a loss. Our team be­ing the fam­ily we are, ev­ery­body un­der­stands that.”

Ja­son Clark says play­ing in Madi­son Square Gar­den is like play­ing in a bas­ket­ball shrine. “It’s the at­mos­phere of be­ing in such a his­toric build­ing, and a lot of great play­ers have gone through and done great things.”

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