NEW YORK – Playing without senior guard Chris Wright, the Hoyas displayed weaknesses that had little to do with his absence.
Junior guard Jason Clark and senior guard Austin Freeman brought some life back to the offense, scoring 23 and 20 points, respectively, but another dismal afternoon for senior forward Julian Vaughn coupled with lackluster team defense doomed Georgetown (21-10, 10-9 Big East) in its 79-62 loss to Connecticut (23-9, 9-9 Big East) in the second round of the Big East tournament.
The Hoyas have now lost four straight games and five out of six since rattling off an eight-game winning streak in the middle of the conference season.
“We miss Chris, absolutely, 100 percent, both ends of the court, in every way,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “The group that’s playing now, that played today, has to be better.”
As a team, Georgetown shot just 5-of-22 from beyond the arc, including a combined 2-for-13 from Freeman and Clark. On the other end of the floor, the Hoyas were unable to defend without fouling — the Huskies got to the line 10 more times than Georgetown — allowed Connecticut to shoot 50 percent from the floor and failed to secure possession on a few timely rebounds.
In his worst game of the season, Vaughn, who played just 12 minutes, went scoreless for the second straight game and became a fixture on the bench for nearly the entire second half. In his 12 minutes, Vaughn committed four fouls and turned the ball over twice.
“He’s not playing well,” Thompson said. “With Chris out, this is a bad time for Julian to be going through a funk, but he we need him to figure it out.”
The rest of the front court did not do much to offset Vaughn’s ineffectiveness. Junior center Henry Sims turned it over three times in seven minutes and freshman forward Nate Lubick fouled out with four points, five rebounds and three turnovers. Only sophomore forward Hollis Thompson, a perimeter-oriented player, played well, adding 10 points and five boards.
For the first nine minutes, Georgetown and Connecticut traded buckets en route to a 15-all tie, but midway through the half, an 8-0 Huskies run, helped in large part by turnovers from Vaughn and Lubick, set the tone for how the rest of the game would play out.
Leading by seven with 6:33 to go in the half, UConn used another 8-0 spurt to jump ahead by 15 and end the half up 12.
From the 5:25 mark of the first half until the final buzzer, the Hoyas, who committed 16 turnovers, were never within 10 points of the lead.
Junior guard Kemba Walker had his second monster performance of the year against the Hoyas, scoring 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting and grabbing six boards. Nine Huskies, led by freshman guard Jeremy Lamb and sophomore forward Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, with 11 and 12 points, respectively, got into the scoring column, and Jim Calhoun’s bench outscored Thompson’s bench, 26-5.
“He has a lot of weapons,” Clark said when asked about Walker. “I mean, you can’t guard him one-on-one. You have to have help from everybody else on the team and try to get the ball out of his hands.”
While the Huskies move on to face top-seeded Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals tomorrow, the Hoyas returns to D.C. and wait until Sunday, when the NCAA tournament selection committee announces where, when and who Georgetown will play in the first round of the Big Dance late next week. Thompson maintains that Wright will be back by the time the Hoyas open up the NCAA tournament next Thursday or Friday.
“We’re still a confident team,” Freeman said. “We just need to get back on track.”