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Dog Fight: Georgetown Falls to UConn, 70-57, in Renewal of Big East Rivalry

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After ugly first half, Hoyas can’t keep up with Huskies’ explosive guard play

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Two old Big East foes were reunited Tuesday night, as Georgetown and Connecticut met for the first time since the latter rejoined the conference from the basketball hinterlands of Aresco. The game was at times ugly and fierce, and for long stretches nip-and-tuck, but ultimately the Huskies’ second-half firepower gave the visitors the victory going away.

The first half was basically a basketball snuff film. Georgetown shot 7 of 27 from the field, managing more turnovers (9) than made shots. Qudus Wahab put in a couple at the rim, and Jamari Sibley made a hesitating, found money 3 to close out the half, but otherwise, the Hoyas couldn’t throw it in the ocean. Georgetown made it almost to the first media timeout without scoring at all, generated four straight transition possessions only to come up empty on each, and accomplished feats of offensive ineptitude that will be the stuff of song and legend for generations to come.

The good news was that, excluding an opening 12-2 run, the Huskies were even more punchless. UConn threw the ball away, threw the ball over the basket, threw the ball pretty much everywhere but in. That, plus a, uh, handsy defensive strategy by the visitors that sent Georgetown to the free throw line allowed the Hoyas to creep back into the game, point by precious point.

And then, Dante Harris flew around a pick to set up a Wahab dunk so fast, pulling Georgetown within a possession, that time itself stopped. No, wait — the time kept ticking. It was the scoring that stopped. Both teams, for several God-given game minutes that I won’t get back, failed to score. You like turnovers? Missed putbacks? Attempted putbacks instead resulting in turnovers? Well, my basketball-perverted friend, do I have some limited edition Top Shots for you.

Eventually, after sapping viewers of their sanity, their sense of basketball decency, and perhaps years off their life expectancy, the teams snapped out of it, closing out the half on a scoring note. The Huskies drew up a James Bouknight alley-oop that Sibley followed with his heave. Somehow, despite the folly and carnage, Georgetown led by one.

Compared to the sad, gruesome play that preceded it, the second half looked relatively crisp from the start. Jamorko Pickett, who made just 1 of his first 6 shots, got it going after the break. He pulled up from the elbow, made a nifty step-through, and drew a foul on another drive to keep Georgetown neck-and-neck. One possession later, the senior forward whipped a nifty pass to Harris, waiting in the corner, who calmly buried a triple. That was hardly Harris’s only contribution, as the freshman guard scored eight straight Hoya points, mostly as a blur going to the basket.

But the same UConn back-court that struggled through much of the first half came alive in the second. RJ Cole, who at one time tormented the Hoyas while at Howard, got a number of tough, crafty buckets for the Huskies. UConn star James Bouknight, who was quiet after the game’s opening surge, came alive as the game wore on, throwing down a second alley-oop, converting a wide-open lay-up off a baseline out of bounds play, and burying a three that dispeled any remaining doubt. The two Husky guards, who had started the evening a combined 3 of 15 from the field, finished on a 13-of-18 tear.

The Hoyas simply could not keep pace. With the game still in the balance, the Hoyas got four clean, open three-pointers, two by Harris and the others by Blair and Pickett, but all were off. Pickett couldn’t sustain the rhythm from the start of the half, and Blair offered little more than the occasional floater. Chudier Bile struggled with the length of the UConn front line all night, managing just a 1 of 8 line. Without any of their upperclassmen offering even average offensive performances to match those of the visiting guards, Georgetown just lacked firepower.

Coming off of a tough loss to Villanova last weekend, UConn also looked like it just wanted it more for much of the second half, grabbing loose balls and second chances, extending possessions and generally wearing Georgetown down. The Huskies are sitting on the NCAA Tournament bubble, and played like they didn’t want it to burst.

For the Hoyas, coming off a strong stretch of play of late, there’s not much to hang their heads about here. Facing a squad that could match their size and physicality, while adding in an extra dose of guard play and desperation, Georgetown ultimately came up a bit short. There’s no shame in that, and the Hoyas will have the chance to get back on the winning track Saturday, when they host DePaul.