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Sophomore guard Chris Wright

PHILADELPHIA – Calling the Georgetown Hoyas “Chris Wright’s team” is probably premature, but since conference play began, the sophomore guard has increasingly moved into the role of team leader, with his attitude and his play.

The past two months have been a growing experience for the Hoyas, and they finally seem to be dusting off the effects of the fall their season took.

“We thought about regressing, and then our guys held on,” Head Coach John Thompson III said of this big step forward.

The key to holding on, and not folding – which happened too many times this season – was Wright’s clutch play. His emerging leadership and confidence is the true step forward that should have Georgetown fans excited about a great win on the road.

It is hard to imagine that a team can take a step forward while shooting 4-of-16 from the three-point line, giving up 13 offensive rebounds and giving away a shocking 25 turnovers, but during the first half, Georgetown was showing signs of serious growth.

The stats were certainly not pretty, but the way the Hoyas scored many of their 32 first-half points showed definite progress on offense. After four missed jump shots in the game’s first five minutes, Georgetown seemed to remember that Villanova, whose tallest player is 6-foot-8 senior forward Dante Cunningham, is14th in the Big East in blocked shots, and began to take the ball to the hole.

Whether it was Wright’s power-hopping into the lane for two, or freshman center Greg Monroe’s spinning for a bucket, the Hoyas capitalized on the Wilcats’ diminutive defenders for an impressive 22 points in the pain in the first half, looking like a team that would not be at the mercy of their three-point field-goal percentage for wins and losses.

Defensively, the Hoyas worked to make sure the Wildcats’ stat line would be as ugly as their own. Georgetown played its best perimeter defense of the season and made the Big East’s fourth-best three-point shooting team go 0-for-6 from beyond the arc in the first half and 3-for-16 on the day. That three-point defense looked so impressive because it did not come at the cost of a weak interior presence.

Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright cited Georgetown’s inside-outside strength as a major key to the game.

“Someone’s taking away your threes like that, you gotta be able to go inside and we didn’t,” he said.

However promising the Hoyas looked in the first half, the all too familiar stretch-run drought looked like it might cost Thompson’s squad another Big East loss.

The Wildcats slowly chipped away at the Hoyas’ hard-earned lead, while the Hoyas only managed five points between the 10-minute mark and the game’s final minute. The game was quickly starting to resemble last Saturday’s crunch-time loss to Marquette, but in the game’s final minutes, a clear difference emerged: Wright would not let his team lose.

Even though the Hoyas seemed unable to score, Wright kept his team ahead by preventing Wildcat junior guard Scottie Reynolds from even glimpsing the basket. Thompson praised Wright’s efforts on Reynolds and said that his sophomore guard would “sleep well tonight.”

Sophomore guard Austin Freeman had two clutch rebounds in his brief return to action before fouling out, but in the game’s final minute, it was Wright who sealed the win with a pretty finger-roll layup and two huge free-throws.

Finally, when Georgetown needed to inbound the ball with 3.5 seconds on the clock to hold on to its two-point lead, Wright was open for the pass. As the clock wound down to zero in Philadelphia, Wright streaked down the court with five Wildcats behind him and the Hoyas’ best Big East win in nearly two months in front.

By the time the buzzer sounded, the Hoyas had gathered around Wright to celebrate their win.

The sophomore said after the game that he was working on knowing “when I have to be in the role of leading.”

Against Marquette, junior forward DaJuan Summers took the reigns and had three turnovers in the final 10 minutes en route to a loss. Today, Wright was clearly in charge, and the Hoyas very simply outplayed the Wildcats down the stretch.

After watching those two games on successive Saturdays and witnessing the disparity in results, one can only wonder whether, even if the Hoyas are not Chris Wright’s team, maybe they should be.

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