They say good defense wins championships. While it didn’t have the Georgetown Hoyas standing at center court, basking in their One Shining Moment Saturday afternoon, it did grant them the rare blowout victory they had been desperately seeking.

Georgetown brought its defensive attitude to Verizon Center against Cincinnati and bullied the Bearcats into submission, winning 73-53.

The Hoyas have been stingy all season – they have led the NCAA in field goal percentage defense most of the year and rank at the top of the Big East in virtually every defensive statistical category – but they got nasty in this one.

We’re talking about holding Cincinnati’s top-scorer Deonta Vaughn six points below his average out put, forcing 18 turnovers, including 11 in the first half and racking up 10 steals, grabbing 23 defensive rebounds, and baiting the Bearcats into taking numerous bad shots.

“Some of the shots we took didn’t even hit the rim,” Cincinnati Head Coach Mick Cronin said, possibly referring to the wild free throw Bearcat Kenny Belton tossed in the general vicinity of the basket late in the game. “We were unable to penetrate their defense. We tried to do something and they took it away.”

Jesse Sapp and Jeremiah Rivers put Vaughn in a sleeper hold for most of the game, limiting the potent scorer to only 13 points. Vaughn, who averages nearly 20 a contest and has gone for 30-plus twice this season, didn’t hit a bucket for the first 14 minutes of the game and scored only three in the second half.

“We wanted to make sure we got a hand in his face,” said Sapp, who had four steals. “He’s a good player and we wanted to make sure that he didn’t get any open looks.”

While Sapp and Rivers strangled the Bearcat backcourt, Roy Hibbert mauled any soul daring enough to enter his lair, known in some circles as the paint. Hibbert had five blocks, including one powerful swat in the second half that landed five rows behind the Cincinnati bench.

“He’s a guy whose numbers aren’t as great – his impact goes beyond his stats,” Cronin said of Hibbert. “His presence forces you to run your offense differently.”

John Thompson III’s offered this fitting assessment of Hibbert, who has 11 blocks over the past two games.

“Roy commands,” Thompson said.

When Georgetown plays tight defense, it does more than just frustrate opposing coaches and destroy the self-esteem of a headstrong scorer like Vaughn. It also helps the Hoyas’ offense.

Georgetown’s inability to break the press has been their Achilles’ heel all season, but a team cannot set up its press unless it scores. The Bearcats tried to apply full-court pressure, but the Hoyas simply wouldn’t let it happen.

The Hoyas defense lead to 27 points on the other end, Georgetown’s highest total in points off of turnovers so far this season.

“We were fortunate that they threw balls away today,” Thompson said, adding that he believes his team’s effort against the press was only “okay” and can still improve. “We settled into our rotations in on-ball situations.”

After the 20-point TKO, Cronin called the Hoyas “the best defensive team we’ve played all year,” and said he thought Georgetown was more than capable of making a second-straight Final Four run.

“We’re not the best offensive team, but they do a great job of covering for each other,” Cronin said. “I think we were exploited offensively today.”

Thompson was just glad he didn’t have to go straight from Verizon to the film room. For the first time in what seems like eons, the Hoyas were granted a reprieve from the demanding Saturday-Monday scheduling gauntlet.

The Hoyas don’t have to lace up again until 9 p.m. Wednesday night – and that’s to face St. John’s, a team they walloped by 32 on Jan. 30.

“It feels really good,” Thompson said of the four-day break. “Everyone in that locker room is pretty happy to not have to get ready for a game Monday.”

After subjecting an opponent to 40 minutes of intense basketball, the Hoyas could use a few days of rest.

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