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The National Invitational Tournament tips off on March 17.

That may turn into an important piece of information for Hoya fans.

Indeed, the Georgetown team that displayed fortitude and poise in an overtime victory over Memphis on Dec. 13 and execution and toughness in a signature win at Connecticut on Dec. 29 is a distant memory. The Hoyas’ season-high losing streak hit four on Wednesday night with another disappointing loss – this time, a 65-57 setback at Cincinnati (14-7, Big East 4-4).

In spite of a quiet 14 points and six rebounds from sophomore guard Austin Freeman, Georgetown (12-7, 3-5) was unable to make up for junior forward DaJuan Summers’ absence in the second half against a Bearcat team that showed an ability to knock down shots at key moments throughout the game. Summers headed to the bench late in the first half after apparently twisting his ankle and never returned to the floor.

The soon-to-be-unranked Hoyas, who have now lost six of eight since dismantling Connecticut, were plagued by the same deficiencies that have been hurting them during their current swoon: atrocious three-point shooting (5-of-17 for 29.4 percent), poor execution, costly turnovers at crucial times, lackluster defense (Cincinnati shot nearly 46 percent from the floor), an inability to box out and an ineffective approach to breaking a full-court press. From every angle, Georgetown again proved that at this moment it is not a very good basketball team.

On the other side, the suddenly-hot Bearcats, who have now won four of five, were led by star guard Deonta Vaughn, who ended up with 20 points and five rebounds, despite going 5-of-14 from the field. The Cincinnati bench also became a major factor in the upset, outscoring the Hoya reserves 27-11.

Proof that Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III is looking up and down his roster for any kind of spark – little-used redshirt freshman sharp-shooter Nikita Mescheriakov logged a surprising 25 minutes, canned a triple from the corner at the end of the first half and grabbed seven boards. Thompson had shown a commitment to playing Mescheriakov in this game even before the injury to Summers.

eanwhile, the demise of Jessie Sapp continued in a big way. The senior captain proved to be an offensive afterthought as he was held scoreless for the second time in four games. He was on the court for only 18 minutes.

The Big East battle was a back-and-forth contest throughout until the 4:08 mark in the second half. With Georgetown leading 55-54 after a Jason Clark three-pointer from the left wing, Cincinnati reserve Dion Dixon hit a right-wing trifecta over the Hoyas’ zone to put his team up for good. Georgetown then had the ball with a little less than two minutes remaining, trailing by three, when freshman center Greg Monroe had his pocket picked by Yancy Gates. The steal led to a five-point Bearcat lead with 1:35 left on the clock.

Chris Wright, who led the Blue and Gray with 15 points, brought the Hoyas back to within three after a layup with 1:17 to go, but on the ensuing possession, a questionable foul was called on Monroe with just seven seconds left on the shot clock and 46 seconds left on the game clock, allowing Cincinnati to finally put the game out of reach. In all, the Bearcats sprinted to the finish on an 11-2 run.

Although Georgetown has time to turn its free-fall around, the road does not get any easier on Saturday when it travels to Milwaukee to face red-hot and eighth-ranked Marquette (18-2, 7-0). Georgetown is a very young team and was expected to be in rebuilding mode this season.

Still, many thought that their preseason projection as the seventh-best unit in the Big East was far too low. At 3-5 and in ninth place in the conference, the Hoyas are officially playing below those expectations.

If this isn’t rock-bottom for the Georgetown Hoyas, then it is hard to imagine what is.

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