UConn, We Can’t

Feisty Georgetown Gives Top-Ranked Connecticut a Scare But Falls Short

By Sean P. Flynn Hoya Staff Writer

Georgetown’s men’s basketball team has proved that it can play with the big boys, but they still can’t find a way to beat them.

In an exciting, physical, well-played game at MCI Center Monday night, No. 1 Connecticut overcame a second-half deficit to defeat a feisty Georgetown squad, 78-71.

Huskies star forward Richard Hamilton led all scorers with 27 points, despite strong defense from Georgetown’s guards and swingmen, mainly Nat Burton and Daymond Jackson. The Hoyas also bore down on Connecticut sophomore guard Kahlid El-Amin, who was held to seven points on 3-for-8 shooting and left the game late with a pulled right hamstring.

But when Georgetown’s shooting failed in the end, Connecticut’s talent and consistency – especially on the free-throw line – came through. Hamilton was 10-for-13 from the free-throw line, while junior forward Kevin Freeman hit all 10 of his charity shots.

“We were five minutes away from winning,” said senior guard Daymond Jackson. “We could have beaten them – we just didn’t play the full 40 minutes.”

“In the second half, every time we made mistakes on defense they took advantage of it,” Georgetown Head Coach Craig Esherick said. “Every time we fouled them, both Freeman and Hamilton made their free throws.”

For Esherick and the Hoyas, it was their third close loss against a ranked team in a week. The Hoyas are now 9-10 overall. In Big East play, the Hoyas are 2-8, 11th place in front of Pittsburgh and Boston College.

“The close losses kind of hurt,” Burton said. “But we have to build from it.”

Still, the Hoyas got some encouraging performances from several players. Senior swingman Trez Kilpatrick scored 15 points, his season high, showing confidence driving to the basket, dribbling up the floor and from long range. He also grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds. Burton had another high-quality game on defense agasinst an all-Big East-candidate opponent, this time Hamilton. On offense Burton was the Hoyas’ strongest shooter, making 7 of 14 shots and grabbing five rebounds.

For the first 30 minutes of the game, Georgetown energized its raucous home crowd of 15,964 – who honored Esherick by wearing fake mustaches – with unrelenting defense to steal the momentum from Connecticut, who jumped to a six-point lead 10 minutes into game, and by hitting big shots, especially late in the first half.

“I thought we did a great job to start the game by being active on defense and also looking to fast break,” Esherick said. “We made some deep shots and that got us going and gave us some confidence.”

The Huskies had a lead as big as six in the first half, but the pesky Hoyas fought back using a defense that rarely gave the Huskies open shots.

After the teams traded shots for much of the half, Perry drained another three-pointer to give the Hoyas a 39-37 lead with less than two minutes left. Connecticut missed all its shots in the last after that, getting only two free throws from Hamilton, and a Jackson layup off a Trez Kilpatrick inbounds pass gave Georgetown a 44-39 lead heading into halftime.

While all the momentum was in the Hoyas’ corner, the Huskies say they weren’t worried.

“Halftime was probably the most calm speech I’ve given,” said Connecticut Head Coach Jim Calhoun, whose Huskies are now 18-0. “I said we’re in a little bit of a jam. We can’t make a shot. They’re overplaying us in everything. We just need a little poise.”

In the second half, Georgetown kept the momentum early, but the Huskies poise let them take control when the Hoyas began to slip.

The Georgetown defense kept Connecticut floundering for the first seven minutes, and the clutch baskets continued. A Joe Touomou three-pointer with just under 14 minutes left put the Hoyas up five. But when the Hoyas’ shooting, which was 45 percent in the first half, cooled off, the Huskies capitalized with 80 percent free-throw shooting.

The Hoyas stayed within two possessions of the lead until late. El-Amin was left open for a three with 2:36 left giving the Huskies an eight-point advantage the Hoyas couldn’t overcome.

“We are definitely getting better,” Esherick said. “I personally don’t believe in moral victories, but I’m not disappointed. We’re playing well.”

 

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