Something was off Saturday evening at Verizon Center.

Sure, Georgetown beat a weak DePaul, but for the first time in three years, the Hoyas were not crowned Big East championships at the end of the regular season. They weren’t even in the top 10.

Senior guard Jessie Sapp, the starter who had been an integral part of the back-to-back league championship teams, was on the bench to start the game despite being the lone senior dressed for Senior Day.

Even the 48-40 win today was ugly, almost a microcosm of the problems that have plagued Georgetown all season. Playing against a DePaul team that has not won since 2008 and ranks next to last in Big East scoring defense, the Hoyas’ offense was stagnant and they did not take care of the basketball. They turned the ball over 16 times to just 12 assists.

Rather than exploiting a size advantage, the Hoyas settled for three-pointers despite connecting on only 4-of-20 tonight. Georgetown is shooting 33.3 percent from deep on the season – five percent worse than last season – even though they have a post player in Greg Monroe that is just as skilled as Roy Hibbert (COL ’08).

The Hoyas were able to scrape by the Blue Demons, avoiding the ignominious honor of being the only Big East team to lose to the DePaul this season, thanks to a slight advantage in experience. Junior forward DaJuan Summers scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half, including several offensive boards down the stretch and a three-pointer that broke a 26-26 tie and gave Georgetown the lead for good.

“I think Summers’ maturity was the difference,” DePaul Head Coach Jerry Wainwright said of the Hoyas’ second half run. “He changed his game and got involved in the paint.”

Wainwright added that it was a game between two young teams, and that in the end youth caught up to his squad. Georgetown played the unfamiliar role of the older team. Yet still, the Hoyas did not have a killer instinct and failed to bust the game wide open when DePaul only scored four points in the first 15 minutes.

All season long the Hoyas have been plagued by youth, the key difference between this year’s team and the last two Georgetown squads that won Big East titles. Sapp’s on-court production has been way down, and his seven points tonight were on pace with his season average of 6.4. Outside of Summers and Sapp, Georgetown is composed entirely of freshmen and sophomores, and only Austin Freeman played a significant role on last year’s team.

Sophomore point guard Chris Wright and freshman center Greg Monroe, whose play was the main reason why the Hoyas were able to beat ranked opponents Memphis and Connecticut early in the season, have been inconsistent as the grind of the physical, 18-game Big East brawl has worn on.

Tonight, Wright was held to six points and had one more turnover (four) than he did assists (three). Monroe was held to six points as well and only attempted two field goals. At times, the center was lost in the offense, rendered ineffective by DePaul’s vanilla 2-3 zone. Monroe has shown the potential to dominate games even against the best competition – like he did against UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet – but other times he is content hiding in the block, reluctant to set a strong post position and unwilling to pop out to the top of the key to run the point.

Instead of having grizzled veterans like Patrick Ewing Jr. (COL ’08) and Tyler Crawford (COL ’08) coming off of the bench, the Hoyas have newcomers Jason Clark, Henry Sims and Julian Vaughn. All three have had to learn the complicated offense from scratch and have contributed little all season on that end.

In crunch time, neither the starters nor the veterans have answered the bell. A year after winning seemingly every close game, Georgetown is 1-6 in contests decided by six points or fewer.

The Hoyas’ problematic `ins’ – inexperience, inconsistency and inability to close out games – are not an indictment of the teams’ lone healthy senior, Sapp. (Or, for that matter, the fault of the teams’ injured senior, Bryon Jansen.) Although Sapp’s numbers are down across the board, players and coaches alike agree that he has been important to the team.

“You can’t just look at the stat sheet to determine what he means and what he has meant to our team,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “Not just in the 30-some times you get to see him on the court, but the 330 other days on campus and in the dorm.”

Added Summers: “Off the court I won’t lose Jessie. We’ll still be friends. On the court . it’s tough to lose his experience.”

Even Wainwright raved about Sapp. Now in his fourth year with DePaul, Wainwright said he has seen Sapp mature both as a basketball player and as a man.

When Thompson subbed Sapp in three minutes into the game and when he removed him with 7.6 seconds left, the guard earned loud cheers from the crowd, even in spite of a Spring Break-depleted student section.

“I felt appreciated,” Sapp said. “I think they appreciated the little things that I did for the program.”

Georgetown will now travel to Sapp’s home, New York, for the Big East Tournament. They will be the 12-seed and play St. John’s on Tuesday, but unfortunately for Sapp and the Hoyas, the answer to the season’s pitfalls will probably not be found in the next few days.

What they really need is another year; an opportunity for the young players to learn from the campaign, make off-season adjustments, and ultimately develop into a core with experience similar to that of the championship Hoya squads of a few years ago.

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