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Wright powers Georgetown past Louisville to extend streak to five
Even though Georgetown got the victory over Villanova on Saturday, it was hard to look past Chris Wright’s stat line: zero points. Against Louisville two days later, Wright was once again impossible to ignore, but for very different reasons.
The senior point guard was the hero for the Hoyas (17-5, 6-4 Big East) in another close win over a ranked conference opponent, salvaging his team’s sloppy start with 24 points, as Georgetown beat Louisville 62-59 at the Verizon Center.
Wright finished with more points than his team had at the end of the first half. Both squads came out of the gate looking as if they had yet to recover from their top-10 upsets on Saturday. The Cardinals, who beat Connecticut in double overtime over the weekend, committed 11 turnovers and shot just 25.9 percent in the opening period. The Hoyas weren’t much better, but their eight turnovers and 31 percent shooting was enough to manage a 22-18 halftime lead.
Head coach John Thompson III was quick to dismiss any talk of a hangover, however.
“They’re one of the top teams in the nation in causing turnovers, and we’re playing defense better than we have been right now,” he said. “So I don’t think there’s any carryover or residual positive [or] negative effect from Saturday. I just thought they were two good defensive teams.”
Georgetown’s defense has been much improved over its current five game winning streak, and it may have been the key Monday night. A turnover-prone Hoyas squad could have been expected to commit a lot of miscues against the fourth-ranked stealing team in the country, but their defense made the Cardinals just as quick to give up the ball. That put Georgetown in a position to capitalize, scoring 17 points off turnovers.
Most importantly, the Hoyas were able to hold reigning Big East Player of the Week Peyton Siva to just five points on 1-for-5 shooting. The sophomore guard was forced into eight turnovers, seven of which came in the first half.
“It was a group effort,” Thompson said of defending Siva. “He has had several terrific games. I think as a group, our bigs were very good at helping the little guys who were guarding him. The bigs were very good at showing on the screens and giving our guards a chance to get back in front.”
No matter how good their defense, the Hoyas still needed someone to put the ball in the basket. Wright was more than capable of doing that. He was one of the few bright spots in the first half, and then he took over in the second, leading a Georgetown attack that shot a blistering 76.5 percent from the field after intermission.
Wright excelled by driving to the basket for layups and drawing contact to get to the foul line, where he was a perfect 8-for-8, including the two clinching free throws with five seconds remaining. No play was more indicative of Wright’s night than his crucial “layup” to tie the game with three minutes to play. The senior somehow tossed the ball up into the basket while falling to the ground after spinning into the lane and being apparently knocked down by his defender.
“I work on that. That’s something in my repertoire,” Wright joked after the game.
That play got the Hoyas back into the game they led by 11 at one point in the second half. That margin eroded when a couple of quick threes jumpstarted a Louisville run to take the lead. Rather than get discouraged, however, Georgetown responded with newfound poise.
“We just said let’s settle down and play,” Thompson said. “That’s their run. If you look at their games this year, that’s happened a lot. So now let’s just settle down and get stops.”
Wright’s daredevil drive got the Hoyas back in it, but it was a three-pointer by sophomore forward Hollis Thompson, set up by a powerful screen from Julian Vaughn, that put the Hoyas ahead for good. Vaughn was the Hoyas’ unsung hero, with perfect shooting from the field and foul line for 10 points and defensive contributions greater than even his four blocks would indicate.
After his scoreless Villanova game, Wright talked about the importance of every player on the team knowing and playing their role. That day his role was to get the ball to his teammates, but Monday showed that the Hoyas’ leader has many roles he may be called on to play.
“I have to see how the game is going in order to determine my role,” Wright said. “I’ve got to be a playmaker. Whatever that entails or whatever that implies is what I have to do. Today I was open. I got a few transition buckets early and I just felt like if I kept attacking good things would happen.”
As long as Wright can continue to adapt, it seems good things will continue to happen for his team as well.