WASHINGTON (AP)—Much like those John Thompson-coached Georgetown teams of the 1980s, Connecticut has reached a point where, as coach Jim Calhoun put it, “One of our best shots is a missed shot.”
That certainly was the case Saturday. The No. 10 Huskies launched bricks all game, but 17 offensive rebounds made the difference in a 66-59 victory over the Hoyas.
“We’re so atypical of what we’ve been,” Calhoun said. “Generally speaking, when a lot of people think of Connecticut, they think of Ray Allen, they think of Caron Butler, they think of Ben Gordon, they think of the great perimeter players, and we’re going—and it’s been a tough transition—to an inside team, and really trying to borrow a little bit from John Sr.”
Charlie Villanueva had 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Denham Brown helped stave off Georgetown’s second-half rally with a season-high 19 points as the Huskies (9-2, 1-1) rebounded from a home loss to Boston College in their Big East opener Wednesday.
“Now the ship is at least righted a little bit,” Calhoun said.
The Huskies built a 20-point halftime lead by simply throwing the ball toward the basket and letting their big men go after it. Connecticut overcame 38 percent shooting with a 47-32 rebounding advantage, including 32-15 in the first half.
The Huskies led by 22 early in the second half, but the Hoyas cut the lead to six with an 18-4 run that included three 3-pointers. Brown stopped the rally almost single-handedly with 12 points in the final 9 1/2 minutes, including a 3-pointer that restored a double-digit lead with 2:53 to play.
Georgetown cut the lead to six again in the final minute on a 3-pointer by Ashanti Cook, but Connecticut made its last four free throws to seal the win.
Brown was 5-for-8 from the field and made all eight free throws, providing a boost on a day in which Josh Boone struggled with just seven points, his first game below double figures this season. Calhoun said Brown somehow found his confidence after going 3-for-18 in practice Wednesday.
“I’ve been really getting down on myself about the way I was playing,” Brown said. “It’s a different day for me.”
The Huskies have won eight straight over the Hoyas. Connecticut’s last loss to Georgetown was a 52-51 defeat at home on Feb. 3, 1997.
Jeff Green scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half for the Hoyas (9-4, 1-1) in the first Big East loss for John Thompson III, whose Princeton offense in no way resembles the big-man Georgetown days of his father. Georgetown upset No. 16 Pittsburgh on the road Wednesday.
“We were not us in that first half,” Thompson said. “There was not too much about that first half that was Georgetown basketball.”
The Huskies were set to break the game open after a 14-2 run that closed the first half, giving them a 39-19 lead. The run included dunks by Villanueva, Boone and Brown against a manhandled young Hoyas frontcourt. Georgetown shot just 25 percent in the half.
The Huskies didn’t shoot well, either, throwing up more than their share of air balls, but it didn’t really matter. When Marcus Williams missed everything from the baseline in the first half, Hilton Armstrong grabbed the ball in the midst of three defenders, then put in a reverse layup while drawing a foul.
In another sequence, Villanueva botched an alley-oop pass to Williams, but Villanueva chased down the ball and again fed Williams, who drew a foul and made two free throws.
Georgetown began to shoot better and box out in the second half, and 3-pointers from Green, Jonathan Wallace and Cook made the game close before Brown took over down the stretch.
“Connecticut is a great team, and you can’t play a half of basketball and expect to beat them,” Georgetown swingman Darrel Owens said. “In the second half, we made an adjustment to keep them off the boards, but it was too little, too late.”
As for Calhoun, his top gripe in his postgame remarks concerned Georgetown’s statisticians, who he felt shortchanged his players by crediting the Huskies with just three blocks and eight assists.
“I don’t think you should take that away from them just because you don’t want to get someone to properly handle a stat sheet,” Calhoun said. “We were asked to bring our team here, so obviously that doesn’t make me particularly happy.”