WASHINGTON (AP)—John Thompson III officially declared himself excited, an occurrence so rare that even Pops had to quiz him about it.
Then again, the occasion was one that Hoyas fans hadn’t seen in a while. No. 9 Georgetown ended the regular season with the top seed in the Big East tournament following Saturday’s 59-46 win over Connecticut.
“Do the Wizards play tonight?” said Thompson, asking about the NBA team that also plays at the Verizon Center. “I hope not. Because my wife and kids and I will come back and cut down the nets and take them home.”
Roy Hibbert had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Hoyas (23-6, 13-3), who won the conference title outright later Saturday when Pittsburgh lost at Marquette. The No. 1 seed, under the conference’s complex tiebreaking rules, was clinched in the afternoon when Villanova beat Syracuse.
The victory was also the first for Georgetown over UConn since a 52-51 win on Feb. 3, 1997, a streak that spanned 11 games. The Huskies (17-13, 6-10), finishing with their worst Big East record since 1988-89, scored a season-low 46 points and were doomed by a 15-1 run by the Hoyas to open the second half.
Georgetown hasn’t been the No. 1 Big East seed since 1989, and the credit goes to the levelheaded, one-game-at-a-time focus of Thompson for returning the Hoyas to national prominence in only three years.
“You guys have heard me say we’ll take it one step at a time and at the end of the day we’ll pick our heads up and see where we are,” Thompson said. “And we have a long way to go. But the regular season is over, and we’re sitting at the top, and that feels pretty good. I’ve got to be honest about that.
“Normally I say ‘We’re going to enjoy it until we get back to school and start thinking about the next game.’ I might wait until tomorrow.”
Those words prompted a round of laughter at the postgame news conference. Thompson’s Hall of Fame father, who was sitting in the back of the room, then chimed in, pointing out that his son has won four regular-season titles— including three at Princeton—in seven years as a head coach.
“You seem to be more excited today than I’ve ever seen you after winning a championship,” the elder Thompson said. “You seem to be more emotional.”
“The first one I think I was the most excited, when we won at Princeton when we beat Penn,” the son replied. “But, today, yeah, I was a little excited out there today. Yeah, I was excited, Pops.”
“So excited,” Pops said, “that you’re going to take your old man to a real good restaurant?”
The son said he had to check with his wife first, but when the subject turned to basketball matters, there was little debate: Georgetown’s defense stifled the Huskies, who shot 36 percent and had no answer for 7-foot-2 center Hibbert.
“It definitely was our defense,” Thompson III said. “It was not a good offensive day, but we found a way to stumble along to score enough points.”
Hibbert shot 7-for-13 from the field and had three blocks and three steals. Jeff Green scored 14 points, and Patrick Ewing Jr. added 12 for the Hoyas, who bounced back after their 11-game winning streak was snapped at Syracuse on Monday night.
The game was played on Senior Day, but the coach doesn’t give token starts to players making their final home appearance. Green said he was hoping for a rout because he wanted the Hoyas’ two seniors—little-used Sead Dizdarevic and Kenny Izzo—to get in the game, and he got his wish when both entered to rousing ovations with 52 seconds left.
“It’s amazing—three years I’ve been waiting to beat UConn,” Green said. “And to do it on senior night.”
Jeff Adrien had 14 points and nine rebounds to lead the Huskies. Coach Jim Calhoun said his young team lacked the mental strength to stay with the Hoyas after a tight first half.
“In the second half, the first 7 minutes were just a nightmare,” Calhoun said. “We buried ourselves, and quite frankly, we never came back.”
Jerome Dyson was limited to nine points on 4-for-13 shooting. Calhoun said the freshman was ill with a virus and also was distracted by playing near his hometown of Rockville, Md.
“As soon as I saw him this morning looking through the ticket list, I knew we were in trouble,” the coach said.