Hoyas looking to avoid another early exit

PHILADELPHIA -- Georgetown left the job of exorcising its NCAA tournament demons incomplete in Columbus last year.

The measure of relief the Hoyas gained by winning their first game in the tournament since 2008 with a second-round defeat of Belmont was quickly erased by a fourth consecutive defeat to a higher, double-digit seed in North Carolina State.

The hanging heads inside the locker room left an indelible impression, but it's the unrealized expectations for a program that hasn't reached the Sweet 16 since 2007 that swirl around the second-seeded Hoyas (25-6) as they begin the 2013 NCAA tournament against No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast (24-10).

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No. 2 Georgetown vs. No. 15 Fla. Gulf Coast
When » Friday, 6:50 p.m.
Where » Wells Fargo Center,

"I think that's been a recurring theme throughout my tenure here, that we didn't make the winning plays down in the stretch in those extremely tough games," junior guard Markel Starks said. "I think we are capable of making those plays, it's just going out and actually doing it. I think we've done that a lot this year."

After the wake-up call of an 0-2 start in Big East play, time and again Georgetown has responded to the pressure situations in preparation for postseason. At Rutgers in early February, Otto Porter Jr. carried the Hoyas down the stretch, scoring 15 of 19 points in the second half and converting a three-point play with just over a minute to play. His driving layup rescued the Hoyas on the road against Connecticut in double overtime. Starks and a host of role players have each chipped in at various times, all while Georgetown's defense has been steady and unrelenting against the best teams in the Big East.

Both of the Hoyas' most recent losses were less signs of weakness than out-of-character experiences. Georgetown suffered an overwhelming foul disparity (27-12) against Villanova on March 6. Porter then had rare off night in a third meeting of the year with Syracuse in the Big East semifinals, but even that hasn't concerned Hoyas coach John Thompson III.

"We don't have to lay him down on the sofa and have a counseling session with him," Thompson said. "I don't necessarily think he had a bad game. The way they were guarding him it was impossible to get him too many free looks. But Otto is going to be Otto, and I'm not worried about him at all."

With brash confidence and offensive firepower, FGCU looks like the kind of team that could once again catch the Hoyas off-guard. But Thompson also believes in his players' ability to stare down the program's recent history and began the year asking how it felt to fall short in his first speech to the players when they arrived on campus.

"He put up every year that we went to the Final Four, and then he put 2013 up there," sophomore guard Jabril Trawick said. "That's what we're trying to accomplish. We're not looking past any teams, but we want to accomplish going to the Final Four so I think that's about us focusing in and attention to detail, the little things that help you win, especially in the tournament."

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