COMMENTARY | Hoyas Struggle Against Tough Three-Point Defense

FILE PHOTO: MICHELLE XU/THE HOYA   Sophomore guard L.J. Peak has fouled out seven times so far this season. Georgetown committed 27 fouls against UConn on Jan. 23.

FILE PHOTO: MICHELLE XU/THE HOYA
Sophomore guard L.J. Peak has fouled out seven times so far this season. Georgetown committed 27 fouls against UConn on Jan. 23.

In its recent contest against the University of Connecticut (14-5, 4-2 AAC), the Georgetown men’s basketball team (12-8, 5-2 Big East) shot 50 percent from inside the arc. UConn, on the other hand, was held to 37.5-percent shooting inside the arc. Normally, this would mean a victory for the superior shooting team. However, the Hoyas were unable to capitalize on their defense and fell 68-62 to the Huskies.

Perhaps the biggest reasons for the Hoyas’ downfall were their numerous fouls and their inability to draw fouls against the UConn defense. Not only did the Hoyas commit 27 fouls compared to the Huskies’ 13, Georgetown shot just eight free throws compared to 36 for UConn. While some may point to questionable officiating, in reality, the game was decided because of Georgetown’s reluctance and inability to penetrate and drive into the lane.

Far too often, the team settled for semi-open three pointers and two-point jumpers. In fact, 83 percent of Georgetown’s shot attempts were some type of jump shot, an unacceptable disparity for a team that saw its senior center and co-captain Bradley Hayes shoot an efficient 3-of-4 from the post.

By not feeding the ball to Hayes more frequently, the Hoyas allowed the Huskies’ defense to figure out Georgetown’s offense much more easily. Georgetown took 31 shot attempts from three-point range but made only nine.

In comparison, UConn’s balanced offensive attack helped it get to the line and draw fouls, which in turn forced Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III’s hand in switching up his rotations. Sophomore guard L.J. Peak fouled out for the seventh time this season, and sophomore guard Tre Campbell and junior forward Reggie Cameron each had four fouls.

“We started attacking, just putting some different plays in and letting our playmakers challenge the rim,” UConn Head Coach Kevin Ollie said of the team’s ability to draw fouls on Georgetown’s defenders. “I thought [junior guard Rodney Purvis] did a real good job making 7-of-8 free throws. [Senior guard Sterling Gibbs] was attacking the whole game.”

Moreover, the Huskies’ defense held the Hoyas to their lowest shooting-percentage from deep – 29 percent – since Big East play began.

“To hold them to 29 percent, I thought our defense was outstanding. Everybody was talking; everybody was communicating, that’s how we stay connected,” Ollie said. “We said this was a big game for us to stay connected. If we get disjointed any way [they would have] picked us apart.”

And indeed, the Huskies stayed connected. Georgetown was not able to capitalize on late rotations as it did in its game against No. 7 Xavier (17-2, 5-2 Big East) or on backdoor cuts, two staples of its tried and true Princeton offense. Still, Georgetown’s shooting 29 percent from deep is an aberration, as Cameron and others missed wide-open looks that would have swung the game in the Hoyas’ favor.

The Hoyas were finally placed on the NCAA Tournament Bubble, with noted ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi predicting the Hoyas to finish among the “Next Four Out,” a subsection of the final 16 teams that the Tournament Selection Committee cut from the final field of 68.

A marquee nonconference win would have surely put the Hoyas right on the edge of tournament talk and would surely be bolstered by a tough conference schedule that has already seen the Hoyas notch an impressive road win against the dominant Musketeers.

Now, the Hoyas find themselves in a four-way tie for second place in the Big East with Xavier, the No. 10 Providence Friars (17-3, 5-2 Big East) and the Creighton Bluejays (14-6, 5-2 Big East). The latter two teams visit Verizon Center for the Hoyas’ next two contests, both crucial games. If the team can latch onto sole possession of second place in the Big East, especially with wins over teams ranked No. 37 and 34 in the KenPom rankings, respectively, it may very well find itself firmly in the tournament field.

The Hoyas must hold serve at home. In past years, the Selection Committee has been more lenient and forgiving with tough road losses, but two losses at home would effectively place Georgetown out of the NCAA Tournament, barring an improbable finish to the season. A win against UConn would have been a buffer against a couple more losses in one of the toughest conferences in the country, but now, the Hoyas’ margin for error is smaller than ever.

Georgetown will face off against Creighton on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

PaoloSantamaria_SketchPaolo Santamaria is a sophomore in the College.

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