Georgetown Basketball: Defeated, but Not Dejected

By Tim Sullivan Hoya Staff Writer

Well, that was a letdown.

After an astounding series of games against some of the best teams in the country, someone let the air out of the Hoyas against the California Golden Bears Tuesday night. They were just flat out . . . well, flat. They were out-hustled, out-manned and just outplayed in a lackluster showing by both teams.

This was not the same team who, just a few games ago, shut down the mighty Syracuse offense and mustered an unfathomable amount of heart to outlast Virginia in a game of epic proportions. What happened, you ask?

The Hoyas just didn’t have it Tuesday night, and there are a lot of possible explanations. Maybe their postseason run was a fluke. aybe they weren’t ready for another big game after having left so much on the court in Virginia. And maybe, as I suspect, Tuesday just wasn’t their night.

Yes, the Hoyas played poorly Tuesday, but that cannot, in the mind of any true fan, take away from the manifold accomplishments of their late-season run. In the long run, we won’t remember how they checked out of the 2000 season, but how they surged at the end. The way they played Tuesday night was still inexcusable, but it can’t outweigh how good the victories over Syracuse and Virginia made you feel. Still, the Hoyas deserve some criticism for this game.

Much of the blame for the sub-par play on display on national television lies at the feet of Head Coach Craig Esherick. The game plan, if you can call hoisting a countless number of threes a game plan, was off. Let’s just say that the Hoyas ain’t Princeton, and when they shoot that many three pointers that poorly, they don’t have a chance of winning.

Obviously, I wasn’t at the Hoyas’ practices this week but I don’t think Esherick did a great job of preparing the team mentally for the game. One of the reasons for the Hoyas recent success had been their hunger, the fact that no one thought they could possibly win, and they knew it. Tuesday night, success may have gone to their heads, because they thought they were good, much better than they actually played, and it showed. Unlike much of the rest of the season, where hesitation plagued the team, on Tuesday, shots came in bunches, when a little hesitation may have been wise.

Granted, Esherick’s hand was forced in many situations. Freshman Victor Samnick was sidelined with an injury, and Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje, Courtland Freeman and Demetrius Hunter were all less than a hundred percent because of nagging injuries. Add to this Lee Scruggs’ foul trouble, and you have a recipe for a poorly played game.

When the Hoyas couldn’t buy a basket from the outside, Esherick probably should have realized his game plan just wasn’t working. Look at the box score. Boumtje-Boumtje shot the ball four times, as did grad student Jameel Watkins in his final game for the Hoyas.

If the Hoyas were going to shoot the ball that poorly – 27.7 percent to be exact – they needed to rebound well to keep them in the game. That worked for the first 30 minutes, but down the stretch, Cal simply out-hustled them on nearly every ball. The Hoyas thoroughly out-rebounded Cal overall, but in the end, they couldn’t get a rebound when they needed one.

One of the Hoyas’ major problems Tuesday was shot selection, which isn’t really Esherick’s fault. The players just didn’t execute. I have been one of walk-on Gharun Hester’s biggest advocates since Esherick realized he had a quality role player in the football star. But it is indefensible for Hester to shoot that many times, no matter how great his shot against Virginia was.

Sophomore guard Kevin Braswell played like a sophomore, refusing to stop shooting and in one instance, trying to dribble through four defenders. Braswell is young and extremely talented, and he will learn his limitations as he continues to grow as the future of the Hoyas. This wasn’t the same Braswell who lit up Virginia and Syracuse, the same Braswell who will lead this team to scores of victories next year and beyond.

Scruggs didn’t give us the chance to see if he had his A-game. He picked up so many early fouls he found himself on the bench when the Hoyas needed him most. And when he was in, he shot terribly. But after what Scruggs has given this team down the stretch, it’s hard to kill him at this late juncture for one bad game; the same goes for Braswell.

There were a few bright spots for the Hoyas in the game. Junior guard Anthony Perry played well for the second consecutive game, awakening from his season-long funk, leading the Hoyas in scoring with 12.

Okay I lied. So what. There weren’t any other bright spots for the Hoyas, a free trip to California excepted. But enough about this game. Sure, it hurt to watch the Hoyas go down Tuesday night, but after several years of mediocrity, you can’t help but be excited about next year.

I’ve said it before, and I’m about to say it again, the Hoyas grew up a lot in these five postseason contests, and the experience will pay big dividends down the road next season.

A full year of Scruggs and an improved Braswell give the Hoyas one of the best 1-2 scoring punches in the Big East. Boumtje-Boumtje and Hunter can only improve on this year, and the addition of highly touted but academically troubled center Wesley Wilson and standout recruits Michael Sweetney and Gerald Riley will give the Hoyas even more weapons in the arsenal.

The Big East will lose many of its biggest stars, like Syracuse’s triumvirate of standouts, Etan Thomas, Ryan Blackwell and Jason Hart, to graduation and who knows how many more to the NBA draft. Erick Barkley of St. John’s, Khalid El-Amin of UConn and Troy Murphy of Notre Dame are all among the potential early departures that could deplete the conference.

Where does this leave the Hoyas? In pretty good stead if you ask me. With the progress they have made this year, an NCAA bid is well within their reach.

I hate to wax Brooklyn Dodgers on you here, but Dem Bums may have been right all along. Wait till next year.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.