Georgetown’s latest game, a 15-point loss at the hands of the Boston College Eagles, was, without question, the most embarrassing game of the season.

Even though No. 5 Boston College is one of the best teams in the country as one of only two remaining undefeated teams in Division I-A college basketball, this game smelled of an upset. The Eagles had been playing poorly at home and barely escaped with a road victory over Providence, the last-place team in the conference.

Georgetown had been on an impressive conference run, winning four of its last five games, and it was looking to spoil the party in Chestnut Hill.

But the Hoyas could not answer the challenge, scoring a meager 12 points in the first half, the second-lowest tally in conference history. Georgetown’s miserable half was difficult to watch. At one point the Hoyas managed to miss 14 consecutive shots and go scoreless for over 12 minutes.

Boston College could not get it together either, scoring just 24 points, leaving Georgetown down just 12. In the second half the Hoyas came back strong, trailing 40-35 with 8:30 to play, but BC pulled away to outscore Georgetown in the half and win the game 64-49, leaving Hoya fans stunned.

Georgetown’s men’s basketball team has given us all a reason to cheer this season. They have exceeded expectations and won close games when they could have crumbled. Nonetheless, the loss to Boston College brings questions to the surface and weaknesses that need to be addressed.

Georgetown has been a second-half team all season: it finishes strong, but it also falters at the start. The Hoyas have scored less than 20 points in the first half three times in eight conference games, a number that is three times too many.

Watching the Hoyas, they seem to need a full ten minutes every game just to get their offense working. Their possessions rarely avoid a battle with the shot clock, and against BC this led to a barrage of ill-advised three-pointers.

The problem in the Georgetown offense is easy to recognize. When the players falter, a set play leads to problems.

For example, if freshman guard Jonathan Wallace brings the ball up the court, he passes the ball to freshman center Roy Hibbert well outside the three-point line with Hibbert’s back to the basket. Hibbert then waits for the other four players to cut and set picks, trying to get open. This process can repeat two or three times in a single possession.

This strategy seems logical, with the more mobile members of the offense moving around as they try to create open shots for each other. But facing away from the basket takes away Hibbert’s sight of the looks underneath and also takes him away from the paint and away from his strength: rebounding the shots from his three-point shooting teammates in order to create second looks.

Roy Hibbert has, like the Hoyas, has exceeded expectations. He recently won Big East Rookie of the Week honors for his efforts against Syracuse and Notre Dame, games in which he averaged 11.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. The struggles of the offense are not his fault, but the execution of the plays and the idea behind this formation is not working.

The most successful scoring opportunity for Georgetown has been to put the ball in the hands of either junior forward Brandon Bowman (15.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game) or freshman forward Jeff Green (13.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game), allowing them to get to the basket, shoot or pass back out to an open guard – either Wallace, junior Ashanti Cook or senior Darrel Owens.

Cook and Wallace have played beautifully this season, especially beyond the arc. Any play that gives them an open look at a three-pointer seems to work nearly half of the time.

Lately it has also been effective to dump the ball to Hibbert so that he can post up close to the basket and either lay it in or dunk the ball in his opponent’s face.

Head Coach John Thompson III has done a tremendous job this season, and he knows what plays and offensive looks are best for this team. In the BC game he geared his adjustments toward benching his star players – an effective method of sending the message that if they do not execute, he has no qualms about inserting other players in their place. Yet, it still seems odd to take Hibbert away from the paint, to have him facing away from the basket while his teammates cut behind him and to bring the shot clock so far down that nothing but a tough three-pointer will be executed.

The Boston College game was not pretty by any means. The Hoyas will watch tape to figure out what they did wrong, and the offensive woes of this team will not repeat the way they did this past Saturday. Georgetown has three must-win games in the next two weeks against Seton Hall, Rutgers and West Virginia. It remains to be seen how the Hoyas will react to their poor performance in Chestnut Hill, but everyone on campus still feels certain that these 2004-05 Hoyas are something special.

The Hoyas continue their road through the Big East with a home game this Wednesday against Seton Hall at 8 p.m. in MCI Center.

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