Ruthie Braunstein/The Hoya Recently, the Hoyas have had little succes against the opposition’s defense. Some call it a `must-win’ game. Others refer to it as `make-or-break,’ or describe the team as having its back up against the wall. No matter what cliche you use, Georgetown is falling toward the NCAA tournament bubble as it prepares to face Rutgers tomorrow at 2 p.m.

The Hoyas, 19-5 on the season, need to look inward for solutions after a disheartening home loss on Monday night to Villanova that left Georgetown buried in the middle of the Big East standings after losing five of its last seven Big East games. The losses have come in all forms. Providence beat Georgetown six days ago with torrid shooting and solid defense, but Villanova defeated the Hoyas on Monday without even playing a particularly good game.

Rutgers, Georgetown’s next opponent, is in last place in the Big East West division but will not go down without a fight, especially at the raucous Rutgers Athletic Center. After an 0-8 start in Big East play, Rutgers has won only one Big East game and will most likely remain at the bottom of the Big East-West for the remainder of the season.

From last-minute struggles against Villanova and Pittsburgh to first-half blowouts against Syracuse and Providence, one thing has remained constant in Georgetown’s losses, poor shot selection and mediocre defense. And should the Hoyas continue this trend, even the lowly Scarlet Knights could present a problem for slumping Georgetown.

At the offensive end, the Hoyas have struggled against zone defenses, succumbing to impatience and letting the opposition dictate the flow. Pittsburgh exposed this weakness when they ended Georgetown’s unbeaten start earlier this season, and much of the Hoyas’ subsequent offensive struggles have been the result of the same failures against the zone.

Defenses collapse on freshman Mike Sweetney, Georgetown’s leading scorer, so when the bigmen have the ball fed to them, they get trapped on the baseline or in the lane and either throw up an ill-advised shot or turn the ball over. If the ball isn’t fed inside, the guards swing it around the perimeter only to throw three pointers, not the Hoyas’ forte.

In its losses, Georgetown shoots 6 percent below its average from the field and tosses up almost 24 threes per game, eight more than in victories.

The teams that defeat Georgetown have great success sinking shots against the vaunted Hoya defense, ranked sixth in the nation in field goal percentage defense with .384. Every Georgetown loss has come with the opponent shooting better than .384, and in two losses teams have shot 50 percent from the field, Providence and Pittsburgh.

The defensive breakdown for the Hoyas often comes in transition when opponents break the press or in half-court sets when a player slips free as the shot clock winds down. When pressing, Georgetown will attempt a backcourt trap, which when broken with some finesse dribbling or sharp passing, results in an open layup or jumper, something Notre Dame’s Martin Ingelsby had great success doing.

When opponents set up their half-court offense, the Hoyas will play tight defense until the final 10 seconds on the shot clock, when someone will break free for an open shot. This happened many times against Providence, with Friar guards John Linehan and Abdul ills getting open looks at the basket from three-point land.

Rutgers will struggle to achieve this level of success tomorrow, because it lacks a great ballhandler and inside presence that a number of other big East teams possess. The Scarlet Knights have no true court general to keep the offense patient and break Georgetown’s press, nor do they have enough frontcourt size and bulk to keep the Hoyas’ defense honest.

At the defensive end, the Knights have allowed the fewest points per game in the Big East, largely the result of the team’s slow game pace. Additionally, they are dead last in the conference in field goal percentage defense, another result of their unhurried game tempo.

The Hoyas can run away with tomorrow’s game if they use pressure defense against the Scarlet Knights and are patient at the offensive end, taking good shots rather than quick shots. Even if Rutgers does manage to stay close, the Hoyas have the advantage of being a better free-throw shooting team than the Knights, who are a decrepit 58 percent from the line on the season.

Tomorrow isn’t the end of Georgetown’s season, but it will either signal a potential turnaround for a struggling squad or a skid toward three terrible letters for the Hoyas: NIT.

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