In what has become far too regular during Head Coach John Thompson III’s tenure on the Hilltop, Georgetown simply looked out-coached and outmatched when the game mattered most in Tuesday’s 76-75 loss to Maryland.
After taking the lead in the second half with 10:10 to go, the Hoyas (1-1) kept the lead and played hard defense to keep the Terrapins (2-0) from making a run. However, once the clock ran under two minutes, Georgetown’s fouling issues from last season cropped up again, and, coupled with untimely turnovers, it let Maryland walk away with a victory. There are a lot of factors that Hoya fans can point to as to why the team gave up the lead so late in the game.
Ultimately, however, the onus is on the coaching staff, and they did not prepare the team to handle a late-game situation like the one on Tuesday.
In the context of the whole season, a loss like this hurts but is not a fatal blow to Georgetown’s hopes of getting back to the NCAA tournament by any means.
But for a team that was abound with hope coming into this season, receiving such a crushing blow to its morale this early in the season is concerning. Leaders like graduate student center and captain Bradley Hayes and graduate student guard Rodney Pryor must help their team move on from this loss and look to bounce back, starting tonight at home against the Arkansas State Red Wolves (1-1).
One of Thompson’s more curious decisions was having junior guard Tre Campbell replace starting freshman point guard Jagan Mosely as the primary ball-handler for the last 5:21 of the game. Campbell, who was a bench player last year, is fighting for minutes in Georgetown’s crowded backcourt this year.
To his credit — despite finishing with a stat line of four points and one rebound — he did a good job of mostly managing the game and not committing turnovers. That is, right until the end. For a player who was often not the primary ball-handler last season, it was unfair of Thompson to expect him to be able to handle that transition seamlessly in the second game of the season.
To compound his decision to have Campbell, and not Mosely, Peak or Mulmore bring the ball up the floor, Thompson ran the press break for Campbell off the inbounds pass after junior guard Melo Trimble drove into the lane with ease and scored to make it 75-74 with 11.4 seconds left in the game.
Mosely inbounded to Campbell, and Campbell held onto the ball for a second, allowing two Maryland players to trap him. Though Campbell had Mosely open to his left, he chose to run away from the pressure and up the sideline, committing the turnover that allowed Maryland to seal its victory when he stepped out of bounds. A more experienced player would not have held the ball and let the double team come to him. He would have immediately turned and dribbled up the court or passed to Mosely, who was open underneath the basket.
The undisciplined play of junior guard L.J. Peak also hurt the Hoyas down the stretch. Jumping and trying to intercept the ensuing inbounds pass from Maryland, hitting Trimble in the process, demonstrates another symptom of a poorly-coached team that was unable to handle the pressure of this moment.
With only 7.6 seconds left, Thompson should have instructed Peak to let Trimble catch the pass in his own end of the court, and take time off the clock by dribbling it. However, Peak took an unnecessary gamble in trying to steal the pass and lost. Ultimately, he cost his team the game after Trimble sank both free throws to win the game.
“Just too many mental errors at the end,” Thompson said. “You can rattle off a bunch of them. We put them in a position to win the game.”
At preseason media day, Thompson expressed his displeasure with playing Maryland so early in the season.
“I’m all for playing Maryland, but I don’t like it being the second game of the year. But that’s the Gavitt Challenge and we have no control over that. A lot of it, if we could do it different, I would have,” Thompson said.
After the loss, Thompson echoed the same sentiment.
“I know that we have to grow. I told you, a couple of weeks ago, that in a perfect world we wouldn’t have this game right here this early in the year,” Thompson said. “Some of the things we have to grow on showed up.”
It is not ideal for a coach to complain about the schedule which he had a hand in creating. Further, building an excuse for why his team lost looks especially bad considering the fact that Maryland looked like a veteran bunch capable of leading a comeback on the road, despite losing several key contributors and having to rely on a mix of young, inexperienced players.
This early in the season, it is a challenge to tell whether this was a close game between very good teams, or whether this was the type of loss to an inferior team that has come to characterize Georgetown basketball in recent years.
After tonight’s game against Arkansas State, Georgetown will head to the Maui Invitational tournament. The tournament will serve as another opportunity to complete against quality non-conference opponents which could give the Hoyas’ tournament resume a boost before conference play begins.
On Monday, Georgetown will face No. 4 Oregon (1-1). If recent history in early-season tournaments is any indication, the Hoyas will be up to the challenge after almost beating then-No. 5 Duke (2-1) last season in the 2K Classic, 86-84. A win against Oregon or any of the other top teams in the tournament would help expunge the memory of this unfortunate loss from Hoya fans’ brains, but it will take a level of focus and grit that Georgetown has not yet demonstrated.
Changes must be made if the Hoyas plan on playing in March this season, and all hope is not lost after the loss to Maryland. But Georgetown’s response to this defeat could very well come to define its season.
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