MEN'S BASKETBALL | Hoyas Handle Elon
Published: Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 00:12
Georgetown overcame a slow first half to defeat Elon 85-76 for its sixth straight victory on Tuesday night at the Verizon Center. The Phoenix rode their hot outside shooting to a 40-39 halftime lead, but a strong second-half performance allowed the Hoyas to come back and grab the victory.
“That’s one of those teams that we put on the schedule and someone says, ‘Coach, you really want to do that?’” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “That’s a veteran team, a well coached team, and they shoot the ball so well. We knew we would have to play well to win.”
Despite a slow start — familiar territory in its recent stretch of home games — Georgetown came out firing in the second half, shooting 65 percent and committing only two turnovers to snag the victory. Meanwhile, the defense held Elon to 43 percent shooting in the second half, down from 58 percent in the first.
The Hoyas got out to a quick start, taking an early 10-5 lead before letting the Phoenix get back into the game. Elon led for much of the first half and went into the break with a one-point lead.
“They had 40 points in the first [half],” junior center Joshua Smith said. “That’s a lot.”
Georgetown, after making some halftime adjustments, found more success in the second half.
“Georgetown went to a zone defense in the second half,” Elon Head Coach Matt Matheny said. “It changed the complexion of the game.”
Despite the Georgetown adjustments, Elon still managed to shoot 42 percent from beyond the arc in the second half to keep the game close.
Offensively, the Hoyas turned to Smith to open up opportunities.
“We’ve tried to play inside-out [basketball] all year,” Thompson said. “Once Smith got going, everything else was easier.”
Smith finished with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting with four points coming from the free-throw line.
Helping out Smith was senior guard Markel Starks, who led all scorers with 21 points. Starks, who has struggled from three-point range of late, knocked down 4-of-5 threes and finished 5-of-13 from the field. He added seven points from the free-throw line.
“It’s good to see Starks hit those shots,” Thompson said. “He’s been talking to himself lately.”
What exactly Starks has been saying remains unclear, but consistent scoring from Starks is crucial to Georgetown’s success — especially with a matchup against Kansas looming.
“There are going to be times where I’m going to have to score the ball,” Starks said. “That being said, I thought we did a good job sharing [the scoring].”
In the game, the Hoyas assisted on 20-of-28 field goals and had four players in double figures. In addition to Smith and Starks, sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera added 19 points, and senior forward Nate Lubick chipped in 10.
But the narrow margins of victory, particularly against Elon and Colgate, are troubling. While these teams are certainly well coached and capable, a team with Georgetown’s talent should have very little trouble earning a victory. This continuing trend sheds light on some of the Hoyas’ weaknesses.
“On general, we have to play much smarter,” Thompson said. “We made several key mental mistakes, and hopefully we can do a better job knowing what’s coming. They didn’t do anything that surprised us.”
Starks addressed what Thompson alluded to: the recent string of early exits in the NCAA tournament.
“When we lose focus and break down, that can escalate down the road, especially when you’re talking about the tournament time,” Starks said. “We can’t have that as a collective.”
Up next, Georgetown has one of its toughest road matchups of the year against 18th-ranked Kansas on Saturday at 12 p.m., but they are not yet thinking about that game.
“We have seven guys with 9 a.m. exams tomorrow,” Thompson said. “We’ve got to go.”