MEN'S BASKETBALL | Rims Unkind to Hoyas, Vols
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 02:12
Georgetown looked to Friday night’s SEC-Big East Challenge matchup with Tennessee as a chance for another convincing win in front of a national audience. They got half that.
The No. 15 Hoyas (5-1) pulled out an ugly 37-36 win over the Volunteers (4-2) at Verizon Center, finishing with their lowest point total since the 1984 championship season.
On the offensive end, the game was about as poorly played as it gets at the Division I level. The 6-of-22 shooting performance in the first half was despicable, as was the 4-of-9 mark from the line. Neither team scored in the last 4:10 of the game, and the eight-rebound deficit in favor of the visitors left much to be desired. Still, the final box score doesn’t tell the whole story.
This wasn’t the typical kind of “ugly” game we’re used to seeing out of Georgetown. The offensive execution actually looked crisp for the most part, and the team committed only nine turnovers. There was no flat opening or mid-game energy lapse, no sloppy passes or blown opportunities.
No, this was just a case of flat-out bad shooting.
“Most of tonight I don’t feel was about tactics. The ball just didn’t go in,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said.
The Hoyas couldn’t connect from long range, midrange or even three feet from the basket, where sophomore forward Mikael Hopkins missed uncontested layups and short turnaround jumpers throughout the first half. Usually automatic sophomore forward Otto Porter was off on his midrange jumper and finished 4-of-11 from the field. Sixth man sophomore guard Jabril Trawick connected on Georgetown’s only three-pointer of the game in seven attempts.
Switching ends seemed to help the Blue and Gray briefly — they opened the second half with an 11-2 run, converted on several fastbreaks and generally looked ready to bust the game open. But the lid returned to the rim after a few minutes, and the end of the game was, somehow, nearly as unsavory as the first half.
As bad as the Hoyas were, though, the Vols were much, much worse.
Tennessee shot 15-of-46 from the field, including 3-of-16 from beyond the arc. The Vols’ 3-of-11 performance at the charity stripe was the worst this writer has ever witnessed, and the team very narrowly escaped shot clock violations on several key possessions. Thompson III noted his squad’s defense as a positive in an otherwise frustrating outing.
“It’s easy for a young team, when you’re not scoring, to stop playing defense.” Thompson III said.
The Georgetown 2-3 zone left the visitors visibly flustered; star sophomore power forward Jarnell Stokes was limited to four points on only three shots, a testament to the effectiveness of the defensive scheme against dominant post players. That result has to be comforting to the legions of fans who saw post defense as one of the Blue and Gray’s biggest question marks going into the year.
Less comforting, though, was the elbow injury junior Nate Lubick suffered while pulling down a rebound in the first half. Georgetown’s starting power forward wore a sleeve on his left arm and sat out the second frame after reporting that his fingers had gone numb. Thompson III indicated that Lubick would undergo X-rays after the game, but an injury that kept the Hoyas’ most experienced player out for the entire second half of a tight game does not bode well.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause of Georgetown’s horribly off night. It wasn’t any brilliant stand by Tennessee — the Vols played straight man defense for much of the game, and the Hoyas never appeared particularly flustered with their opponents’ scheme.
It wasn’t sloppiness. While Porter Jr.’s bewildering dropped pass on the Hoyas’ last possession will be burned into fans’ minds for months, offensive miscues were the exception rather than the rule Friday night. In fact, Georgetown committed a season-low nine turnovers.
It wasn’t the absence of a dominant scorer, either. Lubick plays an important role in the offense, sure. But he’s primarily a facilitator, and the Hoyas had 11 assists on their 16 made field goals Friday. Whittington, Starks and Porter all had little trouble getting open, and the offense generally looked polished.
In the end, you can probably chalk up Friday’s 1920s-throwback performance simply to the basketball gods putting lids on the baskets in a game between two teams already inclined to grind out a defensive battle. With a little extra layup and free-throw practice, Georgetown should be back in its usual 60-to-70 point range against Texas on Tuesday.
At least, we hope so. The TV viewers of America don’t deserve to be subjected to another showing like Friday’s.