MEN'S BASKETBALL | Stiff Competition Awaits Hoyas in Puerto Rico
Published: Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 00:11
Less than two weeks removed from a tough loss to then-No. 19 Oregon in South Korea, Georgetown will travel to the sunny Caribbean to compete in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The field features Charlotte, Florida State, Kansas State, Long Beach State, No. 7 Michigan, Northeastern and No. 18 Virginia Commonwealth.
In the first game, the Hoyas (1-1) will take on Northeastern (1-2) on Thursday. In the Huskies’ most recent game — a victory over Central Connecticut State — junior guard Demetrius Pollard tied a school record with eight three-pointers en route to a 27-point performance. Georgetown will have to watch Pollard as well as his backcourt companion, sophomore David Walker, who contributed 14 points to the win.
“If you stop and break it down, our defense has to get to a much higher level then it is at right now for us to be successful,” Head Coach John Thompson III said on Monday afternoon.
A loaded field like the one the Hoyas will encounter in Puerto Rico should prove to be a good benchmark for Georgetown. If they can get by Northeastern and then either Kansas State or Charlotte the next day, Michigan will most likely be waiting in the championship. The Wolverines ran over early competition before stumbling in a loss to Iowa State, and last year’s NCAA finalists will play Long Beach State in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tournament.
“[The challenge of the tournament] is the quality of the opponent. You know who your first round matchup is, but after that you don’t know who your opponent is, and the short turnaround is part of the challenge,” Thompson said. “But everyone is in the same boat.”
Michigan relies on an outstanding trio of sophomores in sharpshooter Nik Stauskas, forward Glenn Robinson III and big man Mitch McGary. This is the same core — who, along with National Player of the Year, Trey Burke — did so much damage as a four-seed last March.
To get to the finals, Georgetown needs to take a step forward from the first two games defensively as it allowed opponents to score an average of 76 points per game, a number it only allowed to Indiana in overtime and to Florida Gulf Coast in the NCAA tournament last season.
Still, the lapse in defense has come in combination with an offensive uptick. The 88 points scored in the Hoyas’ win against Wright State — a team very likely to make the NCAA tournament this year — was only surpassed in two games last year: Longwood and DePaul.
However, these recent trends might be related. Junior center Joshua Smith, who transferred halfway through last year from UCLA, has added a low-post presence to Georgetown’s offense. In combination with the more stringent defensive rules instituted by the NCAA, Smith has taken advantage of his considerable size and good touch around the rim to devastate opponents. Against Oregon, the big man scored 25 points. However, he recorded no defensive rebounds in the performance and seemed slow in transition, leading to several fast break opportunities for the Ducks.
“I think he got careless,” Thompson said. “They stripped him because he got it down low. He brought the ball down too low — he was careless with the ball.”
Smith will also be crucial in the rebounding arena should Georgetown succeed this year. The big man followed up his poor performance on the glass against Oregon with only four rebounds against Wright State, a number matched by his turnovers.
“[Rebounding and defense] is just effort,” Smith said. “A lot of times when the ball goes up, I am just standing and watching and not making contact with a man and boxing him out. The few times I had a rebound it was getting hit out of my hand. It’s just [a matter of] me being strong and making the effort.”
Freshman forward Reggie Cameron showed off his range against Wright State, shooting 3-of-5 from beyond the arc for his nine points in the game. While Cameron will get open looks with Smith down low, he will need to develop a more varied offensive game and show a commitment to defense and rebounding to earn more minutes.
Despite the less than ideal start to the year, Hoya fans can count on senior guard Markel Starks as a source of optimism.
“It is an adjustment for [Cameron],” Starks said. “But consistently every day in practice, having to match up against smaller guys and more physical guys, he is going to get better. He doesn’t have a choice.”
Thompson was likely thinking about the Puerto Rico Tip-Off when he said that this year’s schedule might be his toughest yet, and it is imperative that the Hoyas are in top mental and physical condition going into such a competitive and grueling tournament.