What the hell happened?
That's the question the Georgetown program is faced with after an embarrassing loss to the Northeastern Huskies in the opening round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. In short, the Hoyas were absolutely outplayed, outhustled and outcoached by the opportunistic Huskies.
In the first half, the Hoyas got off to an expected start. Joshua Smith used his overwhelming size to get buckets down low, the guards moved the ball well on the perimeter and eight different Georgetown players had baskets. When the first half buzzer sounded, Georgetown found itself with an 11-point lead and all they needed to do was play out the next twenty minutes before hitting the beach for mojitos and babes.
Oh so Wrong.
After the Hoyas stretched the lead to 14 early in the second half, Northeastern head coach Rich Bolen switched to a zone and completely baffled Georgetown. After the switch, the Hoyas went on a seven minute scoreless streak and allowed the Huskies to crawl back into the game. The Huskies soon took advantage of Smith's conditioning and began to attack the Hoyas in the post. Despite missing their best big man in Quincy Ford due to a back injury, the Husky big men continually found success by using their quickness to get around a winded Smith. Forward Reggie Spencer scored a career-high 18 points and grabbed nine boards and Scott Eatherton chipped in with 12 points and 10 boards.
As the second half wore on, the Hoyas could not crack the Northeastern zone. The normally steady Markel Starks found himself in foul trouble and played timid, relying on spotty outside shooting rather than getting to the rim where he excels. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera also struggled, shooting 1-of-5 from beyond the arc. All in all, the trio of Starks, Smith and Smith-Rivera shot 9-for-31 from the field and finished with 32 points. With the Hoyas sputtering, the Huskies kept on creeping closer to the lead and went on a 14-0 run to tie the game.
Down the stretch, Starks and Smith-Rivera finally found some rhythm and scored 12 of the final 14 Georgetown points. But even with the Hoyas threatening, the Huskies kept the pressure on and scored on their final five possessions to complete the upset.
The loss raises some serious questions about the Hoyas this season. Once Northeastern switched to a zone, the lack of perimeter shooting on the roster became glaring. The Hoyas shot just 3-of-16 from three for the game and an awful 6-for-26 from the field in the second half. Even though the Hoyas struggled from long range, what's more concerning is their lack of a threat from the free throw line extended. Not one player could score effectively from mid-range, and big man Nate Lubick didn't even bother to look for his shot when he caught the ball at the free throw line.
Smith's ineffective second half is also indicative of future problems. After looking like he was back on track after a bad game against Wright State, Smith totally reverted in the second half and showed how ineffective he is against a zone due to his lack of ability to stretch the floor. Starks and Smith-Rivera form one of the top backcourts in the Big East, but when Starks fell into foul trouble and Smith-Rivera struggled, no one else stepped up on the perimeter. JTIII will need to have someone step up and give him solid minutes off the bench as the third guard. Jabril Ttrawick got the start yesterday but took zero field goal attempts and scored just four points.
Hats off to the Huskies for pulling off a huge victory by playing great defense and sticking to the gameplan despite trailing by double digits. For they Hoyas, there is plenty of time left in the season to figure out how to beat a zone --which they will surely see on a nightly basis the rest of the way -- and it starts tonight with a game against Kansas State.