A friend of mine e-mailed me this morning with an idea for this column, which was simply "we suck". That pretty much sums up this performance from the Hoyas, which barring a highly unlikely turnaround ended any realistic chance Georgetown had of making the NCAA Tournament.
The only thing to say about this game is that Georgetown lost because they put on a despicable, disgusting display of dreadful defense.
The Hoyas fell behind early and kept falling further behind because they simply couldn’t stop Seton Hall. Fuquan Edwin torched Georgetown for the second time this year, to the tune of 21 points of 9 of 13 shooting from the field. Seton Hall as a team shot 8 for 17 from three range, which helped open up the inside to the tune of 59.4% shooting for the Pirates inside the arc. Georgetown provided no defensive resistance inside, allowing Sterling Gibbs (18 points, 4-9 FG, 9-11 FT) and Gene Teague (12 points, 3-5 FG, 6-8 FT) to score at will inside and draw fouls. Georgetown simply could not stop the Pirates. Seton Hall looked especially crisp moving the ball, assisting on 20 of their 27 made field goals.
Offensively, the Hoyas were actually pretty decent. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera had another strong game, going for 20 points on 8 of 14 shooting. Mikael Hopkins had one of his better games of the year (that is a very low bar), with 7 points on 3 of 5 shooting. Markel Starks overcame a slow start to finish with 13 points of 4 of 8 shooting. But Starks went 0 for 3 from downtown, continuing a season which has seen him seemingly lose the ability to hit a three (31% compared to 42% last season). In addition, Starks had to sit out the final six minutes of the first half with three fouls, forcing Coach John Thompson III to turn to sophomore bust Stephen Domingo and former walk-on/menace John Caprio. That combination was good for nothing more than a couple of airballs.
Seton Hall led 37-28 at the half, but Georgetown actually cut the lead to three by scoring the first six points of the half. But the Pirates followed that with a 14-2 run, marked by complete defensive incompetence from the Hoyas, that put the game away.
Georgetown is nothing special offensively, 68th in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy. That said, this actually represents an improvement on last year’s team, which ranked 78th. The real difference between this year’s also-ran and last year’s top ten team is on defense, where the Hoyas have gone from 2nd in the nation to 84th in points allowed per possession.
The odd thing about this development is that the only personnel change from the end of last season until now was the departure of Otto Porter. The rest of the team returns intact. Porter was a great defensive player and a great defensive rebounder, so you would expect his departure to hurt on this end. But it’s hard to believe that simply replacing his minutes with some combination of Jabril Trawick, Aaron Bowen, and Reggie Cameron would make such a huge difference.
More has to be going on here, and it’s not always easy to tell by watching. The drastic increase in fouls has hurt the team badly, as has a markedly worse performance on the defensive boards. These are the biggest statistical reasons for the decline. But defense, much more than offense, is a derivative of effort, and at this point I can’t help but wonder if this Hoya team is truly committed to playing good defense. That sounds harsh, but there are only so many silly fouls and blown coverage assignments that one can see before being forced to ask that question. They cannot simply coast on defense, because the guards are not naturally gifted defensive players and their big guys are undersized and habitually in foul trouble.
Whatever the reason, while Georgetown’s offense is unsightly to watch their real problem is on defense. If Georgetown is to return to competitiveness in the remaining part of this season, they are going to have to find whatever elixir that caused them to play such lockdown defense only a year ago.
Georgetown hosts Xavier tomorrow, in a game that is more realistically about ensuring a NIT berth for the Hoyas.