Arts & Entertainment

Picking Splinters: Can Georgetown Find its Game?

Remember a few weeks back when I said that Georgetown looked like a fine-tuned machine? Remember when I even went so far as to liken them to Voltron? Yeah, well, right now, the Hoyas are more like Johnny 5 from “Short Circuit.”

Despite impressive wins over Connecticut, Syracuse and Memphis, the Hoyas are reeling, losing three straight. The first of that stretch, a loss to Duke at Cameron Indoor, is more than excusable. Even a loss to West Virginia, a team that is unranked but places in the Top 10 of Ken Pomeroy’s power rankings, is forgivable.
But last Sunday the Hoyas fell again, this time to Seton Hall, who carried an 0-6 Big East record into the contest. When you are projected as one of the top teams in the nation, you’re not supposed to lose to a team that has previously fallen to IUPUI and James Madison. (Sorry, Dukes fans. That’s just the truth.)
Losses to teams like Seton Hall cause fans to wonder just what the heck is going on. So let’s check under the hood, shall we? Mothers, you may want to avert your child’s eyes. This is not going to be pretty.
Nearly all of the Hoyas’ problems start in the offensive end. There’s a pretty good line from “Catcher in the Rye” that accurately describes just how cold Georgetown’s shooters have been recently. But since this is a family newspaper, let me put it this way: The Iceman cameth, threw some liquid nitrogen on the court and handed everyone Frosty-the-Snowman brand jock straps.
In the last two games, the Hoyas have shot 37-of-103 from the field, and a frigid 5-of-38 from behind the arc. Against Seton Hall, Hoya starters not named Greg Monroe finished a combined 7-of-35 from the field.
Those numbers are astounding considering the Hoyas were shooting 46.3 percent from the field entering the West Virginia game. Those numbers are also particularly disastrous because the Hoyas’ offense is pinned upon finding the highest-percentage shot every possession. That’s the reason Georgetown is a darling of the Ken Pomeroy efficient offense ratings, which adjusts scoring for the pace of play.
By slowing down the tempo, the Hoyas enhance the value of every possession. A missed shot hurts much more if you have fewer opportunities to score throughout a game. It’s a strategy the Hoyas have exploited wonderfully since John Thompson III’s arrival. However, there’s a flip side. If Georgetown doesn’t score on a possession, they feel the burn as well. And when the Hoyas turn over the ball as often as they have been (16 vs. Seton Hall, 19 vs. West Virginia) they’re in a whole pile of trouble.
Lately the Hoyas have made lazy passes and tried to play outside of their skill levels. ESPN analyst Chad Ford recently placed junior DaJuan Summers as a potential NBA lottery pick. If that’s true right now, it explains why I can’t stand watching the NBA.
Summers, who certainly has lottery potential, has not been playing heady ball lately. He alone accounted for six of those 16 turnovers against Seton Hall, often playing out of control and firing up three pointers early in the shot clock. Summers has the ability to score both outside and inside the arc, but he comes undone when he tries to do too much. The same can be said of point guard Chris Wright, who several times has driven to the hoop and left his feet, only to realize he has nowhere to go with the ball, heaving it blindly behind him.
Blind passes, out-of-control drives to the hoop and three-pointers in 32 seconds on the shot clock are not how Georgetown won the Big East the past two seasons. Despite their youth, the Hoyas may have more talent than last year’s team, but they have to play smart to capitalize on it.
Players need to move without the ball to either create space for the ball handler or give him an open target. They need to realize the situation and play to the moment. When you’re down one with a minute left and you’ve drawn shooting fouls on your previous two possessions, the next three shots should not be three-point attempts, as they were against Seton Hall.
The Hoyas have some work to do to get all systems back on line and in sync before the Big East Tournament. We’ve seen it before against UConn and Syracuse. Can they do it again?
Mike Hume may be e-mailed at mhume@fcnp.com.

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