Hoyas Overcome Slow Start to Down Blue Demons
Georgetown center #14 Henry Sims leaps up for a dunk. The Hoyas defeated DePaul 86-75 at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. on Saturday, January 1, 2011. Eugene Huskey/DC Sports Box
WASHINGTON, D.C - A sluggish start by the Hoyas, and an all-out assault in the paint by the Blue Demon big men were threatening to start the new year off for Georgetown in the same way they ended 2010 – with a conference loss.
It wasn’t a late night of partying; head coach John Thompson III confirmed that his crew was tucked away in their beds and not on the DC club scene amidst drunken renditions of Auld Lang Syne.  Maybe they didn’t have the type hangover that comes with a night of partying, but clearly they were still feeling some residual ill effects from an uncharacteristic offensive outing against Notre Dame.

The offense sputtered while trying to figure out how to maneuver through (or around; or at least over) DePaul’s transitions from pressure defense to flowing zones to traditional man and back again.  The Hoyas weren’t forcing shots, most of their looks were ones they make more often than not, but they just weren’t falling.  Adding to their troubles, they were careless with the ball; handing it over without so much as even a touch of provocation.

And then, as if someone flipped a stop-messing-around switch, Georgetown (12-2, 1-1) pulled away to claim an 86-75 win over DePaul (6-8, 0-2) for their first Big East win in two tries.

“Chris got going in the second half, and as always when Chris gets going we usually get going,” Thompson said.

After watching teammates Jason Clark (21 points) and Austin Freeman (21 points) keep the Hoyas ahead for most of the game, and a double-digit lead erode away to just one point, Chris Wright decided to enter the fray and make his presence felt.

We have the luxury of falling back on not only experienced players, but very good players,” Thompson said.

After not connecting on any of his three attempts in the first half, Wright scored 17 second half points and helped the Hoyas pull away.  With just over 14 minutes remaining in the game, back-to-back turnovers by Clark resulted in two short Cleveland Melvin jumpers, pulling DePaul within one point of tying the game

Georgetown guard #21 Jason Clark leaps for a wide open lay up The Hoyas defeated DePaul 86-75 at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. on Saturday, January 1, 2011. Eugene Huskey/DC Sports Box
The Hoyas didn’t panic, veteran teams rarely do, and with Wright suddenly in attack mode and Freeman and Clark continuing to knock down shots, the Hoyas started playing with a much greater sense of urgency.

They weren’t suddenly flawless, mind you, but the Hoyas found a way to pull away and win a game that probably shouldn’t have been such a rollercoaster ride to begin with.

“I guess we got stops when we had to down the stretch,” Thompson told reporters, after chuckling when being informed his team had held the Demons to just one basket over a nearly five minute stretch in the second half.

“Every win is not going to be pretty.  To say this was not an ugly wind is an understatement, but every league win is a damn good win so we’ll take it.”

Thompson couldn’t possibly be pleased with the way DePaul relentlessly attacked the paint.  DePaul freshman forward powered his way to a game high 29 points and reserve forward Tony Freeland chipped in 21 as they carried out head coach Oliver Purnell’s pound the paint gamelan and outhustled the Hoyas on the glass to keep the game close.

Thompson acknowledged that he wasn’t quite sure of the reasons for the Hoyas slow start and all too frequent defensive breakdowns in the middle, but said that he would be reviewing film to figure things out and get them corrected – but there was no need to panic.

“Concern might mark or imply like a theme ongoing.  Was [the precision] not where it needed to be today? Absolutely.  Will it be a reoccurring theme? No.  I’ll give that credit to [DePaul].  This was their effort and their energy.”

“Do we need to do a better job on the defensive boards?  Absolutely.  Do we need to do a better job on post defense? Absolutely. Do we need to take care of the ball more?  Yes, but do I think that’s a concern?  I don’t know if I would word it like that.”

Thompson will look to work out the kinks quickly as the team faces the prospect of playing three games in rapid succession against quality Big East opponents beginning Monday at St. John’s.

“We have to be focused,” Freeman said about the upcoming Wednesday-Saturday-Monday schedule – the team’s second in a row.

“We know this stretch right now we’re tired.  We’re going to have to be mentally and physically focused to go against any team in the Big East.”

“We got that out of our system,” Thompson said of the off-the-mark outing, “Now let’s move on.  It’s a tough stretch.  It’s the Big East.”