Games That Matter – February 26, 2010
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ESPN / USA Today: 13
Georgetown 70, Louisville 60
“I don’t let nobody rush me.” -Austin Freeman
Behind 29 points from the always cool and collected Austin Freeman, the Hoyas ended their two-game skid with an important victory at Freedom Hall. In what was (not surprisingly) another tale of two halves for the Jekyll and Hyde Hoyas, Georgetown fell behind by eleven points early in the first half, before they used a combination of strong defense and timely perimeter shooting to outscore the Cardinals by 16 in the second half. Freeman’s quick baskets in the opening minutes of the second frame gave Georgetown its first lead of the game; after that point, the Hoyas never looked back.
Greg Monroe had one of his more consistent games of the season, contributing 16 points, 14 rebounds and 5 assists. The much-anticipated matchup between Monroe and Samardo Samuels turned out to be a training seminar, as #10 completely dominated the shorter Samuels in front of several NBA scouts. Both Monroe and Vaughn did an excellent job of preventing easy Louisville baskets in the paint, as the two always managed to get a deflection or a hand in someone’s face. Without question, the story of this game turned out to be Georgetown’s impressive defense, which held Louisville without a field goal over the course of 15 minutes.
With three games left in the conference schedule, the Hoyas have (finally) assured themselves of a berth in the NCAA Tourney (even if they lose out, they are a lock), and still have a chance for a double bye in the Big East Tourney. The next few games will go a long way in determining how far the Hoyas can advance in March.
Some quick-hitters on Tuesday’s solid win:
- Second half totals: Louisville, 25 points, Austin Freeman, 24 points. When is Austin going to start getting the credit he deserves as one of the best players in the conference?
- Greg had one of the sweetest no-look passes all season, as he gently pushed the ball to Julian Vaughn for a layup in the second half of Tuesday’s game. It’s a good thing Julian made the layup because the pass was just too pretty to mess up.
- Did anyone notice the old people behind the Georgetown bench? Looked like Wilford Brimley and his wife. The cameras kept showing them. For some reason, I just couldn’t take my eyes off of them. The old man had a sweet moustache.
- Jerrelle Benimon’s highlights don’t need to be shown in slow motion because every time he touches the ball, it takes several seconds for the play to develop. To his credit, he had a nice little reverse layup to go along with his usually solid boxing out and rebounding. He’s turning into quite the human highlight reel.
- Four days after laying the Chris Wright theory to rest, Mr. Wright himself continued to confound everyone with 4 points, 4 assists and 4 turnovers. This may have been the first time all season when Georgetown has won a game in which Chris Wright didn’t connect on a single field goal. To Wright’s credit, though, he didn’t force shots, he never played out of control, and he constantly dribbled through Louisville’s press and made smart decisions. It’s odd to think that this could have been one of Wright’s most efficient games of the season, but I’ll take it. It was nice to see Wright avoid contested shots on a night when his touch was off. Perhaps this is a sign of things to come.
- Kudos to JTIII for playing Vee Sanford in front of his hometown fans. Two weeks ago, I actually played poker with one of Sanford’s former coaches. He told me he really hopes Vee makes it. I said that in a year or two, he should start to see a lot more minutes if he works hard. His coach said, “No, I mean I hope he makes it to the NBA.” My response: “No chance.” He used to have a sweet haircut, though.
- Side Note: We still haven’t really fared well in close games. In games in which Georgetown has been within five points in the last two minutes, Georgetown is 2-6. Our two wins came against Temple and UConn. Our six losses include every opponent to whom we lost, save Syracuse (on the road). So really, we haven’t won a close, tight game in the final two minutes since our dramatic comeback victory against UConn. Of course, none of this is necessarily bad – after all, with the exception of our game at ‘Cuse, we’ve been in every game all season. Only once has a team blown us out this year. On the other hand, with the BET and NCAA Tourney coming up, I’m still curious to know if this team has what it takes to get important defensive stops and move the ball to our top scorers in key situations.
Preview of Saturday's Game: Georgetown v. Notre Dame, 12pm
Entering Saturday’s game, the Hoyas will be looking to stay the course and fight for a double bye in the Big East Tourney against a Notre Dame squad that will desperately be seeking a big road win to boost its chances of an at-large bid. With a little help, if the Hoyas win their last three games, they will be more or less assured of the all-important double bye in the BET. Meanwhile, the Irish will be aiming for a second consecutive solid win, as they come off a huge victory against Pitt to keep their fledgling Tourney hopes alive. Saturday should prove to be an important test for both teams.
Notre Dame is once again led by 12th year senior Luke Harangody, the 6’8’’ forward who has won back-to-back Big East Player of the Year awards, and is once again in the hunt for all-conference honors. The Big Turd has been sidelined for the last two weeks with a bone bruise on his right knee. The Irish have been cautious with Harangody, but will surely need his services in the next two weeks if ND is going to make a serious push for an NCAA Tourney berth. Fat Luke once again leads the Irish in points and rebounds (24.1 ppg, 10.0 rpg), and will certainly be the focus of Georgetown’s attention if he dresses. Right now, Harangody’s status is still questionable (he was quoted on Wednesday as saying “it’s hard to tell” whether he’d be able to play on Saturday).
I’d love to see Harangody play just one more time against the Hoyas, just to get an opportunity to watch Greg Monroe swat his weak hook shots away, while knocking him on his ass. In the meantime, let us all congratulate Fat Luke on being the first ever player inducted into ND’s newly-created “Ring of Honor” (http://notredame.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1056352). I have no idea what that means, why Harangody is the first player inducted, why they chose to “retire” his uniform before he graduates, or why Mike Brey continually refuses to wear a freaking tie. These questions are all above my pay grade. Suffice it to say that this “Ring of Honor” is just another tacky and terrible thing that we can all add to the list of things we hate about Notre Dame.
The Irish have been competitive in their last few games without Harangody because of the all-around solid play of 6’8’’ junior Tim Abromaitis (17.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg). Abromaitis, the latest and greatest white shooter for Notre Dame, has developed into more than just a set shooter and has really improved his ability to penetrate and get the ball inside. His perimeter shooting is still his bread and butter, though (he shoots 49% from beyond the arc), so the Hoyas would do well to limit his chances from outside. In the absence of Harangody, Notre Dame’s offense will run through Abromaitis. For what it’s worth, he has bad skin.
The Irish have one of the more experienced backcourts in the conference with seniors Tory Jackson (9.3 ppg, 5.7 apg) and Ben Hansbrough (12.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.7 apg). Jackson, a 5’11’’ point guard from Saginaw, is a tough player who doesn’t shoot well, but is very adept at beating his man off the dribble and finding open shooters in the paint or along the perimeter. Jackson’s shot selection has improved this season and he currently leads the Big East in assists per game. Tyler’s little brother Ben has also contributed nicely in Notre Dame’s backcourt. With a decent shooting touch and a 2.9/1 assist/turnover ratio, the younger Hansbrough has provided a steady hand for the Irish. Although he’s not the most athletic player, he protects the ball and does a nice job of collecting rebounds.
In the frontcourt, Harangody is joined by 6’8’’ forward Tyrone Nash (8.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and 6’7’’ forward Carleton Scott (3.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg). Of the two, Nash is much more of a force on offense, as he shoots 55% from the field and does a solid job of cleaning up the glass.
Keys to the Game:
1. Rattling Fat Luke: It’s still unclear whether the Big Turd will suit up on Saturday, but if he does, Georgetown needs to make sure to force him outside and make him put the ball on the floor or shoot from the perimeter. Harangody is at his best when he catches the ball four feet from the basket and bullies his way to the rim. He has a decent mid-range game, but the farther he touches the ball away from the basket, the less effective he is. When in doubt, the Hoyas should just force him to run. Fat people don’t like to run.
2. Containing Abromaitis: Regardless of whether Harangody plays, Tim Abromaitis has the potential to cause the most trouble for the Hoyas. Abromaitis shoots 53% from the field and 88% from the free throw line. Now that he has developed some decent moves to the basket, he has also become much more of an all-around scorer. The Hoyas cannot allow him to shoot uncontested threes, and they also must be careful not to go for ball fakes when he’s around the basket. He’s very good at drawing fouls. This will be a very tough assignment for Freeman.
3. Feeding the Beast: No one on Notre Dame’s team can stop Greg Monroe. No one. The Irish will undoubtedly try to mix things up by bringing in 6’9’’ freshman Mike Broghammer (who played well against Louisville) to bang bodies up front and try to provide a little extra muscle. It shouldn’t matter. Just drop the ball to #10 and let him go to work.
4. The Chris & Tory Show: Chris Wright and Tory Jackson are not that dissimilar. Wright is a slightly better shooter and Jackson is a slightly better defender and distributor. For Notre Dame to win, Jackson needs to play well and get the ball to Hansbrough and Abromaitis on the wings. For Georgetown to win, C Wright just needs to play under control, make smart decisions, and not try to force things. This should certainly be one of the key matchups of the game.
Don’t underestimate Notre Dame. Everyone is once again excited that the Hoyas now have an outside chance at a double bye and appear to be back on track. We’ve all had that sense multiple times this season, only to be disappointed when Georgetown comes out flat in the next game. Truth be told, the Irish have more on the line in this game. They’re fighting for their at-large lives at a time when they might be getting their best player back. For the Hoyas, this is a chance to develop some consistency against a good team, try to figure out how to get Jason and Julian back on track, and pick up some momentum in advance of Monday’s huge game at WVU.
Regardless of whether Harangody plays, we can be sure of one thing: he will be sitting on his ass, either in street clothes on the bench, or on the floor after a massive Monroe block. Either way, it will bring a smile to my face. This is probably the last time we will see Fat Luke face the Hoyas. Embrace the experience.
It’s time for one more win against that man who never wears a tie.
Let's go Hoyas. Beat Notre Dame.