Games That Matter – March 12, 2010 (BET Finals)
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ESPN / USA Today: 22
Georgetown 80, Marquette 57
"They absolutely annihilated us." -Buzz Williams
In a game reminiscent of our victory over WVU in the BET semifinals in 2008, the Hoyas never trailed in a smothering win over Marquette on Friday night. Greg Monroe was, far and away, the star of this game -- leading everyone with 23 points, 13 boards, and 7 assists. The 6’11’’ stud was the team leader in points, rebounds, assists and blocks. For the second straight game, Greg came just three assists shy of a triple double. And yet, some scouts still question his heart.
From the very first tip, you could tell that the Hoyas just wanted it more. Led by a balanced scoring attack from Georgetown’s Big Four (yes, I think it’s time we started giving more credit to Jason Clark), the Hoyas raced out to a 15-4 lead and cruised for most of the first half until Marquette closed the deficit to three points at the intermission. The second half was relatively back-and-forth, with both teams trading baskets until the midway point of the second frame. And then, just as they did against Syracuse, the Hoyas went on a monster 14-1 run to take a convincing lead. It was a thing of beauty. Marquette got punched in the face and never got up off the mat.
And now, for the third time in four years, the Hoyas will be playing at the Garden on Saturday night. I love it.
Some quick-hitters on Friday’s solid win:
· This was one of our better defensive performances of the season. We held Marquette to 37% shooting and only allowed them to connect on six three-pointers. We completely took away the paint. Julian and Greg looked like Jeff and Roy.
· As I said above, the Big Three has now become the Big Four. Jason Clark is a really big part of what we do. On Friday, he had a solid 15 points and 4 boards.
· As for the other members of the Big Four? Chris matched Jason’s numbers with 15 points and 4 boards of his own, while Austin calmly netted 12 points and pulled down 8 boards.
· The key to this game was our absolute domination on the glass. We won the rebounding war 44-24. We were the bigger team and, for one of the first times all season, we killed an opponent on the boards. Greg, Julian and Austin, in particular, just seemed to go after the ball with a little more intensity last night.
· I guess Julian Vaughn is healthy again. The Vienna, VA native scored 8 and grabbed 7 rebounds. A very solid night for the big fella.
· Before last night, Marquette hadn’t lost a game by more than 5 points since December 12 and hadn’t lost a game by more than 9 points all season.
· If you were at the Garden last night, then you saw the same lunacy I witnessed. Yup, some dude won $10,000 for his Dick Vitale impersonation. Some other lady won $10,000 for successfully rolling dice on center court. Both of those things actually happened.
· We outscored Marquette 46-22 in the paint. It’s refreshing when a bigger team dominates the middle like we did last night. Where are all those Princeton offense haters now?
· Note to Jerrelle Benimon and Julian Vaughn: please stop shooting threes. Thanks. (Yes, I know Julian hit one, but still…just stop it.)
· Shout-out to the grand opening of Antonelli’s Cheese Shop in Austin, Texas. You won’t find better cheese in town. The owners are both Hoya alums.
· We currently have six wins against teams ranked in the RPI top 20. Wanna make it 7?
· Spike Lee was at the game in a Georgetown sweatshirt.
· Marquette only committed 6 turnovers – and still lost by 23 points.
· Congrats to my boy in LA for changing his flight, so he can take the early flight back to NYC to catch the game tonight. (But thumbs down for scheduling a work event during the BET.)
· Shout-out to that girl who works at one of the 300 level concession stands. She remembered me from the South Florida game (because I had to wait 10 minutes for a damn burger). I hope she appreciates the love.
· We’re now 4-0 since Diabetic Austin’s triumphant return. Just saying.
· In 8 of our 9 losses, Greg has had 4 or more turnovers. Does that mean that Greg, not Chris, is the bellwether of our team?
· Special thanks to “Greg Monroe” and “Chris Wright” for performing a lovely rendition of “End of the Road” last night at a karaoke bar in the West Village. Special thanks to the crowd for not booing them off the stage.
· Some of my favorite quotes from the post-game interviews:
"We know that Greg is a phenomenal player. It's not like he just started doing this in the Big East tournament. We know he can pass, we know he can score." -Chris Wright
“A lot of that success is owed to guys like Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning, who made playing inside at Georgetown akin to linebacker at Penn State.” -ESPN article (I just love the comparison of Big Man U to Linebacker U.)
"I'm honored to follow people that were so good here. The things they accomplished and did and went on to do great things at a high level -- me just being here two years, I can't put myself in the same category as those players." -Greg Monroe
“Q. For Greg, there was two minute stretch where you had a drive, a jam, a three pointer, an assist and a break and a blocked shot. Did you decide to take this game over and say, this is my game?” [You don’t even need to see Greg’s response. The question says it all.]
“When you play great teams like that, you can't just dig yourself a hole like that and get out of it." -Lazar Hayward (You hear that? That’s the star of a 5 seed calling an 8 seed “great”. I love it.)
“We're in shape, we're ready to play, we want to win. Fatigue is not an issue.” -JTIII
“It's March. And there's no time to take a breath and pat yourself on the back in March. Your next opponent is very good. Your next opponent is well coached. Your next opponent is trying to kick your behind. So no, we weren't satisfied at all. Yes, we're satisfied with yesterday's win. But I think Chris said it, we didn't come here to just say we would beat Syracuse.” -JTII
"Nothing is wrong with me right now. I'm happy right now. We're winning.” -Austin Freeman
"We can win a national championship if we put our mind to it." It's a tough task, but if the pieces fall together, we can do it." -Chris Wright
“Q. The three teams you just played and whoever you face tomorrow are all teams that beat you during the regular season. Is that providing any extra motivation to kind of get back at those teams?
GREG MONROE: Yes.
CHRIS WRIGHT: Yes.
AUSTIN FREEMAN: Yes.
GREG MONROE: For the record, yes.”
“There's nothing better than Friday night in New York City, other than Saturday night in New York City. So we're going to show up in New York City on Saturday night.” -JTIII
Preview of Saturday's Game: Georgetown v. West Virginia, 9pm
"At the end of the day, now it's the championship game. It's at Madison Square Garden. I know as a team we came here to win this tournament, and I mean, tomorrow the lights are going to be on. We have to be prepared to play." -Greg Monroe
“But it’s for the cham-pi-on-ship, Coach.” -Little kid in that Sprite commercial with Kobe Bryant from 10 years ago
Entering Saturday’s championship game, both Georgetown and West Virginia will be looking to cement top seeds in the NCAA Tourney. At this point, Georgetown is a virtual lock for a 3 seed; and thanks to losses by New Mexico, Michigan State, BYU, Baylor and Maryland yesterday, the Hoyas actually have an outside chance at a 2 seed. West Virginia has more or less locked up a 2 seed and will be trying to push its way to the top line with a victory (if it gets some help from other teams). Georgetown will be looking to win its eighth Big East championship, while West Virginia is trying to win its first. This game should be a dandy.
The way the Mountaineers are playing right now, they are one of the best teams in the country and a real favorite to advance to the Final Four. Having miraculously overcome Mike Brey’s “slow burn” offense and Tim Abromaitis’ pimples, WVU is on a roll. Sure, its two wins against Cincy and ND haven’t been pretty or dominant, but West Virginia basketball isn’t exactly pretty. When your coach is Bob Huggins, you rebound, play solid defense, rebound, elbow guys in the face, rebound, and rebound. It’s a bruising style of play that is as ugly as it is effective.
What’s bizarre about West Virginia is the makeup of their lineups. Other than 6’2’’ guard Darryl “Truck” Bryant (10.0 ppg, 3.3 apg), the Mountaineers have a series of bigs that range in height from 6’7’’ to 6’9’’. This team is big. Although some have criticized WVU’s lack of guard play (which is fair, because they really don’t have any guards), the Mountaineers have been doing just fine with a collection of bigs that knows how to dribble and shoot.
With WVU, everything begins with all-Big East first team player Da’Sean Butler (17.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.3 apg). (Yup, Georgetown will face its fourth all-Big East first team opponent in four days.) The 6’7’’ senior from Newark has played like an MVP in the BET so far. He hit a clutch game-winner on Thursday night and scored a team-high 24 points against ND in last night’s win. Butler can do a bit of everything – sometimes he plays the point, sometimes he drives to the basket, sometimes he powers his way inside, and sometimes he steps back and knocks down jumpers. He really is a complete player.
Joining Butler up front is a pair of long and lean wings who can play with anyone: Devin Ebanks, a 6’9’’ sophomore (12.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg) and Kevin Jones, a 6’8’’ sophomore (13.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg). Ebanks and Jones are both talented forwards who can score in the paint and from the perimeter. Ebanks is more of a low-post threat, while Jones is probably the better shooter. WVU will also use intermittently Wellington Smith, a 6’7’’ senior, and Deniz Kilicli, a bruising 6’9’’ freshman from Turkey. Both guys are grinders – they rebound and get putback shots.
The last time Georgetown and West Virginia met, it was two weeks ago. West Virginia made the Hoyas look like a JV squad. It was embarrassing. If you’re trying to glean any lessons from that game, don’t bother. Just pretend that game never happened. Austin was out and half the team was sick with the flu. Plus, it was a road game in a hostile environment after only one day off. I’m not even looking at the box score from the last game. There’s no reason to pull it up.
Needless to say, West Virginia is a very good basketball team. Would it have been preferable to play the Irish? Yeah, probably. Would I have enjoyed ripping on Fat Luke and Brey one last time? Yup. But at the end of the day, this is the matchup that everyone wanted to see. Two solid teams playing on Saturday night – for a chance to win the whole damn thing. Let’s do this.
Keys to the Game:
1. Defending the Perimeter: West Virginia, surprisingly, shoots a ton of threes. In our last meeting in Morgantown, the ‘Neers killed us from the perimeter. This is not to say that WVU shoots well from outside (they don’t – they actually shoot only 33.8% from three-point range), but no matter the numbers, you always have to guard outside. So many teams send extra men into the paint to grab rebounds (which makes sense because WVU is such a rebounding machine), but too often, the result of filling the paint with bodies is that WVU shooters are typically left wide open from beyond the arc. Just keep that in mind.
2. Crashing the Boards: It goes without saying. West Virginia really gets after it. It’s just what they do. West Virginia thrives on missing deep shots, collecting rebounds and knocking down putback layups. The key to preventing WVU from getting boards is not to throw extra bodies under the basket; what Georgetown needs to do is block out and fight for the damn ball. Chris and Austin have really done a nice job collecting rebounds in the last couple of games. Let’s see if they can play with that same intensity against the best rebounding team in the country.
3. Greg and Julian: We need our bigs to play in this game. West Virginia is big and physical and will be hacking away at us all night. The problem is that WVU is a very deep team. We aren’t. Greg and Julian need to watch out and fight the urge to commit silly fouls. We need them in this one. I really hope we don’t get burned when the refs try to even up fouls. Depth hasn’t been a problem for us so far in the BET. It could really hurt us tonight.
4. Austin: With the exception of the Notre Dame game (which, let’s be honest, shouldn’t count), Austin has had at least 1 three-pointer in every Big East game this season…until the Big East Tournament, that is. In three BET games, Austin has a grand total of ZERO threes. All the more reason why Georgetown’s run over the last few games is even more remarkable. Is this a cause for concern? I don’t think so. Austin did have four threes against Cincy in his first game back last week. And it’s not like Austin is taking and missing bad shots. If anything, maybe it means that he’s being more patient. I honestly have no idea. What I do know is that it is much more difficult to drive the lane against West Virginia than it is against these other teams Georgetown has faced in the last three games. Austin NEEDS to hit perimeter shots in this game. And it will happen. Just watch.
5. Turnovers: We can’t be lazy with the ball. Plain and simple. West Virginia really gets after it. Their long defenders will look for deflections and steals any chance they can. Let’s protect the basketball.
6. The Floor General: C Wright has put together his most consistent stretch of the season at the perfect time. WVU really doesn’t have anyone that can match Wright’s speed. Truck Bryant is a strong defender, but Wright is too good. Let’s see if #4 can weave through the trees one last time and control the tempo of yet another game. If he does, he may be hoisting more than one trophy after tonight’s game.
On a night when we move the clocks forward by an hour, the Hoyas will be looking to turn back the clocks and add to their league-leading seven Big East titles. Make no mistake about it: West Virginia is really good, like Final Four good. To win, Georgetown will have to play one of its best games of the season. But the Hoyas are pretty good themselves. This game should be a slugfest.
My, how the fortunes of the Hoyas change each week. One week, we lose to ND and think the season is over because of Austin’s illness, the next week Austin returns and we have a newfound sense of hope. And now? We’re playing for the chip. This is why college basketball is so awesome (and frustrating?).
Four days. Four games at MSG. Four of these GTM write-ups. I’m running on fumes right now. Life is good.
Saturday night at the Garden. The Hoyas and the ‘Neers. It doesn’t get any better than this. It’s time to win #8. C’mon fellas – let’s go and get it.
Let's go Hoyas. Beat West Virginia.
Stay Casual, my friends.