Games That Matter – March 9, 2010
*As always, if you have friends who want to be added to this distribution list, please let me know and I'll be happy to add them.
ESPN / USA Today: 22
Latest edition of Facts & Bracks (3/8/10):
Latest edition of Projecting the Field of 65 (3/8/10): http://bleacherreport.com/articles/358717-what-the-top-22-bubble-teams-need-to-do-to-make-the-ncaa-tournament
Georgetown 74, Cincinnati 47
"This is what I love to do. I love to play basketball." -Austin Freeman
A mere four days after being diagnosed with diabetes, Austin Freeman returned to lead his Hoyas to a 27 point rout over Cincinnati in front of thousands of inspired fans at the Phone Booth on Saturday. On a seniorless Senior Day, with many Georgetown fans getting ready to throw in the towel, Freeman put on one of the most memorable performances in Georgetown history. And now, heading into the Big East Tourney, the Hoyas are once again at full strength and ready to make a statement in New York.
In the last ten days, Georgetown fans everywhere have experienced the full range of emotions -- confusion, misery, sadness, despair, cautious optimism, and finally, hope. After a befuddling loss to the Irish in which the Hoyas seemed rudderless throughout the day, last Monday Georgetown was methodically destroyed by a bigger, tougher, hungrier West Virginia team. By mid-week, the rest of the season looked grim. Austin has diabetes? Will he return this season? Can he return? If he returns, will he even be effective? At that point, many of us contacted doctor friends, diabetics, people who failed organic chemistry during their sophomore year of college, anyone really, to find out whether Austin could play. We were desperate for information. By Thursday, JTIII said he was 100% sure that Austin would return. We were hopeful, but still worried. We all prayed that Austin would come back, even if the chances were remote, because without Austin, the season was basically over.
By Saturday morning, we didn’t know if Austin would play. We didn’t expect him to start – most of us just hoped for five or ten minutes to see if he’s healthy and ensure that he’s in some sort of rhythm leading into the Big East Tourney. And then, Austin exceeded all of our hopes. He started. He scored on an aggressive move to the rim. He calmly knocked down a three in the first few minutes. He poured in 24 points to lead the team in scoring. On Saturday, we saw ol’ #15 doing what he does best. And that made all of us smile.
Over the last several weeks, we’ve heard lots of reasons why Georgetown doesn’t have a legitimate shot to win a national title. Lack of depth, free throw shooting, inconsistency and poor defense are among the more prominent reasons supplied by pundits and fans alike. Perhaps the biggest reason, however, has been the lack of a true leader -- someone to take this team on his shoulders through tough times and will the team to victory. Many have asked- is there someone in our triumvirate of stars to carry the load? When the season is on the line, who will step up to right the ship? Just last week, Liz Clarke wrote: "It matters not, at this stage of the season, whether Freeman, Chris Wright or Greg Monroe leads the team. It matters only that someone does."
On Saturday, we learned something we should have known all along: Austin Freeman is our leader. Through his calmness and composure, #15 leads by example both on and off the court. And now, this team will go as far as Austin Freeman will take it. Saturday was no different for
Austin – another day, another dominant performance, and another lesson for his Hoya brothers on how to stay cool and composed in the face of adversity.
Diabetic Austin is awesome. And the rest of the country will soon take notice.
Some quick-hitters on Saturday’s inspiring win:
- Greg Monroe quietly chipped in with an impressive 19 points and 15 boards. Against one of the best rebounding teams in the conference, the Hoyas outrebounded the Bearcats 37-26.
- Congratulations to Greg and Austin for receiving all-conference honors on Sunday – Greg was named to the first team and Austin was named to the second team. Well deserved.
- The all-important bench numbers: 2 points, zero field goals on 0 for 6 shooting. Once again, the bench failed to step up. On the bright side, it seems like JTIII is getting more and more comfortable with inserting Vee into the lineup. Vee looks pretty poised on defense; if he can knock down open shots from the perimeter on a consistent basis, that would be a very welcome development at just the right time.
- It was great to see the show of support for Austin from the media. John Saunders, Liz Clarke and Mike Wilbon – who are all diabetics – heaped praise on Austin throughout the week. Chris Wright contributed an impressive 16 points, 4 assists and only 1 turnover. He seemed to play under control throughout the game and really did an effective job in shutting down Deonta Vaughn on the defensive end.
- We limited Cincy to 38% shooting from the floor, while Deonta Vaughn (who killed us in both of our losses to the Bearcats last year) had no field goals. Only one player scored in double figures for Cincinnati (Lance Stephenson).
- Some additional quotes from last week:
"He hit every shot he threw up. Same Austin. Nothing [has] changed on the court. Literally, for a stretch there -- I'm not exaggerating -- he didn't miss a shot!" -Chris Wright, commenting on Austin’s first practice after being diagnosed with diabetes
"I felt good. It felt real good out there to be back on the floor and playing with my team." –Austin Freeman
"We're going to see a lot more games this year like that." -JTIII
- Saturday was a whirlwind. Over the course of 2.5 hours, we could have finished anywhere between 6th and 8th in the conference. Just when it seemed like we were primed to have the easiest road to the Big East championship game (through Pitt), UConn lost, Louisville won, and then Notre Dame stunned Marquette thanks to a last-second shot from none other than Carleton Scott (the same guy who torched us two weeks ago at the Phone Booth). Now, all of a sudden the Hoyas face the BET-equivalent of the Group of Death. Round 1 against a hungry and desperate USF squad. Round 2 against a hated rival and top three team in the country. And then potential matchups with Nova and West Virginia. On balance, it’s scary. But now is not the time to look ahead or throw in the towel. In the words of Jake Taylor, I guess there’s only one thing left to do. What’s that? Win the whole effing thing.
Preview of Wednesday's Game: Georgetown v. South Florida, 12pm
Entering Wednesday’s matchup, South Florida needs at least one more victory to put itself on the right side of the bubble, while Georgetown is fighting for a top 4 seed and a bit more consistency heading into the NCAA Tourney. This game should be a dogfight right from the start.
South Florida is led by the ever-improving Dominique Jones, the 6’4’’ combo guard who has an impressive midrange game and a great first step to the basket. Significantly for the Bulls, Jones has his partner in crime back – 6’10’’ big man Gus Gilchrist, who has played the last 8 games for USF and is averaging close to 9 points and 4.5 rebound per game. Gilchrist was ineffective against DePaul today, but when he’s playing well, he’s one of the better interior players in the conference. With Jones and Gilchrist, along with heady guards like Mike Mercer and Chris Howard, South Florida is a formidable foe.
Keys to the Game:
1. Stopping Dominique Jones: Jones is good. He’s a first team all-conference player who, at 6’4’’, averages an impressive 21 points, 6 rebounds and almost 4 assists per game. He is quick off the dribble, a strong rebounder and defender, and very good in transition. When Georgetown met South Florida in February, the Hoyas completely shut down Jones in the first half, but then he exploded in the second half and finished the game with 29 points. Georgetown probably won’t be able to limit Jones to 10 points or less in this game, but they also can’t let him go off again. The three best ways to stop Jones are to keep him outside, keep him off the glass, and limit his free throws. In February, Jones attempted 17 free throws – anything close to that and the Hoyas will be in for a long afternoon. Clark and Freeman need to stay in front of Jones and be patient. Make him blink first.
2. Forcing USF to the Perimeter: South Florida only shoots 29% from three-point range. Every USF player, including Dominique Jones, is a subpar perimeter shooter. Expect to see a fair amount of zone in this game, as the Hoyas try to deny Gilchrist and Famous in the paint, while forcing Jones and Mercer to knock down shots from the perimeter. Clark, Wright and Thompson have to keep their men in front of them and make them go over the top.
3. Defensive Rebounding: Now that Gus Gilchrist is back for the Bulls, South Florida will have an effective tandem of big men: the 6’10’’ Gilchrist and 6’11’’ Jarrid Famous. Both are very physical players in the paint. Monroe and Vaughn will have to limit second chance points and prevent USF from getting easy rebounds off perimeter misses.
4. Chris Wright: Mike Mercer and Chris Howard are experienced guards who rarely commit turnovers. They are frustrating players to guard. Wright needs to be patient on defense, while not taking too many chances. On offense, Wright needs to play under control, work the ball inside to Greg and not try to force anything. The last time the Hoyas faced South Florida, Wright only contributed 8 points and missed all six of his three-point attempts. Wright doesn’t need to dominate this game. He just needs to make smart decisions.
5. The Syracuse Game: We are NOT playing Syracuse tomorrow. We are playing South Florida. We’ve already looked past this opponent once this year, let’s not make the same mistake twice. With victories over Kent State, UConn, Pittsburgh, and yes, Georgetown, the Bulls have shown that they can play with some of the better teams in the country. If the Hoyas take them lightly, they will lose. Plain and simple. Worry about the Orange on Thursday. Tomorrow, we have an important game to win.
These last ten days have been a rollercoaster ride for the Hoya faithful, and yet, the fun is only just beginning. In the next four days, Georgetown has a chance to avenge four of its losses (USF, Cuse, Marquette, WVU, anyone?) and deliver a serious message to the conference and the country. Or, the Hoyas could lose to South Florida, clinch a 6 seed and continue down the same path of inconsistency that has plagued them all season.
Whenever we finally seem to be turning a corner, something brings us down. Over the last two weeks, we lost several players to the flu and Austin missed two games with diabetes. Now, we’re finally at full strength, just in time for the home stretch. Will we rally around Austin Freeman and leave our mark on the conference, or will we continue to wither in the face of inferior competition and so-called trap games? We’ll find out tomorrow at the Garden.
With Austin’s faster-than-expected recovery and top-notch performance on Saturday, the Hoyas are now the feel-good story of the Big East Tournament. People around the country want us to win. Tomorrow at the Garden, it all begins. Tomorrow at the Garden, we avenge an earlier loss in convincing fashion and get prepared for our next opponent. Tomorrow at the Garden, we are all diabetics.
The Big East Tournament. It’s the first step in the postseason.
Austin Freeman is back, New York. Watch out.
Let's go Hoyas. Beat South Florida.