Games that Matter – January 12, 2010
ESPN / USA Today: 19
I hate watching Georgetown lose. In the span of ten terrible days, Georgetown has gone from a legitimate Big East title contender to a team that will struggle to finish in the top half of the conference. I blame myself. I was out of the country for this inglorious stretch of games. There’s nothing worse than watching us lose winnable games – whether you’re watching these losses in airport sports bars, or on a slow hotel computer in Buenos Aires, or on your blackberry while sitting on an overnight bus, it’s all the same. Losing is losing. And now, without even having played ‘Cuse, Pitt, Nova or UConn yet, we already have three conference losses and are on the verge of picking up a fourth.
I’m not going to bother recapping the start of our Big East season. It’s not even worth it. I’ll just highlight some of the problems I’ve seen.
Why We Are Losing
1. Chris Wright isn’t scoring. In our three conference losses, the old Wrecking Ball has scored a grand total of 19 points. Against Notre Dame, St. John’s and West Virginia, he made a whopping SEVEN baskets. So far, he is shooting 2 of 21 from three point range. And since no one respects his shot, he’s finding it that much more difficult to get into the lane. The savvy veteran’s response has been to force the issue by driving into four guys at once and hoping to draw a foul – the only problem is that he’s not drawing fouls, he’s not passing the ball to open shooters, and he’s turning the ball over like crazy (including five turnovers against WVU). You’ll notice that no one has been talking about Chris Wright’s valuable summer experience with Chris Paul lately. It’s because he has been terrible.
2. Jason Clark has lost all confidence in his outside shot. I don’t know how or why, but Clark isn’t even looking to shoot threes anymore. In the last six games, he has hit a grand total of three shots from beyond the arc. He is 3 for 18. Now, it’s not all bad news because Jason has really improved other areas of his game – he’s improving on defense and he’s starting to be more assertive on his drives to the basket. That said, we can’t win if Jason isn’t hitting – or even attempting – threes. He’s supposed to be one of our best shooters. I have no idea what happened. Remember when he knocked down three threes in overtime to beat Missouri on November 30? Yeah, well he only has three threes in the last month. Unbelievable.
3. Henry Sims doesn’t try to score. For all the love people have been giving Henry these last two months (and I agree that he deserves most of the praise), Henry has been fairly bad in conference play. In our three conference losses, Henry had 15 points and 2 assists. Against St. John’s and West Virginia, Henry didn’t record a single assist. The problem isn’t so much that Henry isn’t distributing the ball, but that Henry isn’t looking to score at all. How many times does he catch the ball in the post against a smaller opponent and not even face the basket? Everyone knows that Henry has improved his passing, so every time he touches the ball, teams try to deny the pass. Henry needs to look for his shot….or at least LOOK AT THE BASKET to keep defenders honest. The most improved player on this team is no longer Henry Sims. It’s Hollis Thompson.
4. Julian Vaughn continues to look clumsy and inconsistent. Julian had a solid ten rebounds against Memphis and DePaul. In our three conference losses, he has a grand total of 11. Against bigger teams, Julian is (unfortunately) the only guy we have who can effectively bang in the paint. Henry isn’t big enough and guys like Nate and Jerrelle are improving, but still not effective enough against bigger teams. Julian needs to focus on the fundamentals. We just need him to stay out of foul trouble, rebound the basketball and limit his mistakes. No one asks him to be Superman. He just needs to put in a solid effort every game. And please stop taking five steps after catching the ball in the paint. I’m tired of that.
5. We’re not getting to the free throw line enough. In our three conference losses, we’ve attempted 37 free throws and our opponents have attempted 74. We need to get to the line on a more regular basis. Enough said.
Say what you want about other potential factors that have led to our shoddy play. And there have been others, but I think the ones I just mentioned are the most important. Austin has been somewhat inconsistent and we haven’t been as effective in transition and we’re not rebounding well or defending well in the paint and Vee isn’t playing enough….the list goes on and on. But to turn things around, it all starts with #4. He’s the motor that makes this offense go.
Preview of Thursday's Game: Georgetown v. Pittsburgh, 7pm
It’s do or die time for the Hoyas. Unfortunately, they’ll have to step it up against a very, very good team. Pitt returns one of the deepest, most experienced teams in the country. And the Panthers have yet to lose in conference play. Ashton Gibbs (16.4 ppg, 3.8 apg), Brad Wanamaker (12.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.3 apg) and Gilbert Brown (11.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg) form a solid core for a team that plays ten guys for at least nine minutes per game. As usual, the things we can’t do are the same things that Pitt does well – rebounding, interior defense and getting to the foul line. Gary McGhee (7.2 rpg), Dante Taylor (5.4 rpg) and Nasir Robinson (5.2 rpg) have been extremely solid rebounders and defenders in the middle for the Panthers, while Travon Woodall (3.9 apg) has been one of Pitt’s better distributors in the lane.
Pitt’s two biggest weaknesses are free throw shooting (only 66%) and perimeter shooting. Unfortunately, Pitt’s Big Three – Gibbs, Wanamaker and Brown – are all solid from the line. It’s the other guys who struggle. When it comes to shooting from beyond the arc, though, Pitt relies almost exclusively on Ashton Gibbs (51 of 111 from three-point range), with Gilbert Brown contributing occasionally (23 of 51). Everyone else shoots below 38% from beyond the arc. But with Pitt’s dominance in the paint, they haven’t really needed to hit many threes.
Keys to the Game:
1. Julian: It’s time for him to step it up. We need him to stay out of foul trouble in this game and REBOUND the basketball. Pitt has four Julian Vaughns. We only have one. We need him to stay on the floor and contribute meaningful minutes. Remember what worked against Memphis (albeit a much smaller and inexperienced team): catch the ball, hold onto the ball, and DUNK the ball. That’s it. No more lazy turnovers under the basket. And if Julian picks up two quick fouls in the first five minutes of the game, it’s going to be a very long night.
2. Forcing Perimeter Shots: With the exception of Gibbs, Pitt doesn’t shoot very well from the perimeter. Pitt scores the vast majority of its points in the paint. We need to close off the middle and make the Panthers take jump shots. (And then we need to rebound after long misses.)
3. Jason Clark needs to hit threes: We’re not going to outscore Pitt in the paint. I just don’t see it happening. We need to score from the perimeter if we’re going to have a chance in this game. Jason needs to look for his shot. I don’t know what’s wrong with him. I’m grateful that, unlike Chris, he’s recognized that his shot is off so he isn’t trying to force the issue; but still, if this team is going to be successful, Clark needs to make threes. Against Pitt, Jason needs to hit at least three threes for us to win. C’mon, Jason. You can do it.
4. Rebounding: It goes without saying. We can all see it now. Pitt misses a shot. McGhee gets a rebound, makes a layup and gets fouled by Nate. This is going to happen at least once or twice. It just can’t happen more than that. We need to rebound. Please. Julian, Henry, Nate, Jerrelle, Jason, Chris, Austin, Vee, Hollis, Markel. Everyone. Everyone needs to rebound tonight.
5. Chris Wright: I know it, you know it, we all know it. Even Chris knows it. When he struggles, the whole team struggles. In our three conference losses, he has been really bad. Too many turnovers, too many forced shots, too many nonsensical Wrecking Ball drives to the basket, too many missed threes, not enough assists, and too much moping. It starts and ends with #4. What’s frustrating is the inconsistency. We all know that Chris can play. He’s quick, he’s strong, he knows how to get to the basket, and he has done a better job this season of getting the ball to open shooters. But can Chris LEAD? If we have any chance of winning tonight, he needs to play well.
Yeah, so we have three losses in our first four conference games. And we’ve looked miserable in all four Big East games. Whatever. I just want a victory. I don’t care how. It’s time for the Hoyas to step it up and start playing as well as we all think they can. It’s time for #4 to bring it.
Let's go Hoyas. Beat Pittsburgh.