Games That Matter - February 9, 2011 (Georgetown v. Syracuse)

Games that Matter – February 9, 2011
ESPN / USA Today: 11
AP: 11
RPI: 6



Hoyas Outscore Marshon Brooks by 40, Extend Winning Streak to 6 Games
So much for that being a trap game.  Georgetown led Saturday’s contest from start to finish, built up an 18 point lead in the second half, and held Vincent Council without a field goal en route to a 40-point victory over Marshon Brooks.  For the first time since January 1, Georgetown’s Big Three scored at least 15 points apiece.  When that happens, the Hoyas are undefeated.  Georgetown now rides a 6 game winning streak into one of the most awful places in the world – Syracuse, New York – to try to do something that a JTIII-led team has never done before: win a game at the Carrier Dome. 


Everything in the last paragraph is true.  Here are some other thoughts on Saturday’s closer-than-expected win:


·        Marshon Brooks is ridiculously good.  But this is nothing new.  I knew you it, you knew it, JTIII knew it, and even my mom knew it.  And yet, somehow, he still managed to put up 43 points and 10 rebounds on us.  “Stopping Marshon Brooks” should be at the top of every Big East coach’s scouting report.  It was definitely at the top of my preview of Saturday’s game.  (I even put it in CAPS, so people would know it’s important.)  So how do we explain that incredible offensive outburst?  Three possibilities:


(1) Maybe Chris Wright shouldn’t have been guarding him as often as he did.  We should have used Jason and Hollis more often.  Brooks’s size was usually too much for Wright to handle.  And maybe we should have tried double-teaming him more often than we did.  


(2)  Maybe JTIII made a conscious decision that Georgetown could win this game if we stopped “everybody but Marshon”.  And he was right, for the most part.  We did outscore Marshon by 40, but we only won the game by 2.  I’m not trying to be sarcastic here.  If we clamped down on the rest of Providence’s team, we should have been able to run away with this one.  And when you think about it, we more or less eliminated Providence’s second and third scoring options.  We held Vincent Council to 3 points on 0 for 10 shooting, and we limited Gerard Coleman to 7 points and 4 turnovers.  Job well done, with one glaring exception: no one could stop Duke Mondy.  His 19 points came out of  nowhere and killed us.


(3) Maybe Marshon Brooks is just that good.  Did you see some of the shots he made against us?  The 4-point play?  The deep shots with multiple hands in his face?  The guy is awesome.  Inside, outside, and everywhere in between.  Marshon will be playing in the NBA. Saturday was the best game of his career.   


·        I’m glad Austin, Chris and Jason had over 15 points apiece.  When they all play well, we are insanely tough to beat. 


·        Free throw shooting.  Yikes.  If we could actually make free throws, the game wouldn’t have come down to the wire.  Julian was 6 for 12, Nate was 1 for 3, and Henry was 0 for 2.  That can’t happen against better teams.


·        His free throw shooting aside, Julian Vaughn was a beast.  Check out the stats: 14 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists.  The numbers only tell you half the story, though.  In the second half alone, Julian had a sweeping left-handed hook shot, a put-back dunk, a jumper, and a THUNDEROUS one-handed slam in some guy’s face.  On Saturday, Julian Vaughn looked like an incredible combination of Kareem (for his sky hooks), Blake Griffin (for his inhuman dunking ability), and Shaq (for his dreadful free throw shooting).  Is it possible that Julian has become a first round draft pick?  No, it’s actually not possible at all.  But what he has become is a solid interior threat.  And that’s all this Georgetown team needs.  Keep it up, JuJu.


·        Jason Clark continues to amaze and disappoint…and confuse.  His numbers were solid: 18 points on 7for 14 shooting.  But when you consider that Jason started off the game a perfect 7 for 7, you might start to scratch your head.  Jason is as streaky as they come.  When he’s connecting from outside, we look REALLY good.  When he’s not, we look very ordinary.  I will say this, though: I can’t remember the last time Jason had ZERO TURNOVERS.  (He had zero turnovers against Providence.)  I’ll take that stat every day of the week.     


·        More confusing play from Hollis Thompson.  Against Providence, he had 3 points on 1 for 6 shooting.  He also botched a couple of fast breaks.  It doesn’t make any sense.  He was our leading scorer in that St. John’s game on January 3.  And now the only time he scores is when he takes a wide open three.  I’m not sure what the problem is.  I’d like to see him penetrate a little more often.  I don’t want to see his off-balance floaters from two feet inside the arc anymore.  That said, Hollis may have the purest stroke on the team.  I love watching him take those wide open threes.  Hollywood’s play may very well determine how far this team can go.


·        Why did it seem like our defense was so terrible?  In part, because it was.  But a quick look at the numbers suggests that our defense was actually decent; it was our defensive rebounding that was the problem.  And also the fact that Marshon Brooks just absolutely went off.  We held Providence to 40.8% shooting from the floor, but the Friars attempted 6 more shots than we did.  They also collected a total of 16 offensive rebounds.  That kind of makes me cringe.  Marshon Brooks had 5 offensive rebounds all by himself.  We’ve got to do a better job on the glass.  And defensively, we just can’t give up 81 points in a game.  JTIII-coached teams don’t win games when opposing teams score 80 or more points.  Saturday’s game was the exception.  Imagine if Providence actually made some of its free throws….


·        On that last play of the game – a head’s up steal by #4 – we basically triple-teamed Marshon Brooks at half court.  Makes you wonder why he didn’t pass it.  Two guys were wide open in the corners.  I guess he was surprised by the fact that we actually put more than one guy on him.  Glad it worked when it mattered.   


·        What I said before the Providence game:  “If the 2010-11 Hoyas are going to take the step from a good team to a great team, they need to jump on the Friars and slowly pull away at the start of the second half.  The more Providence can hang around in this one, the more the Friars will gain confidence and scare the crap out of all of us.”  What I’m saying after the Providence game:  We’re not a great team yet.  (And also, I might need a new pair of boxers.)


Preview of Wednesday's Game: Georgetown at Syracuse, 7pm

It’s time for the big game.  If you’re not ready for it, too bad.  It’s here again.  Georgetown and Syracuse.  I haven’t been this excited since the last time we played them.

Things You Should Know:


1.       JTIII has NEVER defeated Syracuse at the Carrier Dome.  Never.  Not with Brandon Bowman.  Not with Jeff Green.  Not with Roy Hibbert.  Not with Nikita Mescheriakov.  Never.


2.       In last year’s game at the Dome, we took an early 14-0 lead.  Syracuse then outscored us by 31 the rest of the way.  Chris Wright missed all 6 of the three-pointers he attempted.  Clark and Freeman each scored in double figures.  Syracuse had more points, more rebounds, more assists, more blocks, more steals, more free throws, fewer turnovers, better field goal percentage, better free throw percentage, and fewer fouls.  They killed us in every aspect of the game.


3.       Syracuse has 9 players that average at least 10 minutes per game.  This team is much deeper than last year’s team.  Less experienced, but a lot more players.


4.       Syracuse is the worst free throw shooting team in the Big East (64%), but Kris Joseph (70%), Brandon Triche (75%) and Dion Waiters (84%) are all pretty good from the line. 


5.       Syracuse is #2 in the Big East in blocks and #2 in steals.  The Orange are one of the best defensive teams in the conference.  Although they miss Andy Rautins’s length at the top of the zone, they make up for it with size on the wings.  And Rick Jackson has 55 blocks already.


Syracuse’s season began as a slow march to the top (18 consecutive wins against teams like Northern Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame).  Then there was a sharp turn towards mediocrity (4 straight losses in conference play).  And now Syracuse is trying to right the ship.  Coming off wins at UConn and South Florida, the Orange are one of several teams in the muddled middle of the conference.  Tomorrow’s game is hugely important for both teams.  As Pitt and Notre Dame begin to separate from the rest of the pack, a handful of teams are now competing for a top 4 finish.  The winner of tomorrow night’s game will have a leg up entering the homestretch.


Syracuse is led by two of the best frontcourt players in the conference: 6’9’’ senior Rick Jackson (13.5 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.3 bpg) and 6’7’’ junior Kris Joseph (15.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg).  Jackson has been the biggest surprise for the Orange, as he has bulked up, improved his offensive game under the basket, and now averages a double-double per contest.  His rebounding has been a big plus for ‘Cuse, especially given the subpar play of freshman Fab Melo.  Kris Joseph – Syracuse’s leading scorer – is the one player on the team who can hurt opponents from the perimeter or inside the paint.  He’s not as good as Wes Johnson was last year, but he’s definitely Syracuse’s most consistent offensive weapon.


Anchoring Syracuse’s backcourt is a pair of talented guards: 6’2’’ junior Scoop Jardine (12.3 ppg, 6.0 apg) and 6’4’’ sophomore Brandon Triche (10.4 ppg, 3.0 apg).  Jardine is much more of a table setter – when he gets in the lane, he’s a threat to shoot or get the ball inside to one of ‘Cuse’s bigs.  He’s also usually the one leading the break after steals at the top of the zone or deep misses.  He’s probably the streakiest shooter on the team, but when he’s hitting shots, Syracuse is tough to beat.  He’s also Syracuse’s best passer.  Brandon Triche is a better shooter than Jardine, but not as good at penetration.  The X factor in the backcourt is Dion Waiters – a 6’3’’ freshman from Philly – who is a solid defender, but sometimes takes bad shots.  He was recently suspended by Boeheim after using a few choice words to explain how much he loves his coach.


Other than Waiters, two freshmen that have been playing really well are C.J. Fair and Baye Moussa Keita.  Fair has been a nice role player for the Orange, particularly on the offensive end, while Keita has been very important in the middle of Syracuse’s zone.  Over the last few weeks, Keita has put together some impressive performances.  Against UConn, he picked up 11 rebounds and 6 steals in 27 minutes of action.  As his minutes increase, Fab Melo moves closer to the bench.    


Keys to the Game:


1.      Force Perimeter Shots:  This Syracuse team is unlike any Syracuse team in the last decade or so.  There’s no Gerry McNamara, no Andy Rautins, no Eric Devendorf, no Preston Shumpert, no Lawrence Moten.  Syracuse has plenty of guys who can shoot, but no single player who can light it up from beyond the arc in a hurry.  No one shoots better than 39% from three point range.  So Georgetown would do well to clog the middle a little more than usual and make Syracuse win this game from the perimeter. 


2.      Limit Second Chance Points:  Syracuse rebounds the ball extremely well.  Rick Jackson alone has 91 offensive rebounds.  Syracuse will miss its share of shots.  But if the Hoyas allow Jackson and Keita to get second and third opportunities, then this game will just be awful to watch.  We had trouble against Louisville and Providence.  If we’re going to have any chance to win at the Dome, guys like Nate and Julian and Jerrelle need to do better on the boards.


3.      Shoot More Free Throws:  If you want to beat Syracuse, just shoot more free throws than they do.  In all 4 of Syracuse’s losses this season, the Orange shot fewer free throws than their opponent.  This isn’t always a hard and fast rule (Syracuse did beat St. John’s even though they attempted a mere 8 free throws), but it’s still significant.  When Syracuse is getting the ball inside, they draw more fouls and get to the line more regularly.  When they settle for outside shots, they tend to lose.


4.      Win the Turnover War:  Like Georgetown, Syracuse has plenty of guys who commit turnovers.  Scoop Jardine has 70 all by himself, while Jackson and Joseph have 45 apiece.  We all know that defense and turnovers are always big factors in determining Georgetown’s wins and losses.  In this game especially, the team that can commit fewer unforced errors will have a big advantage.  Turnovers at the top of the key will lead to fast break points for the other team.  Points off turnovers should be the stat of the game.


5.      Breaking the 2-3 Zone:  We ask this question every year.  How do you deal with Syracuse’s length at the top of the key?  How do you crack the zone?  Do you send a guy to the foul line?  Take advantage of the short corner?  Or just shoot over the top?  Usually, it’s a combination of all three.  The zone always looks the same, but every game requires adjustments and we typically struggle to figure it out.  Last year, we were successful when Monroe went to the foul line and did his thing.  This year, who will that guy be?  Julian or Henry?  Or Austin?  Whoever we put in the middle has to be able to knock down that 10-foot jumper.  If not, here’s hoping Jason and Austin have incredible shooting nights from beyond the arc. 


It goes without saying, but this is a huge game.  It means a lot because two ranked teams are competing for better positioning in the conference, better seeds in the NCAA Tourney, and more confidence heading into the last handful of games left in Big East play.  But it’s more than just conference standings and momentum.  It’s about bragging rights.  It’s about the conference’s best rivalry.  It’s about watching Jim Boeheim whine and cry.  It’s Georgetown and Syracuse.  Period.


JTIII is still looking for his very first win at the Dome.  This is the perfect time to give it to him. 



 Let's go Hoyas.  Beat Syracuse.


Stay Casual, my friends.

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