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Hoyas Leaving Princeton Pace Behind

NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Quick: What's the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the Georgetown men's basketball team under coach John Thompson III?

Fine, what's the second thing? Yes, the "Princeton" offense. While that read-and-react approach has been central to many successful campaigns, it's also led to a perception/reality that the Hoyas offensive moves slower than fast.

That's not the case early on during the 2016-17 season. Let's not view Georgetown as a run-and-gun attack, but deliberate isn't what's on the menu nearly as much these days.

According to the basketball analytics site, the Hoyas (7-4) enter Thursday's home game against UNC Greensboro (9-3) 32nd nationally in offensive possession length at 15.3 seconds.

Told of the ranking during Wednesday's media availability at the Thompson Athletic Center, the coach half-jokingly said, "So much for all those people that want to start talking about we play slow and [talk about] our offense. Put that in your article."


Those people weren't wrong, though. They just aren't right if they keep thinking nothing has changed on the Hilltop.

Here is a list of Georgetown's offensive possession length rankings thru 2010, the first year KenPom began tracking the statistic:

2016: 162nd (17.3 seconds)

2015: 124th (18.0)

2014: 213th (18.3)

2013: 258th (19.0)

2012: 177th (18.1)

2011: 192 (18.1)

2010: 156 (17.6)

Yes, things are different this season -- as the head Hoya predicted.

"If we get stops and rebounds we're going to run. But, yeah, we're going to go, get after people a little more all over the court," Thompson said over the summer.

Part of the change involves tactics.

"The coach is giving us the freedom to do what we need to do to win the games," second-leading scorer L.J. Peak said. "I guess we're just making shots."

Part of the change involves personnel. Though the Hoyas still lack a classic point guard, they have an aggressive combination in Peak and graduate transfer Rodney Pryor. The wing threats can score from deep; Peak is sinking 40 percent of his 3-pointers while Pryor is an absurd 52.2%. They can also create off the dribble and get to the rim as needed even in half-court sets.

They're also not shy with the ball. Peak scored 23 points in Georgetown's win at rival Syracuse Saturday. Pryor added 20 and the pair combined to make 13 of 23 field goal attempts, 5 of 9 from beyond the arc and 12 of 14 free throws.

"I think offensively we've been better, a little more fluid," Thompson said of the key to Georgetown's five-game winning streak. "We have guys -- Rodney, L.J. -- that can just go get it. Allow them the chance to just go get it, but when we've been working our sets we've been a little better. "

D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera finished his career as Georgetown's fifth all-time leading scorer. He also played at a slower pace. With Smith-Rivera forced into lead guard duties the previous two seasons, the Hoyas also maintained that slower pace. The addition of Pryor along with Junior College transfer Jonathan Mulmore were signs that Thompson was ready to flip the script.

"He brought up playing at a faster pace, getting rebounds, pushing it, getting into transition more," Pryor said of Thompson's recruiting pitch. "When people look at the Princeton, I think it makes you unaggressive in the offense. This year we're just trying to be as aggressive as possible in the offense. With us being more aggressive it opens up more opportunities to score the ball."

Opportunities are one thing. Taking advantage of them is another. Doing so quickly, that's been another realm altogether in recent seasons for the Hoyas. Not this one, at least against non-conference opponents.

Following UNCG, Georgetown next plays at Marquette on Dec. 28 in its Big East opener. At that point the challenge involves whether the Hoyas can keep up the pace against those who know them best.

Of course, moving quickly on offense isn't exactly what the Hoyas are known for, at least not yet.