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LINKS: Ewing, Georgetown Have Fans Angry

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Losses to St. Joe’s and SDSU in California have “patience” pleas wearing thin

NCAA Basketball: Wooden Legacy-Georgetown vs Saint Josephs Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Your Georgetown Hoyas are 2-3 after two disappointing losses in Anaheim as part of the Paycom Wooden Legacy. Loyal Georgetown fans have every right to be mad about the losses and the direction of the program. The late turnovers are disappointing, but being on the bad end of runs reaffirms that defense is the problem.

We’re all pretty confident there isn’t going to be a coaching change any time very soon, but it’s pretty clear that Patrick Ewing needs more help that what Louis Orr, Robert Kirby, Akbar Waheed, Clinton Crouch, Bill Howze, Ronny Thompson and the rest of the 5-year-stagnant-staff seem to be able to provide him. We keep hearing about how young this team is, but that’s not an excuse, even with the COVID-bonus-year eligibility era.

That said, the “fans” who seem the most angry are the ones who never gave Ewing a chance—and have been holding their tongues since that magical week in March. Sadly, for even the most loyal Hoya faithful, that BIG EAST Tournament Championship feels like years ago.

Perhaps the worst part from the three losses is that, while he’s wasn’t necessarily wrong to preach “patience,” it sometimes feels like Patrick Ewing’s preseason plea was as much a self-fulfilling prophesy as much as it was warning. They can learn lessons and not lose three of five games. Might the energy and effort have been different if Ewing had noted some strengths of the highly ranked recruiting class and heart of those returning from a championship team? Patrick Ewing still thinks the future is bright.

Right now, in my opinion, fixing the defense is the only thing that matters. Criticizing issues like minutes distribution, lack of social media fan engagement, not recruiting DMV players, or even Georgetown’s turnovers all seem pretty minuscule when compared to the mega issues of the defense.

Generally, Ewing’s teams have not carried his hallmark of defense, but even this year’s defense looks different from the Hoyas defense of last February and March. More specifically, Georgetown seems to have tremendous difficulty handling screens and tends to greatly over-help in the paint to the detriment of guarding the perimeter.

If they can fix one thing before the next game, maybe it should be guarding off-ball screens. I don’t have time (or desire) to do my own video capture, but St. Joe’s highlights caught a handful of screen-switch dumpster fires.

To be honest, these off-ball screens for three point shots look like the old Reggie Cameron playbook—who also happens to be on the coaching staff as a video coordinator with St. Joseph’s. If it seems like St. Joe’s scouted Georgetown well, it’s because they probably did.

Of course, the Hoyas haven’t been great at guarding ball screens for a while. In the past, Ewing’s defense has called for a “hard hedge” by the helping defender, typically a big. Ewing, as a player, was asked to double-team on pick plays. Last year, there was far less hedging than prior years, but also (especially, during the decent February run) some trapping of the ball handler. This year, it’s a mess with inconsistent switching and, evidently, poor communication. Some of this falls on the center position, namely Ighoefe, who gets picked on, but Wilson and Mutombo aren’t handling screens well, either. If no one is doing this well, perhaps a new strategy is needed.

Not to pick on the bigs too much more—because I’m more concerned with defensive scheme, not execution—but even the “help defense” has not been much help. If the defense is leaving the perimeter open, then there should be a focus on protecting the pain, however, there is not enough rim protection. The centers appear too concerned with fouling. Ighoefe’s primary defensive move is to slide over and take a charge. Ouch. When the center is out on the switch, there appears to be confusion over whose duty it is to slide over.

At other times, when a ballhandler gets in the lane, all the gray jerseys collapse on the man just in time for a kick-out. Ewing’s defense looks more and more like a “pack-line” man-to-man. One counter is the quick penetration and skip pass.

Stepping back, I’m not sure that all three losses needed to happen. For one, the midnight tip-off on Thanksgiving was way too late and those who stayed up to watch were hardly rewarded. Forgetting for a moment about what it does to the fans, athletes who travel west to face a California team (even with a day to adjust) are not setup for success.

The nonconference scheduling generally has been a miserable backfire. Why schedule Dartmouth? If you have a young team learning to defend, a matchup against older guys who run a unique almost-Princeton-like-in-its-weirdness offense (including with “butt screens”) is just a bad fit for opponent in game number 1. I get it, hindsight is 20/20, but it was not unforeseeable. I’m not saying stay away from scheduling teams with older, good shooting reputations, I’m asking to schedule teams playing similar to BIG EAST conference foes to further preparation efforts.

The main goal I thought the nonconference season would provide for Ewing and Georgetown was to help them figure rotations out. Not any more. At this point, Ewing has to get his most athletic guys on the floor and win.

Pressure worked, but clearly they ran out of gas. Perhaps turning up defensive pressure doesn’t have to be full-court, or even on all opposing players.

Here are the links:

A Hopeless Holiday: Georgetown Drops Game Two of the Wooden Legacy to St. Joe’s, 77-74 | Thompson’s Towel

For as bad of a loss as this was, there were some positives for the Hoyas. Georgetown’s leading scorer was Kaiden Rice, who came alive in the second half. In the second half, Rice scored 19 points and hit 5 of his 7 threes, showing off his quick release to keep the Hoyas in the game. Finishing with 25 points, Rice finally looked like the player many expected him to be for the Hoyas. Dante Harris also played a solid game, continually using top of the key ball screens to either get all the way to that second level and sneak in a layup between the bigs, or stopping on a dime to rise up for that pullup jumper, which is looking increasingly smooth.

The Hoyas must have been feeling the Thanksgiving turkey hangover as they struggled to generate any momentum throughout the first half. St. Joe’s was propelled behind four threes from Taylor Funk, two threes from star sophomore Jordan Hall, and a slew of transition buckets. Their 10 assists on 13 made field goals are indicative of the team basketball demonstrated by the Hawks. On the contrary, Georgetown faced their share of offensive woes. Shooting 23% from behind the arc with a mere four team assists in the first half, the Hoyas’ offensive was stale and their shots—shots that were mostly contested and tough to make—were not dropping.

Saint Joe’s Corrects Course, Beats Georgetown 77-74 | A10 Talk

Taylor Funk was the highlight of the game for Saint Joe’s. The red shirt senior forward scored a season high 29 points; shooting 9-11 from the field an 8-10 from beyond the three point line. Funk also finished the game with seven rebounds and stepped up the defensive intensity by grabbing four steals. Those four steals tie his single game personal record, which he obtained against UCF in 2018. Ejike Obinna was another stand out, as he provided critical inside scoring early which forced the Hoyas to focus on protecting the paint, giving Funk more room to operate from beyond three.

Obinna finished the game with 17 points on 6-11 shooting. He also was 5-7 from the free throw line, taking advantage of the free points Georgetown was giving him. Obinna has established himself as a legitimate scoring threat down below. Before the season many questioned if the 6’10 transfer would have the chops to be a real scoring option for Saint Joe’s. In fact, Obinna has gone above and beyond expectations.

What is Patrick Ewing’s Plan? | Hilltop Hoops

It would be one thing if Ewing were riding players like Don Carey and Kaiden Rice and getting wins. But if Georgetown is going to lose to teams like Dartmouth and St. Joe’s, while also not giving minutes to the younger players so that they can get game reps to help them develop into key pieces in the rotation later on, how does that move this program forward in the right direction this year and in the years to come?

Maybe this season goes like last year and players like Dante Harris, Carey, Rice, Tim Ighoefe, and maybe even Collin Holloway lead Georgetown to a Big East Tournament title. But you can’t expect to jerk around younger players’ minutes like this and expect them to want to stay with the program.