Copy of Game #7: Hoyas vs. South Carolina - 12/05/2021
So…that was not the most fun! I hope everyone had a good week. I did not, which is why we missed grades for the Longwood game. I accept an F on the assignment and will seek extra credit opportunities to make it up. We’re back for the South Carolina game and once again left asking the question, should we be? Another tough one from the Georgetown Hoyas but were there positives? You’ll have to read to find out. Short answer - not really, no. But there were some not-negatives, if you squint a bit.
In any case, despite my absence for Longwood, we’re featuring a re-grade comment from the St. Joe’s game. Thank you to all Casual Hoya readers for the lively comments section on the that one. I am featuring a positive take from wallbealporter because positivity is nice sometimes. And in these dark times, documentation is important. Keep commenting!
I’m not betting against this group. We took much longer to start being competitive last year. We just had the benefit of more experience early on to buoy things. Our two most experienced Hoyas in terms of minutes played weren’t even in the top 3 experienced players on a middling roster last year. It will take some time for the players to learn and master their roles.
I think Ewing has proven on more than one occasion he can design a plus game plan if everyone buys in. The current players are playing as hard as they’ve ever played for him, we just have to play smarter and that comes with experience. Finding ways to get to the line a little more and capitalize once we get there (Aminu, Jordan) will help out a lot. Ewing’s best teams have always drawn fouls at a consistent rate. That is something I’ll be watching to improve as the season rolls on.
Dante Harris - C-
13 PTS, 4-13 (30%), 0-2 3PT (0%), 5-5 FT, 6 REB, 6 AST, 3 TO
Up and down game from Dante, but it was for everyone. It seems clear he feels a lot of pressure to make plays and score on the offensive end and I think that’s leading to some mistakes. I’d like to see him just let the game come to him a bit more. He made a nice steal on a South Carolina big posting up on the right block at one point. I noted it because that seems to be what the Hoyas want to do defensively - have guards help on posting bigs and try and get steals. It worked on this one occasion, but I don’t think it’s a particularly high percentage defensive strategy, at least not one that’s been overly successful for Gtown. With about 5 minutes left in the half right as the game was starting to get away from them, he threw the ball away on two out of three possessions. Turnovers were a big problem in this one and those stood out to me as a microcosm of his season so far. I think he needs to play a bit slower, which is a weird thing to say, but he’s trying to do everything as fast as he possibly can and it’s resulting in a lot of turnovers. His speed is one of his real assets, but speed alone, particularly if it’s causing mistakes is not enough, it is the change of pace that is important and if you’re always going 100 mph, you’re not changing pace.He had a scary moment in this one where he came up favoring what looked like his knee after a non-contact injury. Luckily it seemed like just a cramp as he returned a few minutes later. I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to accurate to simply say he’s playing too selfishly. I don’t think thats the case and it ignores what he’s trying to do which is help a team that is struggling for consistent scoring. Ultimately results matter, and regardless of how and why, he needs to be beeter. This team needs him, but I think he’s at his best when he’s a bit more under control and relaxed I think.
Don Carey - C
20 PTS, 6-12 (50%), 4-8 3PT (50%), 4-5 FT, 7 REB, 2 AST, 2 BLK, 4 TO
Another up and down performance despite a better shooting night for him. He managed to make some necessary and tough shots but I still think this team needs offensive consistency from him, or anyone. And again, he looks like he’s playing a bit frantically which is leading to bad turnovers. 4 turnovers is already too many, but there were also a number of not great shots that he took that were virtually the same as a turnover. On one occasion, he had a clear lane and pulled up to shoot a really weird half runner/half fade away that missed badly, the next possession he forced a bad step-back three. It just looked way too forced and he is trying to play outside of himself, with I think the best intentions, but it’s leading to some iffy results. He had some good plays in the second half that showed a bit more connection with the rest of his teammates. He had the 2nd best Defensive Points per Possession at .98 on 58 possessions. That was a bit interesting to see but mostly because I think as a whole the Hoyas were just rough on that end. Like Dante, I’d like to see him dial it back a bit and play within himself a bit more.
Aminu Mohammed - B
17 PTS, 6-11 (54%), 1-3 3PT (33%), 4-7 FT, 8 REB, 2 STL, 2 TO
Aminu figured out how to finish one, just absolutely posterize a dude. Early in the first, he got a clear lane and absolutely punished the rim. He got fouled and missed the free throw. It’s pretty vital for him to improve at the line because he’s just leaving points on the board. He also knocked in a good ball movement three after an offensive rebound that looked like one of the Hoyas better offensive plays of the year. He tried to take over this game early in the second, with some success, starting from the defensive end. Had a couple of nice steals and created easy buckets for himself and others. He can be, and might already be, an elite individual defender. It gets lost a bit within the larger dumpster fire that is the Hoyas defensively but he is great on that end at times. Though interestingly he finished with the third-worst defensive PPP on the team at 1.12 on 59 possessions. I think there is a lot of broader context for that but I do think he needs to look to translate his on-ball defense to support the broader scheme. There are times when he exhibits some of the same rotational errors that plague others and the gap between his on-ball and off-ball defensive can improve. He’s shooting a fairly high percentage but I do think he can and will improve as he adjusts and uses some shot fakes around the bucket.
Kaiden Rice - D
0 PTS, 0-10 (0%), 0-8 3PT (0%), 3 REB, 2 SL, 4 TO
I don’t really want to give him a grade but based on everything, it has to be fairly low. You feel for him. I am sure he really wanted his homecoming game to go differently. He just looked out of it in this one. His shot wasn’t falling and he was struggling at both ends. He had the worst PPP differential of anyone with a negative -0.437. That means for the 77 offensive+defensive possessions he was on the floor, the Hoyas were outscored by almost half a point per possession. On one hand, you can sort of explain this away as just a tough shooting performance, coming off a couple of solid ones. Though, to me, this was not too unexpected as the shots he has been taking are going to lend themselves to high variance. I’d like to see more of those ball movement and “paint threes” that are more replicable than step back, sidestep, and drag/curl screens, threes. The bigger issue is he needs to find ways to influence the game outside of shooting. It needs to come on the defensive end and, with the Hoyas having to play smaller in the absence of Tim, he could really help this team by rebounding. There was a stretch in this one that really demonstrated the tough night he had (as did many guys). He whiffed going for a steal on an entry pass that Jalin was fronting. I have no idea why, as the helping defender you are gambling for a steal but it ended predictably in an easy layup. Then, after the Hoyas scored 4 straight, he just fell asleep on the defensive end and gave his man a wide-open, momentum-killing three. On the other end, these plays were sandwiched between two bad misses on threes. That was the game in a nutshell and what he can improve upon. His shot wasn’t falling. Ok. but he could have had an impact on the other end by locking in defensively or hitting the glass for more than a couple boards. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that he had the worst turnover percentage on the team at 28.2 percent. That’s bad and clearly, he just had a real rough night…day…whatever. I hope he’ll just shake this performance off.
Malcolm Wilson - C-
4 PTS, 2-4 (50%), 0-1 FT, 5 REB
Malcolm got the start in Tim’s first game after breaking his hand. We’ll see if that is indicative of the way Ewing wants to handle things, but also could have been that it was a homecoming game for him and Ewing wanted to give him some spotlight. You can quibble with that, but I’d suggest you don’t. Even in 18 minutes, his usage rate (the percentage of plays used by a player while he was on the floor) was the lowest on the team at 10.3%. Had a wide-open dunk. That was good. And was an inch away from his best play as a Hoya to open the second half as he looked to flush a one-handed dunk on a good pick and roll. Looked like he back-rimmed it, but he was up. He’s not hurting you offensively and that’s a win. Defensively, it was rough. He finished with the worst Defensive PPP of 1.24 in 41 possessions. And it’s clear South Carolina was feasting in the paint with 9 dunks on the night and 41 points in the paint. That is not all on Malcolm of course but he just has to be better at that end (everyone does). I am hopeful he can improve, at least in just straight-up pick and roll coverage from increased experience and feel. I think he needs to focus on rebounding though, above everything. The Hoyas did win the rebounding battle, which surprised me but I think there were some lucky bounces in there. If he just focused on being a really solid rebounder, particularly being strong with the ball on the boards, I think he can positively impact the game.
Collin Holloway - C-
3 PTS, 1-5 (20%), 0-2 3PT (50%), 1-2 FT, 5 REB, 2 TO
Tough to follow the performance he put in against Longwood, but this definitely fell short. His Box Plus-Minus (an estimate of a player’s overall impact compared to an average player) was third-worst on the team at -12.9. Only Jordan at -16.9 and Kaiden at -23.8 (YIKES) were worse. Hopefully, this is just shaking off the rust because this team needs everything he brings. He was fantastic against Longwood. Let’s get back to that.
Jalin Billingsley - C-
0 PTS, 0-3 (0%), 0-1 (0%), 2 REB, 1 AST, 1 BLK,
Great pass on an Aminu back cut to get him an easy two. Princeton-esque and well-executed. Way, way off on an open three that looked rushed and just a little awkward. He got Kaiden’s minutes to close because, well, see the Kaiden grade. He had a decent contest on a three and then just stopped and gave up a long rebound that led to an easy follow up two. He followed that by getting roasted by a crossover on the perimeter and gave up an easy dunk. He got no help, but he looked like a statue getting crossed up. I think he’ll be fine and continues to be important, but he just needs to continue to try and get comfortable with the pace and skill of the college game - unfortunately, Georgetown needs him to get comfortable quick.
Jordan Riley - C-
2 PTS, 0-3 (0%), 2-2 FT, 2 REB, 1 BLK, 1 TO
There’s a lot clamoring for Jordan to play more and in general, I agree. Though I do think he’s getting good looks from Ewing (for the most part). In this one, it’s hard to argue he needed to play a lot more than his 11 minutes unless the argument is no one played well, which…sure. But the numbers don’t paint a particularly pretty picture. He finished with the second-worst PPP differential at -.421, only Kaiden was worse. I didn’t think he was that off initially, but given the numbers, it’s hard to argue that he needed more minutes in this one. In general, yes, he is clearly one of their better defenders and I think they are going to be better served having him on the floor than off really soon. I do think this is an interesting data point in the situation that Ewing is facing. And I think in reality this game should serve as at least some evidence of the nuance that’s needed to evaluate how he’s dealing with the freshman. We want them to play and be successful, but they are not always going to be the right choice in the game. There are growing pains. They need the room to grow but that is going to require choices. In the end, I think Jordan > not Jordan. Let’s see him bounce back.
Ryan Mutombo - C
8 PTS, 4-9 (44%), 6 REB, 2 BLK
He is the best offensive big they have. And I think he’s going to grow into the role. But, again, he needs time to develop. And the Hoyas really don’t have the time to give to him. They need him now. Mostly, he just needs to improve his foot speed and reactions. He was really slow reacting to a pick and roll in the first and gave up an easy look - but he managed a decent challenge/maybe blocked it. His positioning needs to be pretty perfect right now because he just doesn’t seem to have the foot speed to recover. The good news is I think his positioning is pretty good in general. He again just needs time to develop and improve. He has some good instincts on the offensive boards. He had 2 tip-ins that came from just good positioning. Keep getting stronger and anything this staff can do to help him with his foot speed is going to go a long way.
Tyler Beard - PASS
He’s in a tough spot in backing up Dante. Ewing thinks he needs to play Dante as much as possible. I get it. It’s a tough spot for everyone - Tyler, Ewing, everyone. Ewing relies on Dante a lot and I think just frankly, he needs to adjust. From the unpublished (due to writer-error) Longwood grades: I want more of Tyler. I don’t know if the numbers we’re seeing in small sample sizes will translate over longer stretches, but I think it’s worth seeing. I want to see him with Jordan, I want to see how it looks with Dante+Tyler, and I want to see him take a few minutes from Dante. That last one might seem like a stretch but I think part of what is driving Dante’s turnovers is fatigue. Dante plays fast, too fast at times, and when he gets tired he gives the ball up. Tyler just looks smooth and solid and I think can give Dante some rest minutes, and actually could end up making Dante more effective by giving a nice change of pace. I do get why Ewing thinks he needs as much of Dante and Don as possible, but I have a hard time seeing this team being worse with more Tyler and I want to see it.
Coaching - D-
I think in retrospect, we can say that Ewing was underselling it a bit when he called for patience with this team before the season. He clearly knew where they were. And I get it, patience in year 5 given everything that’s gone down is frustrating. And I am not going to tell anyone to stop being frustrated or even angry. It’s frustrating. But there is a lot going on here. That said, the defense is pretty simple. It’s just bad and needs to be better and comes down to coaching. They need to get it fixed. On the other end, you can chalk some of this up to taking bad shots and missing. The Hoyas had 27 points in the first half on 9-41 shooting. 9-41. 21%. I don’t know that you can put that entirely on coaching but clearly, that’s not great. And you can definitely say that guys need to be put in better positions to take easier shots. I admittedly am not the most adept at identifying the offensive plays that are being run, but it sure seems to me like they’re not running much. It’s just a lot of random dribbling and screening - basically an extension of what we saw last year on offense. I don’t really understand it because in Ewing’s first couple of years there seemed to be a lot of really clear offensive principles and sets being employed. Whether he just doesnt think his guys can execute it (that is troubling from a coaching perspective as well) or he’s just abandoned it for a more “free-flowing” offensive style, I don’t really know but it’s not great. They do not have the guys to just run a read and react offense, particularly with so many freshman. They need to get guys in good spots through purposeful action. I will say when it does look like he’s running an action, his guys don’t execute well. On one set I found notable, he had Kaiden running baseline to get a corner three. It looked like decent, deliberate action. Kaiden could have taken the shot on the ball reversal, he didnt, it wasn’t wide open but it was open enough but he then proceeded to dribble the ball out of bounds. It looked like they could have run a secondary action once the initial shot wasn’t there, but I get the frustration when guys are just making frequent and unforced mistakes. And on the very next possession Dante dribbled the ball out of bounds right in front of Ewing who grabbed it, bounced it once and gave his guys some frustrated encouragement. I know this doesn’t matter a ton, but he’s trying (and read below for a juxtaposition with the coach on the opposite sideline). So much of this game was just indicative of the issues they’re facing - not good enough process, not good execution. That’s on the offensive end. Defensively I don’t know really what to say. It’s bad and not getting better. They look clueless. And just so easy to play against. In my opinion, every question posed to Ewing should be some version of “What are you doing to improve the defense?” That, and “who is that new coach on the bench?” “Is he a defensive coordinator? If not, are you brining in a defensive coordinator to fix the defense? What are you doing to fix the defense?”
Hoya Fans - NO GRADE
There is a lot of frustration and a lot of anger. It’s hard to argue with. It’s hard to preach patience given where we are and how bad the process looks. I’m not going to preach patience because that’s not fair and not helpful. I am going to try and focus on things that can be improved, as I see them. There are a lot of them. Hopefully, they’ll begin to get things ironed out. And I hope Hoya fans can continue to find things to be hopeful about, though I don’t blame you if you can’t.
Refs - D-
Really bad. Made a really iffy 5-second call on the Hoyas early. Missed a pretty clear foul on a Carey three. Called Holloway for a block that seemed to be pretty clearly a charge unless I am just missing something.
Opponent Grade - South Carolina C - F for Frank Martin
South Carolina seems fine. Frank Martin? Not so much. Martin charging one of his players and screaming TIMEOUT directly into his face is my lasting image - just, yech. Seems just awful to play for. Just one of those “old-school” coaches (whatever that means) that seems to mistake emotionally berating players as coaching. I’ll say this here. I generally think about coaching comprising two key elements. 1: strategy and game knowledge 2: communication. In other words, do you understand the game and can you explain what you want to your team to get them to do it? Yelling is not a form of communication. It is anti-communication. It is an obstacle to communication. Yelling communicates one thing, regardless of what you’re yelling - “I am frustrated.” For what it’s worth, I have been uncomfortable at times in the past with the yelling that Ewing has done. It was never on the level of an Izzo or Frank Martin, but it was there. I’ve really not seen it that much this year. And I commend Ewing greatly for that. I don’t know that it’s all that productive to compare Ewing to other guys, but if we’re comparing him to Frank Martin, I’d rather play for Ewing (regardless of the team) 100 out of 100 times. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t be frustrated because Ewing seems less mean than Martin, but Ewing clearly exhibits respect and care for his players that…stand in contrast to what I saw from the opposing bench. It’s just a snapshot, but it’s something I am grateful for. Because that moment from Martin (indicative of his style and approach) was gross.