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LINKS: WaPo Stirs Pot After Villanova Loss, Hoyas Look Ahead to UConn

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And what did Patrick Ewing Jr. say on Hoya Locker Room?

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Georgetown Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

According to about half of the faithful fans of the Georgetown Hoyas, fighting No. 11 Villanova down the stretch was overachieving and showing promise after Georgetown dropped four BIG EAST games. For the other half, and apparently some folks at The Washington Post, failing to hold off the elder, healthier, and Vegas-predicted 14-point favorite was a key piece of straw on the back of a wobbly-legged camel.

While Candace Buckner from the Post did not outright call for head coach Patrick Ewing’s job, the piece certainly suggests—through imagery of the well-known coach’s towel—that Ewing may be feeling warmer than usual as a result of the worst conference start in program history.

The Post’s article is rather nebulous as to the direct causes of the storied program’s highlighted five conference losses, but in Washington D.C., the finger is ultimately pointing at the head guy in charge. Like many other plights analyzed by the papers, the line of culpability between man and virus is blurry, however, blaming COVID is not going to fix a damn thing. The buck stops here.

The Post is not wrong that there needs to be some significant change in direction. Even if there were no COVID pause and the Hoyas played as well at Providence or Creighton in December, before the cancellations, there are recent issues that have been apparent since 2017-18. Chiefly, defense.

Most fans seem to agree that Ewing’s job security is likely not in question until at least 2023, but the question posited between the lines of black and white appears to be whether Patrick will always want to continue. Will he get so sick of losing that he will walk away? I wouldn’t count on the Knicks legend—who made stops in Orlando and Seattle to extend his playing career before hanging up his sneakers—giving up on coaching out of his own volition.

When WaPo publicly airs your recent string of misfortunes, there are generally three options: (1) make a statement that says leadership is listening, (2) shake up leadership personnel, or (3) ignore the shaming completely. When your opponents can forward that article to your 4-star recruits, doing nothing is not likely the best option.

Patrick Ewing and Georgetown have not yet publicly responded. Patrick Ewing, Jr. did appear on Hoya Locker Room (listen to all of it, of course, but re-listen to 20-36 mins).

Recently, Ewing Jr. appearing on pregame Hoya Hoop Club Zoom events and Dawg Talk has been a revelation for the notoriously uncommunicative program. Hearing him joking with Chris Wright last week was heart-warming and informative. But his take-home message on this episode of Hoya Locker Room encouraging the Hoya faithful to be better fans comes off a bit tone deaf. Feel free to disagree, but it feels like a missed opportunity.

COVID has been awful, and managing scheduling and practices can’t be easy, but the fans are still tuning in and (by and large) still care about the program. They are not the problem. They do not play defense or design offensive sets.

One group that should be especially recognized as positive is the students. They have been incredibly supportive of Ewing and the program—even when it appears unreciprocated. Those who showed up on Saturday should be commended. Hopefully they continue to show up and support.

The longtime fans and alumni have generally been supportive, as well, but one need not search far to take the temperature of Hoyas fans on Twitter, Facebook, message boards, and more. Fans and their discourse are running uncomfortably hot right now. So it is a bit strange to see The Washington Post characterize the current divide as apathy. As frustrated as many Georgetown supporters have become with the public hearing of our grievances towards the program and its leadership, the article’s broad readership now minimizes any chilling effects on player morale and recruiting that could be attributed to fans bickering. No sense in sugar-coating it now, Georgetown’s defense has been a dumpster fire.

Maybe the staff finally takes note now that journalists are recognizing this historically low point for the program. Like our fearless Casual leader said in the Tweet above, if it appears the fans are apathetic it’s because no one believes anyone is listening. For the same reasons that JT3 never abandoned the Princeton offense, fans are likely correct to think that no one will politely force Ewing to revamp the shitty defense until it’s far too late. There were some decent defensive stretches in the Villanova game, but with ratings reported to be in the 200s, the foundation needs to be rebuilt.

In the much shorter term, if anyone at GU is indeed listening, here are some suggestions of this humble lunch blog contributor: Georgetown and Ewing should acknowledge their need for a change in program direction (e.g., defensive culture), GU needs to identify to their stakeholders what they think they do well and what they’re hoping to change, and GU needs to use their most likable resources—the student athletes themselves—to engage with and maintain every last fan who is still bleeding Blue & Gray. Hoya Saxa.

Here are the links:

Perspective | Patrick Ewing hasn’t thrown in the towel, but Georgetown looks like it has bottomed out | WASHINGTONPOST

Patience over panic should always be appreciated, but since Georgetown has not been what it was for several years now, there’s been a hole in the region’s fabric of basketball. It’s why Howard Coach Kenneth Blakeney told me this week that he can envision his team and his gym becoming the focus of D.C. hoops. He said it very carefully because he didn’t want to offend other schools, but he pointed out the obvious: Georgetown (and Maryland, too) no longer resembles the program he remembers when he was growing up in D.C., when all that mattered was Big John’s Hoyas.

This should have been the season that stopped the years of regression. Georgetown won the Big East tournament last season, becoming the first eighth seed to ever do so. Then Ewing reeled in one of the top 20 recruiting classes in college basketball. And there have been flashes of individual talent: freshman Aminu Mohammed leads the conference in double-doubles, and D.C. native Dante Harris ranks among the top assist men in the nation. Yet it hasn’t fully come together.

Gillespie scores 28, No. 11 Villanova beats Georgetown 85-74 | WASHINGTONPOST (Bobby Bancroft for the AP)

Georgetown led 47-39 a few minutes into the second half after a Holloway 3-pointer. Villanova used a 9-0 run to regain the lead and then led most of the way. Aminu Mohammed added 13 points for Georgetown. Four of Georgetown’s five conference losses have come by double digits.

“It’s disappointing that we let this one slip away,” said Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing. “We were right there.” Villanova last trailed after a Holloway layup with 10:43 left put the Hoyas up 56-55. Gillespie nailed two of his 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions and Georgetown never got closer than three the rest of the way.

Three takeaways from Villanova’s 85-74 win over Georgetown | VUHOOPS

The start of the second half appeared like it could get ugly with Georgetown leading 47-39 after a Collin Holloway 3-pointer. However, Coach Jay Wright’s half-time adjustments seemed to pay off as Villanova embarked on a 9-0 run to reclaim the lead. In the second half, the ‘Cats shot 63% from the paint and 45.5% from beyond the arc which allowed them to extend their lead. ‘Nova outscored Georgetown 42-26 in the paint overall, which was one of the deciding factors in the game. ​

Wright’s halftime tweaks are largely responsible for their success. In the first half, Georgetown was quite adept at switching matchups to generate open shots. After a number of impressive performances recently, Eric Dixon struggled with switches and perimeter defense. Wright opted for a smaller, quicker lineup in the second half, which was highly effective in slowing down the Hoyas’ offense.

Hoyas’ Upset Attempt Comes Up Short Against #11 Villanova - Thompson’s Towel | THOMPSONSTOWEL

The center position in general was a glaring weakness on Saturday. Timothy Ighoefe got the start but played just 20 minutes and scored 0 points, while not contributing much defensively, either. Malcolm Wilson looked similarly ineffective in limited action, and Ryan Mutombo did not see the court at all. In a conference as physical as the Big East, the Hoyas’ lack of a reliable option at the center position has turned into their Achilles heel.

While this one may have gotten away from Georgetown in the second half, there are certainly a number of positives to take away from the loss. With the Hoyas back at full strength, the offense looked far better than some previous outings to start Big East play. Aminu Mohammed looked closer to his usual self, and Collin Holloway has quietly established himself as a bonafide scoring threat for this team.

Still, there’s a lot of work to be done on the defensive end. When Georgetown was at their best on Saturday, it was when they were pressuring the ball and getting stops on the defensive end…

Villanova bounces back with 85-74 win over Georgetown | INQUIRER

Gillespie, held in check by Marquette on Wednesday, led the way for ‘Nova with 28 points, followed by Moore with 19 and Samuels with 18. Meanwhile, the defense turned it on late, causing Georgetown (6-10, 0-5) to miss 11 of 12 shots during what became a decisive 22-8 Villanova run to break the game open. Villanova’s Collin Gillespie drives to the basket against Georgetown’s Dante Harris during the first half.

Despite being at a considerable size disadvantage, Villanova showed no hesitancy taking it right to the Hoyas at the basket. Samuels, Moore, even Gillespie drove repeatedly for layups, the Wildcats finishing with 42 points in the paint to Georgetown’s 28. At the other end, Georgetown found it tougher than expected, with ‘Nova blocking four shots, including two on a single possession before the shot clock expired. Villanova also won the rebounding battle, 30-26.

UConn men need to pick up the pace in the Big East, and Tyrese Martin may be the key to providing that spark | COURANT

UConn’s offense has gotten into the habit of starting slow and playing with little urgency on the court early in games. The Huskies got away with it against Butler, sweeping the home-and-home series with a 75-56 victory at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Thursday and a 76-59 win Tuesday night at the XL Center, but as they continue to face tougher competition, it may become a serious issue. UConn’s four games against Big East opponents prior to Butler were single-digit wins or losses.

If UConn has aspirations of winning the Big East, that means its offense must play with better pace, better energy and take better shots on fast breaks. It lacked all of those things early against Butler, as the Huskies shot only 10-for-35 (28.6%) from the field and found themselves fortunate to be down only four points at the half.

UConn: preview, prediction, how to watch | RUMBLEINTHEGARDEN

Connecticut score a lot of points and do not concede that much, as they average 79.9 points per contest and give up 64.3 points a game. They come into the matchup ranking 53rd in the nation in offensive rating and 28th in defensive rating per KenPom. The Huskies shoot from deep well as a team, but don’t have a player who averages more than two threes a game — they spread the shooting. Defensively, the Huskies are long and get out on three-point shooters, and make teams create their shots off the dribble. They are also defensively imposing inside, forcing the ninth-worst shooting percentages on opponents shooting two-pointers in the nation…

UConn is led in scoring by 6-1 grad guard RJ Cole, who averages 16.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.6 steals, but shoots 38.7% from the field. The Huskies have another solid backcourt player in 6-6 senior Tyrese Martin, who averages 14.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Martin isn’t the only 6-6 guard who rebounds well for UConn, as they also have sophomore Andre Jackson who posts averages of 7.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.

Adama Sanogo at heart of UConn men’s basketball’s OT win over St. John’s: ‘The guy is a monster’ | CTINSIDER

Adama Sanogo, the dependable force on a team always ready to run through a brick wall and sometimes into one, made everything all right. He grabbed a rebound of Tyrese Martin’s miss with 1.3 seconds remaining, drew a foul on the put-back attempt and made one of two free throws to push UConn into overtime and, ultimately, toward an 86-78 victory over St. John’s.

What a shame it would have been if one of the best performances of Sanogo’s career came in the context of such crushing defeat. UConn blew an 11-point lead, fizzling down the stretch, but wound up with the rope in a brutal Big East tug-o-war largely because they had the biggest, baddest, coolest guy on the court.

Sanogo had 26 points, six blocks and a career-high 18 rebounds three days after posting 18 points and a then-career high 16 rebounds in an overtime loss at Seton Hall. Two conference games, two overtimes, 72 minutes, 44 points, 34 rebounds, nine blocks, 18 for 33 shooting.

Georgetown’s Conundrum at Center | HILLTOPHOOPS.SUBSTACK

As for the other center behind Ighoefe, Ryan Mutombo, there is an argument to be made that you should start the freshman big man over both of the junior centers. With Georgetown’s season looking more lost by the game, a priority should be placed on getting the young players more minutes to help accelerate their development heading into their sophomore seasons. Mutombo is one such player who should see more minutes, but should he start?

In Mutombo’s case, he is averaging 5.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, but the real story is his advanced numbers, some of which lead the team. He leads the team in PER (25.2), block rate (9.7%), and WS/40 (.167). He has shown some offensive ability, but he has been a defensive liability for the team so far, where his lack of strength and quickness on that end of floor cause real problems for not only him, but the entire Georgetown defense. His DBPM of -1.4 is 11th on the team and among the centers on the roster, he has the worst defensive rating (103.2).