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GAME GRADES: Georgetown Comes Up Short in Early Northwestern Test

Hoyas lose momentum, despite adding two players

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 15 Northwestern at Georgetown Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

#3 - Hoyas vs. Northwestern - 11/15/22

Yeah, not good. In what seemed like an eminently winnable game, the Hoyas threw up a dud…again. After a back-and-forth and sloppy first half, Northwestern completely outclasses Georgetown in the second half and pulls away for a 75-63 win that wasn’t really that close after the first 5-minutes.

If you’re looking for silver linings or rose-colored takes, fair warning, I’d stop reading. I don’t have them. This felt like a measuring-stick game to determine whether the changes implemented this off-season would have some impact. They didn’t.

Accountability Check: I fell for it. I thought the Georgetown Hoyas could build off the momentum of the 2nd half against Green Bay and ultimately beat Northwestern 74 - 72. And with the news of Jay Heath’s waiver being granted and Bradley Ezewiro back for this one, I felt good going into the game. Fool me once; shame on me. Fool me for like five years straight…won’t get fooled again…or something.

Let’s dive in!

Primo Spears - B+/A-
22 PTS, 9-20 (45%), 1-4 3PT (25%), 3-3 FT, 1 REB, 6 AST, 1 TO, 3 STL, 39 Min

Good and bad from Primo in this one. Mostly good. He limited his turnovers and finished with 6 assists, which is great. He was the Hoyas leading scorer and was graded by KenPom as the MVP. I’d probably give that to Akok, but I think Primo played well. He finished with the best offensive rating (112). Like the rest of his teammates, he was not good defensively. In general, I think 20 shots is too many. One consistency across Ewing’s tenure has been the prevalence of fairly ball-dominant, high-volume shooting guards (Akinjo, Harris, now Spears). As a Freshman last year starting at Duquesne, Primo took just under 5 shots per game. So far, through 3 games, he’s taking close to 10. This seems to be part of Ewing’s offensive approach, so it’s hard to lay the blame on Primo (thus, his largely positive grade), but I don’t like it. He was the most productive player on the team on the offensive end.

HOMEWORK: Would love to see a double-double game from him with 10 assists.

Bryson Mozone - C
5 PTS, 2-6 (33%), 1-4 3PT (25%), 3 REB, 0 AST, 2 STL, 2 BLK, 26 Min

Seems pretty clear that the intention is for Bryson to come off the bench as the 6th man. And I think that’s a good role for him. The shooting is still a problem. He’s at 18% from three on the year. He’s a 38% three-point shooter for his career, so…yeah, that’s bad. Part of this is probably just variance, and I expect him to shoot better as the year goes on. However, I think part of it is the offense. They just don’t get a lot of shots in rhythm, and I think that strains shooters. He was active, if not very effective, defensively. I appreciate the effort at that end. He needs to rebound, particularly if they are going to play small with a frontcourt of Mozone and Akok.

HOMEWORK: Rebound!

Brandon Murray - D
5 PTS, 1-10 (10%), 1-6 3PT (16%), 2-2 FT, 3 REB, 3 AST, 0 TO, 2 BLK, 38 Min

ROUGH night for Brandon. I will not engage in the body-language interpretation I’ve seen elsewhere. I get it, but I also would really, really encourage folks to try and avoid that. I agree that his effort was lacking on a couple of plays, but I would also say that he has played at least 38 minutes in all three games so far, and I think his overall effort has been good. He just didn’t have a good game. I think his game illustrates why it’s important to look at defense and offense as connected. The process and results on the offensive end impact defense (this is true for almost every player and team in history). Some of the impact is direct. If you make more shots, you are able to set up your defense and avoid having to scramble in transition opportunities. Or if you’re able to get easy shots, guys may have more energy on the defensive end. Some of it is more indirect or emotional - when you’re frustrated on the offensive end, that frustration will carry over. That’s not a personal or player flaw. It’s just a reality. And it’s why I think the overall offense is so critical to individual and team performances at the defensive end.

HOMEWORK: Shake it off, and come back strong. And rebound.

Akok Akok - B
10 PTS, 3-5 (60%), 2-4 3PT (50%), 7 REB, 0 AST, 3 BLK, 4 TO, 37 Min

I love watching Akok play. He is, in my mind, the best all-around basketball player we’ve seen under Ewing, easily. His shot-blocking and overall positioning erase so many mistakes on the defensive end. And his feel for the game offensively is elite. He’s top 30 in the country in effective field goal percentage. He’s just really good. I don’t hate the smaLl-ball lineups with Akok at the 5. The problem is that they are trying to switch everything in those sets, and Akok was taken away from the basket and out of rebounding position. Almost every possession, it looked like Northwestern was looking to move Akok away from the basket. And it worked. There’s not much he can do in those situations except hope his teammates can pick up the slack. They didn’t in this one, and Georgetown lost this game on the boards.

HOMEWORK: Clone yourself.? I don’t know. 4 turnovers is probably too many.

Qudus Wahab - C-
6 PTS, 3-5 (60%), 0-0 FT, 7 REB, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 2 TO, 19 Min

Is it time to sound the alarm on Q? It might be. He has yet to really get his feet underneath him this season. In part because of foul trouble. But mostly, it’s his decision-making on the offensive end. It’s no secret that Ewing likes to play through a traditional big posting up (in addition to an active guard). The book on how to defend Q is out, and oh boy, is it a best seller. Send a double at him, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to force him into a turnover or bad shot. He does not want to pass out of the post, and he does not want to shoot over his right shoulder (with his left hand). These were things we targeted as growth areas after his first, largely successful season. They simply need to happen. Despite his struggles so far, Georgetown is generally a better team when he is on the court. In part because he does a lot for them on the boards, which they need. And in part, because he is a good scorer in the post. He just has to be more efficient by being able to handle the double team.

HOMEWORK: Pass out of the post.

Jay Heath - B/B+
13 PTS, 5-9 (55%), 2-4 3PT (50%), 1-3 FT, 4 REB, 4 AST, 3 STL, 2 TO, 30 MIN

Excitement was high when Heath received his waiver right before this one. And we saw flashes of how he can balance this offense. I expect he’ll likely move into a starting role (in place of Mozone), and I am eager to see how he impacts the team. He was active on both ends and gave them a good scoring punch. I thought he was good in this one, with plenty of room for improvement. I’d like to see more of his reportedly solid defense.

HOMEWORK: None, yet…

Jordan Riley - B
2 PTS, 1-2 (50%), 0-0 3PT (0%), 0-0, 4 REB, 0 TO, 8 Min

Unlike many, I don’t particularly have an issue with Jordan’s playing time in this one. I do think he could have played a bit more, but I don’t think there were major issues with the rotation. He remains a bit out of place on the offensive end while being an asset on the defensive end. I certainly think he deserves to continue to play, and he was really the one guy who seemed to give effort on the glass. He finished with a team-high rebounding rate of 28.4 (percentage of available rebounds a player grabs when on the floor). I like what I’ve seen so far from him and think he absolutely has a role to play.

HOMEWORK: More dunks.

Bradley Ezewiro - INC
0 PTS, 1 TO, 3 MIN
First action for Brad after sitting out due to wisdom teeth surgery. I don’t think there are any conclusions to draw from this one. We’ll see what happens in Jamaica.

Wayne Bristol Jr. - INC
I thought I saw somewhere that Bristol was sick, but I can’t find it now, so maybe I made it up. Either way, he only played for 1 minute.

Offense - D-
Yikes. I just really, really don’t like the offense right now. And I say right now, but it’s been several years of this, and I don’t see much change. Georgetown’s offensive rating in this one was 88.7. That’s an estimate for the number of points scored per 100 possessions. That is AWFUL. Only 25 teams in all of college basketball (363 total) average a worse offensive rating. Of course, that 88.7 is just for one game, but Georgetown’s 69th-best offensive rating on the year of 114 is mainly propped up by a massive second half against Green Bay. It’s only three games in, but it’s time to sound the alarm on the offensive end. Look, Patrick Ewing has forgotten more about basketball, TODAY, than I will ever hope to know, but I just don’t get it. If someone smarter than me can explain it. I am all ears. I don’t understand the offense. I don’t understand what they are trying to get. I don’t understand the overall scheme. I don’t understand their plan to get easy or high-percentage shots. Georgetown’s offense is currently 312th in college basketball in 3PA/FGA, meaning they don’t shoot a lot of threes. That goes against the grain of modern basketball, but fine. How else are you generating points? Perhaps more concerning, Georgetown is 229th in Assists/FGM. And that is reinforced by the eye test. Too many possessions end up in pull-up jumpers or shots coming off the dribble (as opposed to a pass). They simply have to figure out a way to get easier shots. And I have no idea what the plan is.

Defense - D-
As I mentioned in Brandon Murray’s report, I absolutely think part of the defensive issues are tied to the offensive struggles. Georgetown’s inability to get easy shots consistently means guys are expending A LOT of energy at the offensive end and have less of it on the defensive end. Add in the press (drop it…now) and the relatively short bench, and you have a recipe for exhausted guys making mistakes on the defensive end. I don’t know what else to say about the defense at this point. The defense is in the bottom 20 IN ALL OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL in 3PA/FGA. Nearly 50% of opponents’ shots are coming from three.

Why is that a problem? Well, teams are also shooting 37% from three against Georgetown. 48% of opponents’ points are coming from the three. That’s 5th worst in college basketball. In a nutshell, Georgetown is giving opponents a lot of opportunities to take the shot that results in the most points in basketball and also allowing opponents to make a lot of them. Three-point percentage is largely outside of a team’s control. That is, experts believe that defenses don’t have a huge ability to impact an opponent’s three-point percentage. I would argue that Georgetown challenges that theory, but let’s grant it for now. You ABSOLUTELY can affect the number of threes an opponent takes. Georgetown is one of the worst teams in the country in both. And has been for years.

There’s not much else to say, really. Until and unless Georgetown drastically alters their defensive approach, they will not win. They just will not win games. In fact, I would argue that no single aspect of the game has more directly contributed to Georgetown’s success (or lack thereof) than their three-point defense. Specifcally, how many three’s they allow their opponents to shoot. In JT3’s final year (2017), Georgetown ranked 244 in college basketball in 3PA/FGA. Georgetown finished that season 14-18. Since then, here is how Georgetown has finished in that statistic:

  • 2018: 241 (15-15 record) - year one, stats don’t matter
  • 2019: 201 (19-14 record) - Not bad!
  • 2020: 309 (15-17 record) - Uh oh!
  • 2021: 142 (13-13 record) - COVID year. BET win! Yes! Great!
  • 2022: 220 (6 - 25 record) - Yikes
  • 2023: 312 so far.

There is so much about the defense that needs to be fixed but start with this. If Georgetown wants to be even remotely successful, they need to be top 150 (even 200) in this category, in my opinion. That’s not where the trendline is heading.

HOMEWORK: See above.

Next Up
The Hoyas are headed to Jamaica! Patrick Ewing brings his team home for the second time in his tenure. They’ll face the Loyola Marymount Lions. The last time Georgetown faced the lions? On their last trip to Jamaica, Georgetown was unceremoniously defeated 65 - 52. The best Thanksgiving side dish is revenge! Served cold…as long as the gravy is hot. In 2019 Georgetown, ranked 68 on KenPom, did not take the Lions, ranked 134, seriously, and paid the price. That 2019 squad featured arguably the most talented roster in Ewing’s tenure, led by Senior Jessie Govan, Sophomore Jamorko Pickett, and three talented Freshmen who shall remain nameless.

Now, perhaps an even more talented squad (maybe?) tries to reset their Jamaica fortunes and season against the same Loyola Marymount team ranked 152 on KenPom. Georgetown comes in at 109 on KenPom. And frankly, they need to come back from Jamaica with two wins. That starts with getting one on Friday. Loyola Marymount likes to shoot a lot of threes but does not make a lot. I think it will be a good barometer of where the defense is headed after the embarrassment of the Northwestern game, but it’s a matchup that absolutely favors Georgetown.

Because I do not learn, I am going to think happy thoughts and predict an 80 - 70 Hoyas win, leaving us both stuffed and confused.