Georgetown’s second half performance against Loyola Marymount on Friday afternoon in Jamaica is something that no one around the Hoyas program will forget any time soon. The problem is that it’s for all the wrong reasons.
Leading 42-32 at the half, it looked like coach Patrick Ewing was going to get a chance to use his depth and tinker with things a bit against what appeared to be an over matched opponent that was picked to finish ninth (out of ten schools) in the West Coast Conference. This was a Lions squad missing one it’s better players and showed up to the Caribbean island with just one win against a Division 1 opponent. This would of course set up the Hoyas with a decent resume building opportunity on Sunday with ACC foe Wake Forest in the finals of the Montego Bay Division.
Instead none of that happened as the second half instantly looked like a replay of the Hoyas 2021 NCAA Tournament blowout loss against Colorado or, really, either of the UConn drubbings from that season plus a slew of other games - you pick - from the last five years. As troubling as it was to watch unfold, it’s something that’s been seen around these parts recently with some regularity, just with different key players.
The longer you actually look at the box score of the final 20 minutes, the worse it gets. I stared at it for awhile so you don’t have to.
Just really getting into this but the 2nd half box score for Georgetown Loyola Marymount is wild pic.twitter.com/NNIf9tqnz9— Bobby Bancroft (@BobbyBancroft) November 19, 2022
Obviously being more than doubled up at 52-24 isn’t a winning formula. Allowing LMU to go 9 for 18 from 3 point range while managing just eight makes of your own from any distance is also bad for business. Having nearly as many turnovers (seven) as made field goals (eight) is certainly problematic. The list goes on.
At halftime, Georgetown led LMU, 42-32. They lost, 84-66.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 19, 2022
Since Patrick Ewing took over in 2017, the Hoyas are the only Big East team with multiple double-digit losses after leading by 10+ at the half.
They also lost by 13 to Villanova in 2020 after leading by 13 at the break. pic.twitter.com/ZJQ8EJN1OW
Afterwards Ewing - who earlier in the week was disappointed in his team’s effort in a home loss to Northwestern - pointed to a need to change up his minutes distribution.
“Maybe I need to cut down on some of our key guy’s minutes,” Ewing said in a recording made available by the school.
“We are playing Brandon [Murray] and Primo [Spears] significant amount of minutes. We have to find a way to reduce their minutes so that they can be a lot more fresher in the second half.”
He’s not wrong there.
Murray and Spears each played the entire second half - combining to shoot 5 of 19 from the field - while failing to get to the line in tallying 13 of the Hoyas 24 points after the break. The pair of sophomore transfers dished out three assists against five turnovers. Spears grabbed two rebounds. They each committed two fouls. That’s it.
For the game Murray scored 19 points in 38 minutes while Spears added 10 points on a rough 4 of 17 shooting performance in a season-low 36 minutes. Yes, 36 minutes is somehow a season-low. Well it’s technically tied for a season-low but you get the picture. These two rarely come out. I mean look all players want to play and maybe that’s one of the reasons they showed up but this certainly isn’t a winning strategy and it’s not going to help bring this program back to where it wants to be. Or even get it, like, halfway there.
There was an (unexpected) overtime game right off the bat but coming into Friday, Spears was averaging 39.3 minutes through three games while Murray came in right behind his backcourt buddy at 38 minutes per outing. That’s just not sustainable and it’s not going to contribute to winning basketball games against even so-so competition. Ewing is running his guys into the ground before we even hit December and yet they still only sit at 2-2 despite not having played a team pegged to be in the NCAA Tournament come March.
Now we might never find out what the minutes distribution would have looked like with former Dave Gavitt Trophy winner Dante Harris available for Ewing. And we don’t know exactly when Ewing learned he’d be without his junior guard that played just over 32 mpg last season. But despite missing Harris, who is by the way still listed on the team’s official roster, there are other options.
For starters, Denver Anglin deserves minutes on this team. He’s been a player Ewing has needed since Day One but apparently didn’t realize it (maybe) until after this rough loss where his players were once again completely gassed at the end. Spears, as Ewing said, can’t keep up this crazy pace and the Hoyas have to start knocking down 3s of their own.
While the focus often turns to - and rightfully so - what the opposing teams are doing from behind the arc, the Hoyas are having difficulty knocking down their own shots from deep. It might be a bit simplistic but Georgetown was outscored by 27 points on 3s. They went 3 for 16 from long range for the game with Murray making all of them. The only reason the Hoyas stayed close - for awhile at least - was due to a huge edge in FT makes (19-8) with most of those coming in the first 20 minutes. That’s just not a way to live.
Hey did I mention Anglin yet?
He came in as one of the best shooters in his class and so far he’s played a total of 10 minutes - none on Friday - and he’s attempted just one three-pointer. That’s got to change if this season is to get on track at some point. We are living in the three-point era and Anglin - by all accounts - should be able to help in that department even if it’s for five minutes per half.
In an offseason filled with what seemed like never ending chatter about the decision to continue with a coach that had just lost 21 straight games in his fifth-year without a ton of prior success, one of the more reasonable concerns was would that coach feel he needed to win at all costs, possibly at the expense of developing for the future. That seemed like it happened last season as the losing streak grew and grew and it likely resulted in a few of the departures.
Of course, it’s not just Anglin that needs more burn.
Asked a similar question about falling apart defensively in the second half Ewing again admitted that fatigue was a factor.
“In the second half they were able to make a significant amount more,” Ewing said about Loyola Marymount’s increase in three-pointers.
“One we didn’t get back in transition to matchup with them. They were 3 for 17 in the first half and then ended up 12 for 35. I think that they hurt us in transition when we got back and weren’t matched up and then we just didn’t do a good job at getting out to them at the three point line. We got mixed up on the coverages.”
Enter Wayne Bristol and Jordan Riley to the chat.
Two of Georgetown’s better defenders, reserves Bristol and Riley combined to play 19 minutes. Nine of those minutes came after halftime. They both need more time to grow into their roles on the court and help balance out the playing time so Ewing has more options . Bristol was MEAC Freshman of the Year while Riley came in highly touted with crazy athleticism.
In the end there’s really just no way around it. Ewing has to be true to his word and find a way to give Murray and Spears more of a breather starting on Sunday against LaSalle.
Even at just four games in - and we haven’t even hit Thanksgiving yet - the season is in danger of slipping away without a change in philosophy. Ewing agreed that he’s evolved this offseason as a coach. He now needs to prove it on the fly after Plan A has come up well short.