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GAME GRADES: Georgetown’s Test Scores Suffer at Syracuse

Seemingly systemic defense and ball movement woes affect everyone’s grades

Georgetown v Syracuse Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images

#11 - Hoyas vs. Syracuse - 12/10/22 - This is going to be a fairly short post. There’s really no in-depth analysis needed here. And frankly, when it comes to Syracuse, the questions are really just, did you beat them? And by how much? Look, the Carrier Dome is a tough place to win, and Syracuse clearly had an advantage. But this loss hurts. In part because of how it happened but mostly because it illustrates just where the program is. Say what you will about the Georgetown Hoyas under Coach Ewing, but his teams have always seemingly been prepared (at least offensively) for Syracuse and have fought hard. As has been discussed ad nauseam, Georgetown’s last win against a high-major opponent came almost a year ago to the day against this same Syracuse team. The last crowning moment before the worst season in Georgetown Basketball history unfolded. Under Ewing, Georgetown has never lost to Syracuse by double digits under Ewing. Until now.

Georgetown started strong in this one before collapsing under Syracuse’s pressure late in the first half. They were never really in it again. They struggled to shoot the ball after the hot start, but this game was all about defense. I don’t have much to say beyond that. The individual performances were mostly fine (offensively). They lost this game because of their defense. Despite the promise of changes on that end of the floor and significantly better individual defenders, this team appears poised to be the worst defensive team in Ewing’s tenure (which is really saying something.)

Accountability Check: I predicted Georgetown by a million. I’ll have to check, but I think that was off by a few.

Here we go!

Primo Spears - C
22 PTS, 6-14 (42%), 1-6 3PT (16%), 9-9 FT, 3 REB, 5 AST, 3 TO, 39 MIN
Pretty straightforward Primo game. Ultimately, fine offensively. Decent, not great, shooting. Decent, not great, passing.

Jay Heath - C
14 PTS, 5-15 (33%), 3-10 3PT (30%), 1 REB, 0 AST, 1 STL, 2 TO, 39 MIN
Lots of shots for Heath, but you’d expect that against the zone. 3-10 is probably not good enough, but, like everyone, he was fine offensively.

Brandon Murray - C
8 PTS, 3-6 (50%), 2-3 3PT (66%), 2 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 2 TO, 23 MIN
He was fine offensively (sensing a theme?). Didn’t score as you would hope, but he wasn’t taking bad shots. Seemed like he was looking to facilitate. Not sure why he was not used in the middle of the zone more, but, ultimately, you’ll take 2-3 from three.

Akok Akok - C
8 PTS, 4-8 (50%), 0-1 3PT (0%), 8 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 3 TO, 37 MIN
Fine offensively and OK defensively. Best shooting game in a while, though he did not take threes. I would not have used him as much at the free-throw line, but he did fine there.

Qudus Wahab - C
10 PTS, 3-8 (37%), 4-5 FT, 11 REB, 0 AST, 1 BLK, 1 TO, 31 MIN
Fine. 37% is bad for the shots he is taking, but that’s sort of where he’s been. Ultimately, I do not think his offensive was a huge issue. They need him on the floor to rebound.

Bryson Mozone - NO GRADE
0 PTS, 0-3 (0%), 0-3 3PT (0%), 0 REB, 1 AST, 0 TO, 11 MIN
Was not fine. Played too much for what he produced. Not a great game.

Wayne Bristol - C
0 PTS, 0-1 (0%), 0-1 3PT (0%), 2 REB, 1 STL, 2 TO, 10 MIN
Fine. He’s not a part of the offense. I put that on coaches, but there’s some responsibility on him. He can be a good connector, but he is facing an uphill battle.

Bradley Ezewiro - C
2 PTS, 1-2 (50%), 0 REB, 1 TO, 6 MIN
Fine offensively. Really not fine defensively. See below.

Denver Anglin - C
0 PTS, 0-2 (0%), 0-1 3PT (0%), 1 REB, 1 AST, 1 TO, 5 MIN
Not sure how he is supposed to fit in this offense and does not get much of a chance. 5 minutes is his high mark over the last few games (maybe the season).

Offense - Fail
While the individual offensive performances in this one were ultimately fine, the overall scheme and approach fell apart after the first 10 minutes. Georgetown was simply unable to score consistently and shot horrendously for 3/4s of this game. A lot of that is just bad shooting luck, frankly. It is also a feature of an offense that is not able to generate easy looks.

The numbers in this one look weird, as they sort of always, do when you’re playing against a zone, but the one that jumps out is: not only did Georgetown have ZERO transition points according to ShotQuality, they had ZERO transition opportunities. Now some of that is how SQ classifies transition opportunities. Other sources count that pushing the ball to half-court or pushing off of makes more than SQ does. But Syracuse dictated this as a half-court-only game, and Georgetown obliged. Other than that, this one was pretty simple.

When you play Syracuse, you need to be able to move the ball to get open shots - particularly threes. Georgetown is really bad at moving the ball to generate and hit open threes. Georgetown went 6-25 from three in this game. That’s 24%. That’s not good. Even though Syracuse was worse from three. That’s just not going to get it done.

Defense - Fail
Georgetown lost this game because they could not defend. Georgetown has lost most games because they cannot defend. Georgetown’s defense seems to get worse rather than better, despite supposed changes to scheme/coaching/approach and improved individual defenders. The defense remains the ultimate stain on Coach Ewing’s tenure at Georgetown. It is abysmal, atrocious and embarrassing.

Georgetown allowed Syracuse an offensive rating of 118.6 (that is the number of points estimated over 100 possessions (which is roughly the number of possessions in an NBA game). Syracuse isn’t a great offensive team, but they are not horrible. They sit at 118 in CBK with a 107.8 offensive rating. Cuse’s 118 rating puts Georgetown on par with venerable Syracuse opponents Oakland (2-9 on the year and allowed a 118 ORtg) and Lehigh (4-4 on the year and allowed a 120 ORtg). The only other opponent to allow a worse offensive rating against Syracuse was 1-10 Monmouth.

I don’t know about you, but for me, Georgetown should never, NEVER be mentioned in the same category as Oakland, Lehigh and Monmouth. Certainly not defensively.

I truly don’t know what to say about the defense, but there have been too many years of the same results with different players to say it’s an execution issue. On paper, this team should be the best defensive team in Ewing’s tenure. They have better individual defenders, and, we were told, the off-season focus was defense. They are on track to be the worst under Ewing. They are currently 241st in CBK in Defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. Their previous low was last season when they finished 228th.

If you want an in-depth look at exactly what went wrong, I suggest these excellent threads by NationWideNolan:

There is nothing (and I don’t think I am being hyperbolic here) literally NOTHING good about the defense. It is not a well-intentioned scheme that is not being executed by the players. It’s a bad scheme, with weird emphases, principles, and decisions—all of which puts players in bad positions, is being executed poorly, and has no discernable adjustments.
HOMEWORK: Do something different.

Coaching - FAIL
See above. Abject failure defensively. Rotations remain baffling. Starters play too many minutes. But none of that is important compared with the defense. Until and unless the defense is improved, the coaching staff has failed.

Next Up
Welp! Here we go. Conference play. Are you excited? The big question on everyone’s mind: will Georgetown win a conference game? At this point, doing so would come as a surprise to most. First up, is Xavier, whose only losses this year are close ones against Gonzaga, Duke and Indiana. Yikes!

My prediction, I think Georgetown loses this 80-70. Once again, I hope I am wrong.