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Game Grades: Merrimack and Cheese with Hoyas on Top

Georgetown oozes by a frustrating foe


Winning is better than losing. Winning is better than losing. Winning is better than losing. It was ugly. It was painful. It was unbearable at times, but the Hoyas found a way to sneak past the Merrimack zone for a win. This game featured the Hoya debut of Swish Massoud, which came at the expense of Jayden Epps, who left after getting hit in the eye late in the first half.

Supreme Cook - C-

12pts, 4-10 40% FG, 4-8 FT, 12 REB, 2 STL, 3 TO, 29 MIN

Not a big fan of Supreme’s game in this one. He did rebound well, which was a positive, but he missed a bunch of relatively easy shots. 4-10 is just not good enough when those shots are all coming within 2 feet of the rim. They made a concerted effort to get him the ball deep in the paint in the second half, and he could not convert enough of those for my liking. A few just blown layups, and one was a pretty bad travel. He was able to get a couple to fall late that helped Georgetown pull away, and despite shooting 50% from the line, made them down the stretch. Needs to continue to improve his free throw shooting.

Dontrez Styes - C

6pts, 1-6 25% FG, 0-2 3PT, 4-6 FT, 6 REB, 2 TO, 28 MIN

Off night for Trez and he really didn’t get many looks. I think this was a tough matchup for him a bit as the Merrimack zone really took away a lot of the shots he has been getting the past few games. He also just shot it poorly, missing a couple of wide-open corner threes that would have put this game away. It looked like he was rushing a bit. In general, Merrimack’s zone made everyone uncomfortable. I am mildly concerned because this was what he looked like in Kenner, but he has shown enough in real games to earn the benefit of the doubt that this was just a quiet night. I’ll be eager to see his bounceback against TCU. Also, he got absolutely clobbered on the last intentionally missed free-throw sequence that should have ended things before they started. He had the ball and got bulldozed in the face, completely taken out of the play and then all hell broke loose. Not ideal refereeing there.

Wayne Bristol Jr. - B

14pts, 3-5 60% FG, 8-11 FT, 4 REB, 1 AST, 2 STL, 3 BLK, 1 TO, 24 MIN

No one was really good in this one, but I thought Wayne was probably the best starter. His activity really helped, and he had a couple of really big defensive plays down the stretch, including a monster block from behind. He also had two of the biggest buckets in the second half for the Hoyas. One came off a transition drive and finish at the rim through contact. The other was a really nice cut and reverse layup that forced Merrimack into the foul game.

Jayden Epps - INC

11pts, 3-7 60% FG, 2-3 66% 3PT, 3-4 FT, 1 REB, 2 AST, 3 TO, 13 MIN

I Hope Jayden is OK. He left the game just before halftime after getting hit in the eye. Coach said he got scratched pretty good but hopes he’s available on Sat. Georgetown definitely struggled offensively after he went down as they struggled to stretch out the zone and getzone get looks beyond the arc after he went down. Merrimack’s zone was really aggressive, and without Jayden, the Hoyas struggled to get looks beyond the arc to stretch them out. Before he went down, it looked like his hot streak (which may not be a streak, really) was going to continue. Still had too many lazy pass turnovers, but so did everyone. Hope he’s back for TCU.

Jay Heath - NO GRADE

7pts, 2-5 40% FG, 1-3 33% 3PT, 2-2 FT, 3 REB, 3 AST, 2 TO, 22 MIN

I don’t know what to think about Jay right now, but I am giving him a NO GRADE because he looks really hobbled. We know he’s been battling turf toe (possibly for months), and I have to think that is playing a big role in his game. He looked really unstable at times in this game. He stumbled a couple of times. He’s clearly limping, and he’s not able to get to spots on the floor. Despite that, he had a few good plays, including an absolutely essential deep three to stop a Merrimack run in the second half. His turnovers are some of the most maddening to me because you can see them coming a mile away, and they are all just bad passes that shouldn’t be thrown. Maybe some of that is being forced by his injury, and I give him credit for toughing it out. Coach ended up benching him for much of the stretch run in this one, which was the right call. The trigger was a really bad defensive possession where he just completely screwed up his positioning, shading a post-up to the middle of the floor and somehow managing the Merrimack player to get between him and his own basket while posting up. Maybe that has to do with the foot and not feeling comfortable on his feet, but it’s getting close to the point where you might want to sit him for a game or two and see if he can get healthier.

Ismael Massoud - B+

9pts, 2-9 22% FG, 2-5 40% 3PT, 3-4 FT, 3 REB, 1 AST, 4 BLK, 2 TO 31 MIN

Man, it was nice to see Ish out there. I thought he was really good in his Hoyas debut despite being rusty, which is to be expected. He didn’t shoot it well, which I think will change, but he hit two really big deep threes they needed. I was honestly shocked to see he only had 3 boards because I thought he made a real difference on the glass (I was hoping he would). I am interested to see how he helps their rebounding against a better, taller, non-zone opponent, but he is a competent boxer-outer, which goes a long way with this team. He also had 4 really big weak side blocks. I am not sure he gets those against better and bigger competition, but he might! His timing was really good on help-side defense. This team just makes more sense with him out there and should be even better when they have both Epps and Massoud. He also made an excellent pass to WBJ on the crucial reverse layup that I don’t think a lot of other guys would have seen. They absolutely do not win that game without him.

Rowan Brumbraugh - NO GRADE

6pts, 1-5 20% FG, 4-7 FT, 1 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 3 TO, 25 MIN

Rowan apparently hasn’t practiced in a week and is still recovering from an illness. He definitely looked rusty and shaky overall. He ultimately fouled out of this one and, in general, just had a rough night. I am giving him a NO GRADE because it was pretty clear he is WAY less than 100%.

Drew Fielder - B

4pts, 2-2 100% FG, 6 REB, 1 AST, 1 BLK, 1 TO, 13 MIN

Drew was good in limited minutes, including two really nice put-backs. He was really active on the boards. He continues to look more and more comfortable, and I think these minutes are only going to help him as he progresses. He’s going to have a game here at some point.

Cameron Bacote - D+

0pts, 1 REB, 1 AST, 1 TO, 10 MIN

I give him credit for clearly playing beyond his role with the injuries in the backcourt. But he was flat-out rough in this one. Early in the second half, he fell asleep on a backdoor cut and then got swiped clean and gave up a runout layup. 4 points that were solely on him helped spark the Merrimack 15-0 second-half start. I don’t care how skilled you are. That’s the kind of stuff that you just can’t do if you’re going to play. He does a nice job of pushing the pace when he’s in the game.

Ryan Mutombo - No Grade

0pts, 4 MIN

I am sure it’s frustrating to be Ryan right now, but I think it’s probably also frustrating for Coach. I think the biggest obstacle to him getting more consistent minutes is on the defensive end. The Hoyas want to switch as much as possible, and the only guy on the roster who really can’t do that - even against less athletic and worse teams - is Ryan. He just cannot switch onto guards or defend against 5-out. That forces Coach to make a decision - either change your defense scheme to keep Ryan on the floor in the hopes that his offensive upside pays off or give him a few minutes to see if you can hide him defensively. It’s a tough spot for everyone. Until and unless he’s able to fit into what they want to do or need on the defensive end, I’m afraid it will be a lot of these nights.

Other Grades

Coaching - C

The Cis is pretty much just because they only beat Merrimack by 2. I don’t think that has much to do with the coaching, again, but I don’t want to argue. I thought they were pretty well prepared to deal with the zone (with one caveat I note below). I thought Coach handled his rotation well, and he set them up for success in crunch time. I think a lot of the struggles are about execution, and if there is a gripe with the coaching, it’s with how they set the team up. That’s not really what I am grading here, but I also think the growing pains now will (hopefully) pay dividends in the future as their core group is learning and getting better. I have been really pleased with the coaching staff so far this year.

Offense - D

The offense was bad. A lot of that is because of the Merrimack zone. Zone is stupid and should be illegal. It’s a gimmick that should be limited like it is in the pros, but until that happens, teams like Merrimack are going to have some success with it. That zone looked SO annoying to play against. The announcers kept calling it a 2-3 zone, which it decidedly wasn’t. It was a morphing zone going from 3-2 to 2-2-1 to 1-3-1. I thought Georgetown’s offensive approach was largely fine. They just really struggled to execute. My one gripe is that they seemed way too focused on getting the ball to the middle of the zone, which is how you’d expect to beat a 2-3 setup. The 1-3-1 that Merrimack plays is almost trying to get you to make that pass to the middle because they close that space really quickly and either get a deflection or put a lot of pressure on the guy who catches it. They needed to work the ball into the free throw line extended and short corner more, and, to the credit of the coaches, they seemed to try and set that up. The Hoyas just were largely uncomfortable making that pass. When they did, it produced some of their best offensive sets. On top of all of that, this game came down to turnovers, free throws and missed layups. The free throw thing just needs to be fixed. Those guys need to live in the gym shooting free throws. I don’t know how else you fix that. The turnovers are part defensive pressure, part lazy passes. I counted 6 flat cross-court passes. Some resulted in turnovers, others didn’t, but that is the pass that they should just outlaw. Even with the turnovers and free throw issues, the Hoyas win this game handily if they just make layups. I counted 9 blown layups, at least three of which resulted in runouts (so they were basically the same as a live-ball turnover). Shot Quality seems to agree, as they have this as a comfortable 80-68 win for the Hoyas based on their SQ points data (expected points based on types of shots, who’s shooting them, etc.).

Defense - C-

I thought the defense was largely fine, with a couple of key caveats. Georgetown’s biggest challenge defensively right now is their offense. Defense and offense are more connected than we think, and this game was a prime example. They were good when the Hoyas were defending in the half-court and set. Stifling even. The problem is they gave up at least 11 live ball turnovers. Combine that with the missed layups that function as turnovers, and Merrimack’s best offense was coming against a scrambling Hoyas defense. I don’t care how big the talent gap is. That is a recipe to level the playing field. The data backs this up. According to Synergy, Merrimack scored 1.263 points per possession on 19 transition opportunities. In the half court overall, they scored .741 PPP. They scored 1.167 PPP off turnovers and .824 PPP pushing the ball downcourt off-shot attempts. Put simply, when Georgetown was able to set their defense, they were effective. They gave Merrimack way too many transition opportunities. On the year, 12% of Merrimack’s possessions were coming in transition. In this one, they were up to 29%, which would be number 1 in all college basketball if extrapolated. That’s the ball game right there. Fix the offense and turnovers, and the defense gets a lot better.

Next up - The Hoyas welcome a TCU team that is ranked 30th by Kenpom. They have a ton of expectations this year, but they have not played a single team ranked above 200 yet. They have just been beating up on cupcakes. Can Georgetown catch them napping and punch them in the mouth? If ever there was a sneaky upset spot, this would be it!