I am sure there have been worse schedules to start the Big East season, but I sure can’t think of them. After a frankly ridiculous three games in seven days, an NBA-style road trip, your Georgetown Hoyas matched up against Butler at the height of their powers and a pissed-off Marquette team after a beatdown at Providence. Georgetown returns from a much-needed 10-day break to face… a really pissed-off Creighton team staring down 0-3 to start the conference season after an OT loss to Villanova and an emotional loss at Marquette. We probably should not go further than that, except, oh yeah…Georgetown was without their highest scorer, Jayden Epps.
So, how did the Epps-less Hoyas fair? OK! In the first half. And then miserably.
Supreme Cook - D
7pts, 2-2 100% FG, 3-4 75% FT, 5 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1 TO, 23 MIN
I would like to register a complaint! Or at least ask a question. It started as a pet peeve and has developed into a full-blown grievance. Supreme’s help defense. At least twice a game, and against Creighton three times in the first half (I stopped counting after the third due to frustration-induced blindness), Supreme allows a driver to go uncontested to the rim. He is engaged with the opposing big on almost all occasions and doesn’t step in to protect the rim. It is so obvious I genuinely wonder if it’s being coached that way. But then, that would be insane. While all instances are blood-curdling, the most egregious came at 8:00 minutes in the first half. Creighton runs a pretty simple off-ball screen with a dribble handoff from Kalkbrenner. Bristol is on Scheierman and is trailing him, coming off the initial screen as he goes into the handoff with Kalkbrenner. Cook is on Kalkbrenner and presumably has a decision to make (hopefully previously discussed) about handling the DHO that has now resulted in Scheierman getting the ball with a wide-open lane. Cook is now the on-ball defender, at least temporarily. He has two options. He can either switch to stop the ball handler or hedge off of Kalkbrenner to stop Scheierman’s path to the lane and then recover to Kalkbrenner when Bristol has gotten back in position. He chooses a third option involving pointing at Scheierman (usually associated with calling for a switch) and immediately going to box out (????) Kalkbrenner. This gives Scheierman an unimpeded path to the basket and a wide-open layup. Something is happening in either the preparation and instruction or decision-making that needs to be fixed. It’s virtually impossible for me to focus on anything else in Cook’s game (which I think was largely fine) because of how egregiously bad this defensive sequence is at least twice a game.
Dontrez Styles - C
9pts, 4-9 44% FG, 1-2 50% 3PT, 2 REB, 1 AST, 2 TO, 36 MIN
Trez needed to get more than nine shots up. It’s a testament to his game really that he seems really focused on (mostly) taking good shots, but there are times with Jayden out that any shot he takes is the best shot. I’d like to see them run more action to get him going to the rim. I think he’s capable there, and they can get to it more easily with Epps on the floor. Four of his nine field goals came at the rim in this one. That’s a decent percentage; the problem is just overall volume. On the year, 30% of his shots are coming at the rim and 80% of those are layups. He’s scoring 1.115 PPP on those, which is good, but I think he can improve if it becomes more of a focus. Keep attacking closeouts, and don’t just settle for the midrange. Get to the bucket.
Ismael Massoud - C-
7pts, 2-7 28% FG, 1-4 25% 3PT, 2-2 FT, 4 REB, 2 STL, 32 MIN
Ish can’t shoot 25% from three, particularly without Jayden. That is sort of what it comes down to. The big question for Ish coming in was whether he could be a focal point and high-usage guy for the first time in his career. He’s largely been a spot shooter on his previous teams. The hand injury probably robbed us of a definitive answer on that, as he missed too much time at the beginning of the year. He’s shown some flashes but needed to step up in this one. I have largely liked his defense, and while he is not quick, he tends to be in the right spot, which this team desperately needs.
Jay Heath - C+
11pts, 5-14 35% FG, 1-3 33% 3PT, 3 REB, 3 STL, 0 TO, 29 MIN
Jay looked much more comfortable in this one, particularly in the first half. It’s encouraging to see, as it hopefully means he has turned a corner with the foot injury, and we can reasonably assume that was to blame for his lack of form. He gave the Hoyas some much-needed scoring in the first half, so they were only down four at the half. The problem is that his game has so much variance built in. He’s a great tough-shot maker, but even the best tough-shot makers will not make more than 40% of those shots. He seems to operate best out of ISOs or simple pistol action, which hinders the rest of the team a bit. It’s just a tricky spot because you need his scoring, especially without Jayden, but his scoring comes almost exclusively through 1on1 play. In Kenner, he’s shown more playmaking and facilitating, but that’s never translated. It’s why I think he’s best as a sixth man.
Rowan Brumbraugh - B-
19pts, 7-16 43% FG, 3-7 42% 3PT, 2-2 FT, 3 REB, 5 AST 2 TO, 32 MIN
I thought Rowan was quietly very good and I was pleased to look up and see he had 19 on decent shooting. I really like the way he understands the game. Without Epps, he was quicker to shoot, and his shot selection, for the most part, is really solid. The real win for him is only two turnovers to 5 assists. That is way more like it. Creighton isn’t forcing a lot of steals, but he looked way more comfortable and was controlling the pace as well as he has this season. He was giving a lot of effort on the defensive end as well. He’s got to improve as an on-ball defender, but he was flying around at shooters. He’s a guy you can build with.
Wayne Bristol Jr. - C-
2pts, 1-5 20% FG, 0-1 3PT, 1 REB, 1 TO, 16 MIN
Didn’t love WBJ’s game in this one. I thought the shots he took were not great. I like that he was looking to shoot, but the shots were really low-percentage. He had an iffy charge called against him that probably should have been a block but also probably should have been a pass to avoid that situation in general. There’s a tough balance to strike with him, as his energy and aggression are really important. Still, you also need him to be a reliable decision-maker and option of the offensive end. The two don’t always go hand-in-hand.
Drew Fielder - B
5pts, 2-6 33% FG, 1-2 50% 3PT, 2 REB, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 19 MIN
Early in this game, I thought Drew was the best Hoya on the floor. He missed a few shots at the rim that looked like he was bothered by size and strength, but he was absolutely battling Kalkbrenner and fought well. It’s coming in small stints, but I really think the sky’s the limit for Drew. These minutes are going to be so valuable for him moving forward.
Coaching - NO GRADE
I don’t have a coaching grade. I don’t really know how to judge the coaching in this one. I realize this is an arbitrary category that I have created, and no one is holding me to it, so I should probably just give a grade, but I don’t wanna. So there. My overarching takeaway from this game is that Creighton is better, and realized it in the second half. I thought the first half was as good as we’ve seen, at least without Epps. Mostly, the defensive intensity was there, and they only had two first-half turnovers, which is frankly huge. Six total turnovers for the game is a massive victory, even against Creighton, who does not force many, but that hasn’t seemed to matter to Georgetown previously. I liked the preparation. I liked the game plan. I liked that Creighton seemed uninterested in playing for the first half, and Georgetown took advantage. The second half was rough, and I get the frustration. The results are no different, so far, from the past two years. I do think the process is notably improved, but not always, and it’s not leading to different results yet. It’s frustrating to watch. And I frankly get the frustration from both sides on Coach’s comments last night. It’s true that we need to be patient and that we need to see a better product. I don’t have an answer except to say I can see it. For the past two years, I couldn’t see the way out other than regime change. I don’t think we are cursed to be a soft team with atrocious defense. For all of his limitations and flaws, Coach Cooley has proven to be a floor-raiser. There are myriad differences, but if you look at his path when he took over at Providence. In his first season (12-’13), Providence finished 15-17 and 126th on Kenpom, largely based on an offense (57th in the country) with some veteran holdovers. They also returned 57% of their minutes from the previous year but finished with what would be Cooley’s worst defensive rating, 238. From there, Providence was a top 100 Kenpom team for 12 straight seasons and top 50 in six of those. Those teams averaged a defensive ranking of 54 and never dipped below 100. Yes, it’s fair to expect that we would be more competitive this year. And it’s even fair to question the decision-making that has gotten us here, but there’s at least some precedent for a positive future, and I think we’ve seen marked improvement in the process.
Offense - D
The offense was sharp in the first half when they were making shots. It was abysmal in the second half when they weren’t. The shooting just ran out in this one and it became very difficult for Georgetown to score. The lack of playmaking allowed Creighton to lock in defensively. Yes, Epps has been a turnover machine this year, and despite being a grade-A shotmaker, he has been up and down in his impact. His absence hurt in this game. His shotmaking changes the gravity of the floor considerably and opens things up for everyone. Does Georgetown win this game if he plays? Probably not. Maybe if they maintain the level of the first half, do they lose by 17? I don’t think so. That sounds like an excuse. And I guess it is. I stand by it.
Defense - C-
My thoughts on defense, at least right now, start and end with what I wrote for Supreme above. It’s not that this is the only issue it’s just that it is so remarkably upsetting to me, it’s hard to look beyond that. Fixing the ball screen and DHO help side defense at the five will not make this a good defensive team, but it would make a serious impact. That exact defense lapse is good for two to five totally uncontested layups - so between four and ten points per game. If you cut those out (which should frankly be doable), your defense numbers look much better. Fixing this would also help the rest of the defense in general. Crucially, it’s also fixable (easily). It’s just about knowing the coverage, recognizing the action and communicating it. And if guys just can’t do it for some reason, go to someone who can. I actually thought that the defense in the first half was pretty decent. Some, maybe a lot, of that was about Creighton, but the Hoyas were engaged, and I thought their rotations were particularly good. The second half was a different story, and the defense needs to be better there, but I do think defense and offense are more related than we think. It’s not an excuse, but it’s just the reality that when you are executing poorly on offense and clearly overmatched on that end, it’s very hard to stay locked in defensively. FWIW, I appreciated Coach’s answer on the defensive struggles. I don’t think we are cursed or doomed to be this bad defensively forever. Yes, it should be better than it is, and I am not totally sure why it isn’t, but I do have faith that this staff can get it figured out. Will it be this year? That’s the question
Next up - DePaul
Hoo boy. This is a big one if you put a lot of stock in Kenpom projections. Georgetown faces DePaul at home in their only projected conference win. DePaul is 3-10 with wins against 302-ranked South Dakota and 305-ranked Chicago St and Louisville (184). Hey, at least we’re not Louisville! Before the season, I had this as the Hoyas’ first BE win, and I stand by that. I thought Ish would have a big game, his first since coming back from injury. It won’t be his first (see: TCU), but it will be a big one along with a good showing from Drew Fielder.