By the time Tuesday’s practice arrived, the No. 14 Georgetown men’s basketball team had seemingly come to terms with all that went wrong in Pittsburgh.
The repeated defensive miscues in Saturday’s 72-60 defeat, according to freshman forward Otto Porter, were the result of poor communication. The double-digit disparity in rebounds, senior center Henry Sims pointed out, stemmed from a lack of hustle. The 17-point first-half deficit, senior guard Jason Clark recalled, flowed from a low energy level in the opening minutes.
To a man, the Hoyas sounded confident that the problems had been addressed in practice. What remains to be seen Wednesday when Connecticut visits Verizon Center, though, is whether a handful of struggling individuals — namely starters Hollis Thompson, Markel Starks and Nate Lubick — produce the bounce-back performances Georgetown (16-4, 6-3 Big East) needs them to have.
Thompson scored 11 points in Pittsburgh, but eight of them came in the final 54 seconds of a contest that had already been decided. He started the afternoon 1 for 7 from the field, one game after being limited to four points against Rutgers, which matched his season low.
“Lately, when he’s missed his first couple of shots, he’s kind of backed off,” Coach John Thompson III said of the Hoyas’ second-leading scorer. “That gets to shooters. We don’t anticipate him missing his first couple shots, but if that happens, or if [defenders] are focusing on him, he can still impact the game in other ways. He needs to make sure that he’s still defending, rebounding, making hustle plays.”
Asked about the junior swingman spending all but 90 seconds of the final five minutes on the bench, John Thompson III said, “I thought that there were stretches where the lineup without him on the floor was more effective than the lineup with him on the floor.”
Hollis Thompson, who is averaging 13.9 points per game, brushed off questions about his recent dip in point production and whether he’s been bothered by the extra defensive attention he’s received recently.
“I have really short memory,” he said. “If I miss a couple of shots, I forget about it.”
Like Thompson, Starks also found himself on the bench for an extended period of time, plagued by foul trouble again. After picking up two personals and committing two turnovers in the opening 3 minutes 32 seconds Saturday, the sophomore point guard spent the rest of the half on the bench.
“That’s a mental thing that I’ve got to fight through,” said Starks, who finished with five points and three assists in 18 minutes. “Obviously, I’ve got to be smarter. It’s a pattern. I’m just trying to get better at it.”
Added John Thompson: “It’s a balance between staying aggressive at both ends of the floor, attacking, and [not] becoming passive. I don’t want guys on the court that are just thinking about their fouls.”
The Hoyas’ most perplexing problem this season has been Lubick’s inconsistency. Against the Panthers, the sophomore forward was limited to two rebounds and no points or assists. Since his eight-point, eight-rebound breakout against Cincinnati on Jan. 9, the sophomore forward has averaged 3.8 rebounds and two points the past four games, which includes a pair of point-less outings.
“Just play hard, just bring effort, bring energy,” Thompson said. “Let’s not get cerebral and start thinking: ‘What am I doing? How am I doing?’ Just give the effort and everything will, hopefully, fall in place.”
A good time for all three to rediscover their form would be with skidding U-Conn. in town.
The Huskies (14-6, 4-4) started the season ranked fourth in the Associated Press top 25 poll but dropped out last week. They’ve lost three in a row and five of their past seven.
That, however, doesn’t mean the Hoyas can afford to be any less wary of the Huskies, who feature a number of players near the top of the Big East’s statistical rankings. Sophomore swingman Jeremy Lamb is the league’s fourth-leading scorer (17.9 points per game), while sophomore guard Shabazz Napier is third in assists (6.1). Freshman center Andre Drummond, meantime, ranks third in blocked shots (2.6).
“Some teams you can go in and say, ‘Hey, take away their perimeter guys and we should be okay’. Or, ‘Take away the post,’ ” John Thompson III said. “But this is a team that’s balanced.”