By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 23, 2008
As athletic contests go, Georgetown's first-ever meeting with Drexel wasn't particularly gripping entertainment.
The Hoyas took the lead 2 minutes 18 seconds into yesterday's game at Verizon Center and romped to an 81-53 victory that was more lopsided than the score indicates.
But it served as a telling window on the competitive heart of the young Hoyas -- particularly star-in-the-making Greg Monroe -- and the challenge Coach John Thompson III faces in managing the expectations that are sure to be heaped on the freshman phenom as the season unfolds.
The 6-foot-11 Monroe led the Hoyas in scoring (20 points), rebounding (eight), blocks (three) and minutes (31). He also was flawless from the free throw line (6 of 6) and added four assists.
Even more notable is his maturity, which verges on preternatural for an 18-year-old. Monroe plays as if basketball is a game to be respected, and each facet of it -- the thankless work of defending and distributing, as well as the scoring that appears to come so easily -- is worth doing well.
"His instincts are great," Thompson said of Monroe, a McDonald's all-American from Gretna, La. "And not just his instincts -- it's his instincts coupled with intelligence, coupled with the fact that you tell him something once, and he understands what you're saying and how to apply it."
But as reporters clamored for elaboration (Thompson bars freshmen from granting interviews until second semester, so Monroe can't offer perspective himself), the coach cut the hosannas short, mindful of the danger that a bloated sense of self can do to an athlete's development and to team chemistry.
"Let's slow down! It's the second game," Thompson said. "He's got to be a better dribbler, passer, shooter, defender and rebounder. Let's not get confused here: He's got a long way to go."
But Georgetown (2-0) took a big step forward from its first game to its second, shoring up the weaknesses that kept its season-opening victory over Jacksonville from feeling like a triumph.
Against Drexel (1-1), the Hoyas ran their offense in more deliberate fashion, working the ball inside for high-percentage shots. Nearly half their points (40 of 81) were scored inside the paint. Their outside shooting was closer to the mark, with Austin Freeman adding 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
Their rebounding improved but could stand more muscle.
Most encouraging, their defensive intensity never waned, even after taking a 42-25 lead at halftime.
The Hoyas stole the ball 13 times and scored more than one-fourth their points (23) off turnovers.
Said Drexel Coach Bruiser Flint: "They didn't even need to run their offense. They just knocked balls away and got steals. They did everything in transition."
Drexel's challenge was clear from the outset, as the Dragons filed onto the court for pregame warmups with six players no taller than 6 feet. The Dragons scored the game's first two points (from the free throw line) and then watched Georgetown reel off the next 15.
Drexel compounded its disadvantage by turning over the ball 17 times.
Senior Jessie Sapp, who played a great defensive game, had a hand in much of the Dragons' woes, with five steals and a block.
Sophomore guard Chris Wright and junior forward DaJuan Summers finished in double figures, scoring 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Monroe, it seemed, was everywhere -- particularly in the first half -- blocking a shot just seconds into the game, and later stripping the ball, driving into the lane for an easy bucket and drawing a foul to put the Hoyas up 26-11.
Looking on from a courtside seat was Georgetown alum Alonzo Mourning, who two decades ago became a man, and ultimately a three-time all-American, at the same position.
Flint said he talked to his players before tip-off about the perils of being awed by their opponent's storied history. But given the imbalance on nearly every level, the talk didn't do much good.
"We played with our eyes a little wide open today," Flint said. "I told 'em, 'There's no A.I. [Allen Iverson] or Alonzo out there!' But you couldn't tell 'em that today!"