By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 28, 2008
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Nov. 27 -- Georgetown scored the first nine points and never trailed Thursday in its first game of the season outside the District.
But the rest of the statistics from the Hoyas' 58-50 victory over Wichita State on the opening day of the Old Spice Classic were less encouraging.
Georgetown (3-0) was out-rebounded by a shorter squad for the second time in three games. The No. 21 Hoyas turned over the ball 17 times. And they were particularly rash from three-point range, connecting on just 3 of 18 attempts.
"We're a work in progress," Coach John Thompson III said, conceding that his team needs to improve in all those areas -- rebounding, protecting the basketball and shot selection -- if it is to achieve his goal of becoming the most improved team in college basketball by season's end.
But flanked by his top scorers, Austin Freeman (18 points) and DaJuan Summers (14), Thompson accentuated the positive. In short: His young team is figuring out how to win games even as it works through rough patches and gradually improves.
That task gets tougher Friday, however, when Georgetown reaps the reward for its victory over the Shockers (2-2). In the tournament's second round, the Hoyas will take on their first nationally ranked team this season, facing No. 12 Tennessee (4-0), which dismissed Siena, 78-64, earlier in the day at the Walt Disney World Sports Complex.
The Old Spice Classic boasts a daunting field, with four of its eight teams ranked among the top 20. Seven of those teams advanced to postseason play last year.
But Wichita State, the only team passed over for a postseason bid, gave Georgetown more than expected, slashing what had been a 10-point Hoyas lead to 43-42 with 6 minutes 17 seconds remaining.
The game was played at an excruciatingly deliberate pace. After more than 11 minutes of play, the score was only 12-7.
Wichita State shot just 26 percent in the first half. And the Hoyas' chief offensive threats, Summers and sophomore guard Chris Wright, could not find the basket. Neither scored a point in the first half, and between them they committed five turnovers.
Freeman filled the breach, scoring the Hoyas' first seven points and holding up his end on defense, as well.
Though the season is young, that seems to be a hallmark of this Georgetown team, with the offensive load shouldered by a revolving cast of characters.
The Shockers aren't as physically imposing as Georgetown, but they showed more grit battling for rebounds, finishing with 38, to the Hoyas' 35.
"We out-toughed them," said Shockers guard David Kyles, who came off the bench for a team-high 11 points. Wichita State also came closer than Georgetown's two previous opponents in muzzling 6-foot-11 freshman center Greg Monroe (11 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks), who fouled out with 32 seconds remaining.
It was a poor shooting day for both teams. The Shockers hit just 28 percent of their shots from the field; Georgetown, 43 percent.
But Wichita State Coach Gregg Marshall kept his team in the game by borrowing a page from John Thompson's offensive playbook of old, swapping out four and five players at a time to ensure a fresh hockey-style "line" of players during key stretches. Ten Shockers played 12 minutes or more, with all 10 contributing to the scoring.
"It's nice to know you can shoot 28 percent and still hang with a top 20 team," Marshall said. "Every point, every basket was monumental."
In the end, the Hoyas pulled away because of clutch play from their veterans. Senior guard Jessie Sapp (nine points, four rebounds) took two key charges, and Summers sloughed off a slow start to score all 14 of his points in the second half.
It has taken time, Summers said, to learn how important it is to keep battling in all aspects of the game when his shot isn't falling.
"When things don't go the way we practice or the way I want, I get frustrated and want things to get better instantly," Summers said. "But just playing harder is something I can do to be a better player. I'm understanding it doesn't have to be me that's doing the scoring. I can help my teammates" in other ways.