By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 7, 2008
After holding American to a mere 12 points in the first half, the Georgetown Hoyas might have expected a collective pat on the back from their defensive-minded coach during halftime.
Instead, they got a talking-to from Coach John Thompson III about the myriad things they needed to do better.
And even after yesterday's 73-49 victory had been secured -- No. 20 Georgetown's second rout of a hometown foe in as many games -- Thompson was in such knots over his basketball team's shortcomings that he chugged a bottle of Pepto-Bismol.
It's not that Thompson is a chronic malcontent. It's simply that he judges every game the Hoyas play against his vision of the perfect basketball game.
It's an impossible standard, to be sure -- a mythic game in which every offensive possession results in a judiciously selected and perfectly executed shot, and every defensive stand limits the opponent to one attempt, if that.
Yesterday afternoon, before 11,196 at Verizon Center, Georgetown (5-1) was vastly superior to American (4-4), bolting to a 13-0 lead and taking a 40-12 edge into the locker room at the half.
But in Thompson's mind, had the opponent been second-ranked Connecticut, third-ranked Pittsburgh, seventh-ranked Notre Dame or 18th-ranked Memphis -- among the teams the Hoyas face in the next month -- the outcome probably wouldn't have been so rosy.
"Overall, we did not play well," Thompson said, holding a sheet of statistics that attested to his team's dominance in every category except rebounding (24 to 30). "It's about us; it's not about the opponent. It's not about the score; it's about us trying to prepare, us trying to get better, us trying to improve."
Georgetown was led by sophomore guard Chris Wright, who scored 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Junior forward DaJuan Summers and senior guard Jessie Sapp each added 14 points. Sapp was 4 of 5 from three-point range and acquitted himself well on the defensive end against Garrison Carr, the Eagles' most potent offensive weapon.
Carr was held to two points in the first half and finished with nine, making only one of his 11 attempts from three-point range. Thompson, however, took little solace in Carr's scoreline. He was far more troubled by the fact that Carr managed to take 11 three-point shots than heartened by the fact that he sunk only one.
"In the first half he got a lot of looks that he normally makes that just didn't go in," Thompson said. "It just fell our way in regards to that. It's hard to get off 11 threes against a team that wants to take away the three."
And so the critique went, with Thompson focusing on aspects of the game in which he wants to see improvement. Among them: limiting opponents' second shots on the defensive end (American grabbed 18 offensive rebounds to the Hoyas' six); and working the ball around on each offensive possession rather than jacking it up in haste.
But in terms of obvious statistics, the Hoyas had plenty to cheer. They shot 58.5 percent from the field while holding American to 34.6. And in the first half, before Thompson turned to his bench, American made only five baskets and finished the period with as many turnovers (12) as points.
American Coach Jeff Jones praised Georgetown's defense, which he characterized as more daunting than last year's, with Summers and freshman Greg Monroe (eight points, five rebounds, four assists) supplying more physicality and quickness than 7-foot-3 Roy Hibbert.
That said, Jones didn't hide his disappointment in his team's play, which has lagged after a 4-1 start to the season.
"I don't think we handled their defensive pressure well -- at times, kicking the ball away or doing silly stuff," Jones said. "Maybe we had too much respect for them."
It looked that way in the early going, with American turning the ball over on seven of its first eight possessions.
Stymied from the perimeter, Carr made his first basket by driving into the lane and tossing up an underhanded shot. It pulled the Eagles within 24-12 with 6 minutes 52 seconds remaining in the half.
American didn't score again in the half, while Georgetown closed with a 16-0 run.