By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 21, 2008
With exams over and the holiday break looming, Georgetown showed up for yesterday's game against Mount St. Mary's without its cheerleaders, pep band and customary contingent of fist-pumping undergraduates.
The Hoyas also failed to bring their customary effort and focus and, as a result, turned in a performance that was solid enough for a 69-58 victory over a mid-major team but far short of their potential.
Georgetown shot just 38 percent from the field and was ragged from the free throw line, as well, connecting on just 25 of 38 attempts (65.8 percent).
Despite a considerable height advantage, Georgetown was out-performed in the lane, where Mount St. Mary's outscored the Hoyas, 32-22. The Hoyas failed to assert themselves on the boards yet again, finishing with one fewer rebound than their opponent (39). And they were left looking flat-footed more than once by the transition game of the Mountaineers, whose speedy guards beat the Hoyas downcourt for easy baskets time and again.
"Even though we won the game, I don't think any of us feels like we won," said junior forward DaJuan Summers, who finished with 13 points and four rebounds. "It's not so much [that] we had a bad shooting night. The effort wasn't there on every possession. That was not Georgetown basketball."
It will go down as a victory nonetheless -- one that extends Georgetown's winning streak at Verizon Center to 27 games and nudges the Hoyas' record to 8-1, while dropping that of Mount St. Mary's to 3-7.
Whether it's cause for concern is a matter of perspective.
If you believe that effort is a switch that gifted athletes can flip on and off, you might feel the Hoyas went about yesterday's game intelligently, playing well enough to win without exhausting themselves in the process.
After a shaky start, Georgetown built a nine-point lead in the first half and never trailed in the second half.
Sure, they allowed the Mountaineers to pull within six, trailing 58-52, with 4 minutes 43 seconds remaining. But the Hoyas made their free throws and clamped down on defense down the stretch.
But if you believe that effort is a muscle that must be exercised daily in order to be effective, you might fret over Georgetown's play -- particularly the sloppy shooting and the impetuous decision-making.
"To tell you the truth, I'm not sure if I'm pleased with anyone right now," said Coach John Thompson III, declining to single out top scorer Chris Wright (19 points, seven rebounds) for special recognition. "I think mentally we had a bad day today, which was not good."
Thompson also declined to pin the sub-par effort on the stress and fatigue of exam week, which his players just completed.
"Yes, exam period is rough," Thompson said. "That is a dynamic that is real; that's tangible. At the same time, I believe this group is tough enough and strong enough [that] once we walk out on court, for that two-hour or three-hour period, they can block that out. I expect more from this group."
And Thompson will need far more in just nine days, when Georgetown opens Big East play on the road against second-ranked Connecticut.
Yesterday's game got off to an inauspicious start for the Hoyas, with senior guard Jessie Sapp missing his first three shots and freshman Greg Monroe and Wright going 0 for 4 from the free throw line. Mount St. Mary's raced to a 14-11 lead.
Monroe sat after drawing two early fouls and was replaced by transfer Julian Vaughn, who is two inches shorter (6 feet 9) but fills up nearly as much space with his broad shoulders and authoritative swagger. Vaughn's defense, including a huge block, played a key role in the 9-0 Hoyas run that closed the first half.
The Mountaineers worked hard to deny the Hoyas easy inside shots, forcing them to shoot from 10- to 20-foot range. It was smart strategy given the Hoyas' shooting troubles. But the Mountaineers were handicapped by the struggles of their own, with their leading scorer Jeremy Goode held to eight points on 2-of-12 shooting.