Veteran guards lift Hoyas in opener
Saturday, November 13, 2010
But with less than six minutes remaining, almost on cue, Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark shook off the first-game jitters, found holes in the Monarchs' suffocating defense and did what's expected of one of the nation's top back courts: the trio combined for all of Georgetown's final 21 points as the Hoyas rallied for a 62-59 victory at Constant Center.
"We needed them to make shots," Coach John Thompson III said, glancing at the trio of touted guards who flanked him. "And these guys, right here, put the ball in the basket."
Freeman (17 points) and Wright (game-high 19 points) were as hot in the closing minutes as they were cold in the first half. After combining for six points in the opening 20 minutes, the seniors snatched the game's momentum from the Monarchs during a decisive 2-minute 20-second span in the closing minutes.
First, Freeman made a three pointer and followed it up with a four-point play that cut Old Dominion's lead to 49-48. Next, it was Wright's turn to show his range. He made consecutive three-pointers on the Hoyas' next two trips down the court to give the Hoyas their first lead of the half, 54-51. Moments later, Clark (18 points) made a three-pointer to extend the visitors' edge to 59-55.
After making 1 of 11 three-point attempts through the first 27 minutes, Georgetown connected on 7 of 10 to close out the game.
"That was the plan," Wright cracked before turning serious. "It just happened like that. We all have a lot of confidence. If you have an open shot, you're going to take it. That goes for everyone on the team."
Old Dominion, though, managed to keep the game close and had a chance to force overtime at the buzzer, but Darius James's shot from near half court missed. The capacity crowd of 8,457 groaned. The Hoyas, meantime, exhaled. A year after getting stunned by Old Dominion at McDonough Arena, Georgetown had its redemption.
"This is a terrific opening win on the road against a terrific team," said Thompson, who improved to 2-2 all-time against the Monarchs. "We showed poise. I don't think at any point did we feel like the game was out of control. We felt the whole time that if we could settle down and execute at both ends of the court, at the end of the game, we would have a chance."
The Monarchs took a 25-19 lead into halftime after an opening 20 minutes that featured all the telltale signs of a season opener - the teams were high on energy, low on execution. The Hoyas connected on only 9 of 36 field goal attempts. They also missed all four of their free throw attempts and, at one point, went nearly five minutes without a point.
"Going into halftime, we had 11 turnovers, they had 10 offensive rebounds and we were 1 for 10 from threes," Thompson said. "We felt like if we could take care of any one of those areas we would be fine. I said that, and number four [Wright] said we're going to take care of all three."
But it wasn't all good for the Hoyas. Entering the season, the biggest question they faced was finding a replacement for Greg Monroe, who left for the NBA after his sophomore season. After one game, they are still looking for answers.
Georgetown's front court combined for eight points. Julian Vaughn, its tallest and most experienced forward, finished with four points, seven rebounds and three turnovers.
"We're going to get points from our front court," Thompson said when asked to gauge his level of concern. "Julian had some chip-ins that he usually makes."
While the front-court question figures to linger, it might not matter on nights when the guards are dominant.
"It shows a lot, on the road, in your first game with a lot of new faces, it shows a lot," Wright said of the rally. "It's a testament to us sticking together."