The Georgetown basketball team's two losses this season illustrate the dilemma of a coach trying to win games by blending three proven starters with inexperienced players.
The goal, of course, is to be ready for league play next month and to peak at the NCAA tournament. At the moment, especially after the 75-74 overtime loss to Boston College Wednesday in the first round of the ECAC Holiday Festival, there is strong talk that the Hoyas are a three-man team -- Craig Shelton, John Duren and Eric Floyd.
Boston College will play St. John's for the championship Friday night following Georgetown's 7 p.m. game against Lafayette for third place. BC achieved the upset by sagging a zone around Shelton inside and forcing the Hoyas to shoot from outside.
Eric Smith, a sophomore who replaced the departed team captain, Steve Martin, at small forward, seemed reluctant to take open shots.When Georgetown won big games last year, Martin always contributed heavily to the scoring of the big three.
Wednesday night, during the timeout, Smith said to Thompson: "Hey, they're leaving me open. Should I take that shot?" Thompson replied, without dealy. "Certainly."
Today, during a practice in which center Ed Spriggs hardly participated because of a stiff back, Thompson said:
"There is a natural tendency with people playing with kids who are really good to depend on them and let them do a little bit more. This is the first year Smitty has started. If I had started Steve Martin when he was a sophomore, he would have been hesitant, too.
"When they come, I take them," Smith said. "Anything from 15 feet in. That's what basically happens. I'm not reluctant to shoot. I'm just concerned about taking a good shot. He (Thompson) tells me to shoot the open shot. I had, but I missed two in a row."
Thompson is not overly concerned at this stage. As he put it minutes after the loss to BC: "Tonight, things didn't go our way. It's not a crisis yet."
Today, after sleeping on the loss that is likely to drop his 17th-ranked team out of the national rankings, Thompson said, "There's nothing for us to be overly concerned about at this time of the year.
"We knew before we played, there were some areas we had to work on regardless. It's just when you lose a ball game everybody's ready to look at you with microscope. When you win a ball game, a lot of the faults that you have are forgotten."
However, Spriggs' health could present a problem, Thompson said. The coach said the still back came up in a recent practice. Today, Spriggs ran through a few drills and jogged sparingly on his own. Thompson expects him to play Friday night.
"We've got to be healthy in the center," Thompson said. "If we're not healthy, then we've got a problem."
Sophomore Mike Hancock received most of the time at first-string center during today's practice at Pace University.
Thompson also noted that this team is made up mainly of seniors and sophomores, a rare blend for continuity.
There also is some doubt that Georgetown has a bench, although Thompson has said he is confident enough to use at least nine players at this stage. This is a part of the weaving process, Thompson said, and in a physical game, as was the Boston contest, he did not want to destroy confidence by using the subs.
"The style of officiating was conducive to a team trying to catch up, not a team trying to hold a lead," Thompson said. "If they're letting the game be that aggressive and you throw some kids in without the experience.
. . . I'd rather have some of the kids who feel confident feel like a goat, if there's going to be a goat, rather than the kids trying to get confidence.
"I've said all along we're capable of being a very good team."
Frank Rienzo, the Georgetown athletic director, said he would be interested in discussing with his Maryland counterpart, Carl James, the possibility of cohosting the Maryland Invitational Tournament in the future, as James proposed Tuesday.
But Rienzo also made it clear that if the idea would end up with Maryland getting the home-court advantage and the selection of game officials, he would not be interested, even if the financial rewards were large.
"My first concern," Rienzo said, "is the competitive aspect. Our first responsibility to the athletes is to compete in a fair, competitive situation." r
The two area rivals have not yet been able to agree on a game for next year.