After watching his team commit 51 turnovers in its last two games, Georgetown Coach Craig Esherick sat the Hoyas down for a videotape session on passing.
"It's a problem," Esherick said. "All you have to do is look at the stat sheet. I don't think it's a point guard problem. It's a team-wide problem. . . . All of us as a team have to handle the ball better."
As Georgetown (5-3) prepared to face Houston (5-4) at 1 p.m. today at MCI Center, the Hoyas' ballhandling is a focal point. The Hoyas are turning over the ball an average of 22 times a game. Their sloppiest performance was Dec. 8 against Bethune-Cookman when they had 32 turnovers. In that game, Georgetown's clumsiness helped the Wildcats come back from a 27-point deficit before the Hoyas pulled out an 83-76 victory.
Georgetown's propensity for turnovers has pushed the team to work that much harder on defense in an effort to overcome the mistakes. The Hoyas have been unable to put away opponents, and that makes teams such as Houston, which is forcing an average of 19 turnovers per game, dangerous.
Of the Georgetown players averaging more than 10 minutes per game, only point guard Kevin Braswell has a positive assist-to-turnover differential with 41 assists and 29 turnovers. The other four starters have a total of 30 assists and 81 turnovers.
According to Esherick, no one factor has led to the poor ballhandling.
"It's everything," Esherick said. "It's technical. It's mental. You put yourself in a position where you're bound to turn the ball over by dribbling over to a space you shouldn't or throwing a chest pass instead of a bounce pass or two-handed overhead pass."
Esherick will tinker with his lineup for the second game in a row by starting freshman forward Victor Samnick in place of junior forward Nat Burton, who is recovering from a foot injury. Burton probably will play, but Esherick hopes he does not have to use him much.
Samnick (Newport School) has been a solid contributor, averaging 20 minutes per game. He is one of the team's tougher defenders and is second on the team in rebounding with an average of six per game. Esherick decided to start Samnick instead of freshman guard Demetrius Hunter, who started last Sunday against Marist, in order to better match up with the Cougars.
"They have a small forward who is a good player [6-foot-8 freshman George Williams] and he's tall," Esherick said. "I thought he was too tall for Anthony to guard."
Esherick also will try to limit center Ruben Boumtje Boumtje's playing time while he continues to recover from a preseason foot injury. Boumtje Boumtje started for the first time against Marist and played 31 minutes. Esherick would like to play him less than 30 minutes against the Cougars.
Georgetown, which has signed a four-year contract to play Houston, has met the Cougars just three times, with the Hoyas winning each game. The most memorable meeting occurred in Seattle in 1984, when a Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown team defeated a Houston team featuring Hakeem Olajuwon, 84-75, to win the NCAA championship.
"I remember it was a hard-fought game," said Esherick, who was an assistant under John Thompson at the time. "Patrick going against Hakeem. It's one of my best memories in basketball, that game."