Georgetown once more played well enough for Coach Craig Esherick to experiment with lineup combinations that might prove useful for the Big East Conference season, which begins Wednesday. And for the first game this season, Esherick maneuvered nearly every important player except his anchors, point guard Kevin Braswell and center Ruben Boumtje Boumtje.
"Where our biggest improvement is going to be is offense," Esherick said after the Hoyas controlled the rebounding and stretched their winning streak to six games with a 63-48 victory yesterday over James Madison before 6,179 at MCI Center. "We can have one of the better defensive teams we've ever had at Georgetown."
To bolster Esherick's boast about the defense, the Hoyas won easily despite shooting 34 percent from the field. The reason: James Madison (7-5) missed 37 of 52 shots. Like Georgetown, the much smaller Dukes worked the ball numerous times for open baskets but couldn't convert.
Esherick's experimenting had shooting guard Anthony Perry (16 points, 10 rebounds) playing quite a lot at point guard, 6-foot-8 freshman Victor Samnick playing both forward positions and Nat Burton alternating between small forward and shooting guard. Freshman Courtland Freeman played nearly half the game at power forward as starter Jameel Watkins missed all four shots during just 12 minutes.
"Anthony is going to have to be our backup at point guard," Esherick said. "To help get him ready, I've had him go against Kevin for most of practice. Nat's ballhandling has been getting better, so he can play some guard."
Esherick has started Samnick at small forward, ahead of Burton, the past three games. Samnick is the superior rebounder, Burton the better shooter. Esherick yesterday found ways to get both on the court at the same time, with Samnick at power forward and Burton at small forward in some situations and Samnick at small forward and Burton at shooting guard in others.
The Hoyas (8-3) dominated the offensive rebounding. Boumtje Boumtje (18 points, career-high 15 rebounds) and Perry were especially active in keeping the ball in play.
"There were many instances where the ball would bounce the [unexpected] way," said James Madison Coach Sherman Dillard, "and their big guys would still chase it down."
Fairly typical was the play that lifted Georgetown to a 43-32 lead with 12-plus minutes left. Samnick missed a 17-footer, but got the rebound. He then missed an eight-footer, but retrieved the ball once more and sank a layup while being fouled. He missed the free throw, but the Hoyas kept the ball for three-point attempts by backup guard Demetrius Hunter and Burton. Both missed.
Georgetown rushed to a 26-10 lead, as James Madison failed to get a shot for nearly all of the opening three minutes. But the Dukes narrowed the deficit to six midway through the second half. Perry and Braswell then combined for three three-pointers during a 15-2 run and the Hoyas were in control with 4 minutes 45 seconds left.
Howard transfer Jabari Outtz had three three-pointers and 12 points in the first half for JMU, but the former Good Counsel star was held to five points in the second half.