Georgetown played the first nine-plus minutes according to script and then some Saturday, running up a 17-0 advantage on an over-matched Howard squad, combining smooth offense with sticky defense. Then, something–the satisfaction of a job partially well done, the scant support of a sparse crowd, or the call of looming finals–caused the Hoyas to ease off the accelerator. Slowly but surely, the initial margin was tightened, and a one-sided blowout became a two-point nail-biter. Howard seemed to gain confidence as it played fast and loose, while Georgetown tightened up as its lead slipped away. In the waning minutes, the Hoyas righted the ship and pulled away to a fourteen-point victory. Freshman wunderkind Otto Porter led the team with 13 points as Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson each chipped in 12, but it wasn’t pretty.
So what made this game so ugly? Mostly, ice-cold shooting. Georgetown had easily its worst shooting performance of the season, making fewer than one in three from the field. Many of the Hoyas’ errant heaves appeared to be just a bad day at the office: it’s not often that Clark and Thompson will shoot a combined 3 for 18. Some more misses were attributable to listless offensive sets that were all too frequent after the opening burst. There were plenty of instances in which the Hoyas settled for the first shot, rather than the best one, especially from three, where Georgetown was a frigid one of thirteen. But even when Georgetown got clean, inside looks, they seemed to miss.
Another reason that the Hoyas’ shooting numbers were so poor is that many of their open looks were negated by Howard fouls. In fact, a rarity for a Hoya squad that doesn’t draw a ton of fouls, Georgetown’s main advantage in this game (in addition to a +8 turnover margin) was at the free-throw line, where the Hoyas got 42 attempts to the Bison’s 22. That advantage was to be expected, as Howard entered the game as one of the most foul-prone teams in the country. But even that edge temporarily vanished in the second-half drought, as the Hoyas missed six straight from the stripe, low-lighted by a pair of front-rimmed tosses by Nate Lubick and an uncharacteristic trio of bricks by Thompson, before finishing strong.
Ultimately, Georgetown is a far better team than Howard, and it showed in the result despite the poor play. But the talent disparity will shrink in the Hoyas’ next game against American, and virtually disappear as Georgetown faces Memphis again before entering the Big East. Instead, the Hoyas will need to rely on the crisp offense and disciplined defense that fueled wins over Memphis and Alabama, and more lopsided routs of lesser foes. They will have another week before American to refocus. Then, we’ll see whether Saturday’s poor stretches were just an aberration–a rough shooting outing following a week of academic focus–or instead the sign of a more serious flaw. Hoya Saxa.
Note: It was revealed in a pregame announcement that freshman center Tyler Adams is out indefinitely while he undergoes unspecified tests on his heart. The nature of the concern and the existence and nature of any ailment are unclear. We will post more as this story develops. Adams’s absence has implications on the court, where the Hoyas already are short one of their three centers after Moses Ayegba’s ACL tear over the summer ended his sophomore season before it began. But, as JTIII aptly noted, on-court concerns are “irrelevant” compared to Adams’s health. Our thoughts and prayers are with the big fella, who tweeted after the game that he’s “all good.”