A physical Georgetown team is a better Georgetown team

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WASHINGTON DC – Back in the early 80’s, when John Thompson Jr. led Georgetown to three national title games in four year, the Hoyas were the epitome of physical basketball.

They pressed, they pushed, and they pummeled for 40 minutes. They intimidated opponents, seemingly winning games without even having to set foot on the court. That’s what happens when you have players like Sleepy Floyd, Fred Brown, and Reggie Williams on the perimeter, Patrick Ewing manning the paint, and a snarling Thompson roaming the sidelines. (For what its worth, even at 69 years old, JTII is just as intimidating as ever.)

They didn’t call it “Hoya Paranoia” for nothing.

The younger Thompson’s teams haven’t been known for playing with that same physicality. Instead of Ewing, Dikembe Mutumbo, and Alonzo Mourning, he had Jeff Green, Greg Monroe, and Roy Hibbert. Full court presses and blocked shots have been replaced with high post screens and back door cuts.

JTIII has had success, making a Final Four and winning a Big East regular season title, but he has won using more of a finesse, Princeton-style offense.

This team, however, may be different.

In Georgetown’s 69-60 win over Marquette on Sunday afternoon, the Hoyas took control down the stretch with their defense and their rebounding. It was the second straight game they had done so, using a late 15-3 run to knock off Syracuse on Wednesday.

Against Marquette, it was a 11-1 surge that started with 7:23 left in the game that was the difference. Up 52-50 at the time, Henry Sims scored on a drop step, drawing Davante Gardner’s fifth foul in the process. Two possessions later, after a turnover by Jimmy Butler, Austin Freeman got a layup to push the lead to seven. After another turnover by Dwight Buycks, Jason Clark was fouled going in for a layup and hit both free throws. After Junior Cadougan hit 1-2 from the line, Clark again drove and drew a foul, hitting two more free throws. With 3:43 left in the game, Georgetown was all of a sudden up 61-51, and despite a late push by Darius Johnson-Odom, the Hoyas held on to win.

“We can sit here and talk about schemes and systems, man and zone,” Thompson said after the game. “At the end of the day, you have to guard somebody. If the guy’s in front of you, guard him.”

“I think its just as simple as the guys understand now that its personal.”

The Hoyas took it personal in the second half, as Marquette was simply unable to get into any kind of a rhythm on the offensive end of the floor. Marquette shot just 31.8% from the floor and had a 36.3% eFG. They turned the ball over nine times in 36 possessions. They had just an 11.1 offensive rebounding percentage. All told, Georgetown allowed Marquette just 0.69 PPP over the final 20 minutes.

The key wasn’t necessarily the defense. It was the rebounding. In the first half, Marquette grabbed six offensive rebounds and scored 10 second chance points. In the second half, Marquette managed just two offensive rebounds and didn’t score a single second chance point.

“I don’t think out defense was poor in the first half,” Thompson said. “Our rebounding was poor. We were getting a lot of the same stops, but we were getting the ball in the second half instead of them getting second shots.”

The hero? Sophomore Hollis Thompson. Austin Freeman sprained his ankle at the end of the first half and was late getting back to the court as he got it retaped. So Thompson started, and he didn’t disappoint. Thompson grabbed 12 of his career-high 13 rebounds in the second half, with all but two of them coming on the defensive end.

“Coming out of the locker room we emphasized boxing out and getting rebounds, and I think my teammates did a great job of boxing out which allowed me to come in and get some boards,” Thompson said.

Georgetown was known as a team with terrific guard play and a perimeter oriented offensive attack.

But the last two games, they have proven they can win gritty, physical basketball games against quality competition.

Maybe there is a reason this team has now won eight straight Big East basketball games.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

No. 1 Villanova leads by 44, beats Ewing, Georgetown 88-56

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WASHINGTON — Top-ranked Villanova led by as many as 44 points — 44! — and gave Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing a rude welcome back to the schools’ rivalry, handing the Hoyas their worst loss in more than 40 years, 88-56 on Wednesday night.

Jalen Brunson led the way with 18 points and seven assists for Villanova (17-1, 5-1 Big East), which finished 17 for 33 on 3s, while Georgetown went 4 for 15.

Mikal Bridges scored 17 for the Wildcats, winners of seven consecutive games against the Hoyas, Villanova’s longest streak in a series that dates to 1922.

The last time Ewing faced Villanova in any capacity was in the last game of his college playing career at Georgetown, a surprising 66-64 victory for the underdog Wildcats in the 1985 NCAA championship game. It was quite clear, quite quickly, on Wednesday that there would be no such tight outcome —nor any chance of an upset by Georgetown (12-6, 2-5).

This is Ewing’s first season as a head coach at any level, and he opted to go with an easy-as-can-be non-conference schedule to try to build his players’ confidence. Now that league play is underway, especially against a foe like Villanova, the gap between the Hoyas and the best teams is obvious.

It was 42-20 at halftime, and Georgetown to that point had more turnovers (nine) than made baskets, shooting 8 for 26, including 0 for 8 on 3s.

Villanova just kept pushing the margin after the break, going up by 30, then 40, and then reaching the apex at 88-44 on a layup by Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree with about 3½ minutes remaining. Less than a minute later, Villanova coach Jay Wright finally sent on the subs and pulled any remaining starters.

INJURED AND ILL

Villanova: Reserves Tim Delaney and Jermaine Samuels sat out with a virus.

Georgetown: Backup PG Trey Dickerson left in the first half with a back spasm and did not return.

BIG PICTURE

Villanova: Since its only loss, 101-93 at Butler on Dec. 30, Villanova has won four games in a row, propelled by an efficient offense that gets a lot of its work done from beyond the arc.

Georgetown: This was the Hoyas’ largest margin of defeat since a 33-point loss to Maryland, 104-71, on Dec. 10, 1974.

UP NEXT

Villanova: Travels to UConn on Saturday in a matchup between former Big East rivals and the Wildcats’ first game at Hartford in five years. Villanova is 12-0 in non-conference games heading into the last one on their schedule.

Georgetown: Hosts St. John’s on Saturday, the teams’ second meeting in less than two weeks. The Hoyas won 69-66 at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 9

NCAA pushes up college hoops start date as Champions Classic will open the season

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The NCAA is pushing up the start of the college basketball regular season to begin on the Tuesday before the second Friday in November.

That means the Champions Classic will open the college basketball season in 2018-19 as announced in an official release on Wednesday. So now, we get Duke vs. Kentucky and Michigan State vs. Kansas in Indianapolis at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to open the college basketball regular season?

Yes, please.

This is a very smart move for the NCAA as men’s and women’s basketball can now open the regular season a bit earlier. The made-for-TV, neutral-court spectacle of the Champions Classic is also the perfect programming to get casual sports fans to tune in for the opening night of college basketball.

There will also be a new level of intrigue for the Champions Classic with all four superpowers making their season debuts in the event next season. Instead of getting a regular-season tune-up to begin to campaign, all of these teams will get thrown straight into the fire.

Hopefully, the sport can continue to make moves like this to generate casual interest and develop more intriguing non-conference possibilities. College basketball’s regular season has suffered from too many lulls in the past. At least now the regular season will start with a bang.

Arizona State benefits from unusual timing in landing forward Taeshon Cherry

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Arizona State has been one of the biggest surprises in college basketball this season as they’re off to a 14-3 start.

The Sun Devils are also rolling on the recruiting trail as they might have landed their signature recruit on Tuesday night. With high-end, four-star forward Taeshon Cherry pledging to the Sun Devils, it gives them a top-20 class and three different four-star caliber prospects coming in next season.

Bobby Hurley has something going here.

In Cherry, Arizona State gets a 6-foot-9 forward who was previously committed to USC but decommitted in late December. Reportedly “Player-8” in the FBI’s case of college basketball bribery, according to Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times, Cherry’s relative allegedly met Christian Dawkins and financial advisor Munish Sood at a restaurant in Los Angeles on Aug. 8. The group was joined by an undercover FBI agent posing as a financial advisor as the gathering was recorded.

Dawkins and Sood were attempting to get Player-8’s relative to use their financial services for when the player eventually went pro. The FBI’s complaint also said Dawkins was given an envelope of $4,000 to give to the relative from the undercover agent.

But with Cherry not being present for the meeting, and no firsthand account of the relative actually receiving the money, it’s uncertain how the NCAA might respond to this.

So Arizona State jumped right in the mix for Cherry and started recruiting him once he decommitted from USC. The Sun Devils brought Cherry in for an official visit to campus on Jan. 11 — only weeks after Cherry’s decommitment — and were able to secure the commitment days later as he canceled a trip to Texas A&M.

This commitment is no doubt a product of unusual timing and circumstances.

When Cherry pledged to USC right after the July live evaluation period, Trojans assistant coach Tony Bland hadn’t been involved in the FBI scandal and the Trojans had a top-25 team returning this season. Arizona State was only 30-35 in Hurley’s first two seasons and they hadn’t secured the two four-star commitments they would later get in October.

Now, the Sun Devils are a darkhorse Final Four team after its surprising start this season and they were able to land a highly-touted recruit merely weeks after he left a conference rival. Things have changed quickly in the Pac-12 recruiting race in the past few weeks. And Arizona State also benefited from the unusual circumstances surrounding Cherry and his recruitment.

With commitments in each of the next three classes as well — yes, Arizona State even has a commitment from a high school freshman in the Class of 2021 — the Sun Devils are starting to sustain a presence at every level of college basketball. Arizona State will have to replace some talented seniors when Tra Holder and Shannon Evans depart after this season. The program also seems like its heading in the right direction with all of the talent that is flocking to Tempe.

Four-star recruit Joey Hauser enrolls early at Marquette

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Marquette’s top recruit in the Class of 2018 is enrolling early. According to a release from the school, four-star forward Joey Hauser has enrolled at the school and will join the basketball program.

The younger brother of sophomore forward Sam Hauser, the younger Hauser will redshirt this season and have four years of eligibility remaining.

Suffering a few injuries the past few years, Hauser had surgery on his ankle in early December as he’ll get a chance to rehab on campus while also acclimating to the team and school.

“We are really excited to have Joey join us for the second semester,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said in a release. “It’s a unique opportunity for him to recover from his recent surgery while also becoming acclimated to our basketball program and university.

“He is without question one of the top players in the class of 2018 and for him to be able to get a head start on his career is a tremendous positive.”

Hauser is regarded as the No. 52 overall prospect in the Class of 2018, according to Rivals, as he helped Stevens Point win three consecutive WIAA Division 1 state titles during his first three seasons.

While Hauser won’t be able to play and help Marquette this season, the Golden Eagles only have one senior on the roster in Andrew Rowsey. That means the entire roster gets a head start on being together for next season as Hauser should be a contributor by then.

Notre Dame freshman D.J. Harvey out four weeks with knee injury

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Notre Dame freshman D.J. Harvey will miss the next four weeks with a bone bruise in his left knee.

Harvey, a 6-foot-6 wing, played only seven minutes in Notre Dame’s loss to Louisville on Tuesday night as he’s played 18.2 minutes per contest. With senior All-American candidate Bonzie Colson going down to injury, Harvey had been playing increased minutes for the Fighting Irish, including 37 minutes in Notre Dame’s loss to North Carolina.

Harvey averaged 5.8 points and 2.9 rebounds per game before the injury. The Fighting Irish are fighting the injury bug right now with Colson and Harvey out as their rotation gets even thinner. Notre Dame has dropped three consecutive games as they are 13-6 on the season and 3-3 in the ACC. Another tough game looms for the Fighting Irish as they face Clemson on Saturday.