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 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.