josh smith georgetown

Nate Lubick on guarding Josh Smith in practice: ‘Ugh. It’s miserable.’

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Nate Lubick is a senior at Georgetown. He’s spent three years grinding it out in the Big East, battling in the paint against the likes of Louisville and Syracuse and UConn on a nightly basis. He’s as veteran as a veteran can get, which is why you can trust his opinion on what it’s like trying to guard Josh Smith in the post.

“Ugh. It’s miserable,” Lubick said guarding Smith in practice. “He backs it down and dunks it on me every time. He’s good. It’s something that’s very hard for another team to prepare.”

That’s all you really need to know about Smith if you’re a Georgetown fan.

There may not be a better low-post scorer in the country, which is scary when you consider that the most underrated aspect of Smith’s game is his passing ability.

“When he’s really good, he’s really good. When he’s a little off, he’s a little off,” senior point guard Markel Starks, who happens to double as Smith’s roommate, said with a smile. “It’s not like he’s a bad passer. Very good instincts, a good feel for the game.”

In other words, Smith should fit quite well into the hybrid-Princeton offense that the Hoyas run. The fact that it’s a “big man school” is one of the reasons he made the choice, but it wasn’t the only one.

“The coaches, they don’t just care about you on the court,” Smith said, “they care about you off the court. For me, being that far from home, [that’s big].”

And while there is always a learning curve for players entering John Thompson III’s program, it’s important to remember that Smith isn’t a typical addition; he’s been with this team for almost a year, having enrolled for the second semester last season. He’s got plenty of practice time under his belt.

“When I first go there I was really confused,” Smith said to reporters in his first meeting with the media as a member of the Hoyas. “It was kind of hard. But being here almost a year now, being able to practice with the guys last year and being able to play this year. The thing with Coach Thompson offense is, with bigs especially, you have to be able to handle the ball and make passes. We’ve been working through it and I feel comfortable.”

Smith isn’t a dumb kid. He’s well-spoken with a quick wit and a goofy sense of humor. He seems to fit in well with this group. On paper, it’s a perfect fit, but looking at it on paper won’t tell you whether or not he’s dedicated himself to getting into good enough condition to be able to contribute 25 minutes per game. Neither Thompson nor Smith would divulge how much Smith weighs or how much weight he’s lost. Instead, they focused on the ideas of production and minutes. What the scale reads when he steps on it isn’t as important was how long Smith’s able to play at maximum effort. Will he be too gassed to move his feet defensively after playing for three or four minutes? Will he be able to get to where he needs to be offensively in late-game possessions?

That said, it’s obvious looking at him that he’s slimmed down some since his days in Westwood.

“He’s in a lot better shape,” Starks said, although to a man, everyone in the program said he’s not yet where he needs to be.

“I been here for almost a year, so even though I haven’t been on the court, I’ve been at every practice with them, every conditioning, lift, workout, playing,” Smith said. “I’ve been doing all of it. I’ve just noticed a really big change, being able to go for a little bit in practice and now being able to go for a full practice, I feel better running up and down the floor.”

“I’m more motivated because I’ve been off for about a year. I keep telling these guys, I haven’t played a game since I can’t remember.”

For now, Smith, who was on the then-No. 11 UCLA team that lost to Georgetown at the Barclays Center, seems to finally just be happy to get back on the court, if for no reason other to regain some of his locker room bragging rights.

“Ever since I’ve been here,” he said, “the guys have been giving me crap, saying, ‘Oh, we beat y’all when y’all were top ten.'”

No. 4 Maryland refocuses, slows down No. 18 Purdue

Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon watches from the sideline during a break in play in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Purdue, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
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No. 18 Purdue and No. 4 Maryland exchanged leads for most of the first 33 minutes before the Boilermakers scored five straight points on layups by Rapheal Davis (who was fouled on his make) and Caleb Swanigan. Purdue was getting the touches it wanted around the basket, and Mark Turgeon’s Terrapins weren’t doing a whole lot to keep it from happening either.

Turgeon called a timeout to get his team back in sync defensively, and as a result Maryland went on a 9-0 run that ultimately led to their winning by the final score of 72-61.

Maryland’s big men, Robert Carter Jr. and Diamond Stone, did a much better job down the stretch of keeping Purdue from getting the ball inside to senior center A.J. Hammons. Hammons finished the game with 18 points and ten rebounds, but only two of those points came after Maryland’s 9-0 second half run. But keeping the ball from getting inside is just as much about the players defending the passers as it is keeping the big(s) from getting to his preferred spot.

Defensively Maryland took away the passing angles and essentially made Purdue’s guards make plays, something they’ve struggled with at times this season. That led to far too many perimeter shots for Purdue, which shot 3-for-23 on the day from beyond the arc. Add in the fact that they attempted just five free throws as a team, making two, and areas in which the Boilermakers can benefit went neglected in College Park.

By comparison Maryland was able to make a habit of going to the foul line, shooting 24-for-27 from the charity stripe with Rasheed Sulaimon and Melo Trimble combining to go 17-for-19 on the day. The foul line helped Trimble make up for an off day from the field, as he shot 2-for-12, but the sophomore’s ability to work off of ball screens ultimately opened things up for Maryland even with his shots not falling.

Add in the fact that Sulaimon (21 points, ten rebounds) and Carter (19 points, seven rebounds) were able to pick up the slack, with Diamond Stone adding 12 points and six rebounds, and it’s easy to see why Maryland was able to turn things around down the stretch.

Maryland’s been a good defensive team this season, but they got away from that for a significant portion of Saturday’s game. A key timeout to get the team refocused paid off, the the Terrapins defending at a level that made it incredibly difficult for Purdue to get anything going. And as a result, Maryland remains within a game of leaders Iowa and Indiana in the Big Ten title race.

Darryl Reynolds shines, Kris Dunn struggles as No. 3 Villanova beat No. 11 Providence

Villanova forward Darryl Reynolds (45) dunks the ball in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Creighton, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Villanova, Pa. Villanova won 83-58. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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Replacing the injured Daniel Ochefu, who missed his third straight game as the result of a concussion, Darryl Reynolds finished with a career-high 19 points and 10 boards as No. 3 Villanova went into Providence and knocked off the No. 11 Friars, 72-60.

Josh Hart chipped in with 14 points and 13 boards (seven of which were offensive), Kris Jenkins notched a double-double as well and Ryan Arcidiacono added 16 points for the Wildcats, who improved to 10-1 in Big East play, keeping them all alone in first place in the league.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this win, which wasn’t quite as close as the final score would indicate, is that Villanova did it while shooting just 5-for-22 from three. The Wildcats have been reliant on the three during this recent run atop the conference, and on Saturday, they won by controlling the the glass and the paint.

Reynolds’ performance was something else. This is a guy who entered the game averaging just 2.3 points and a reputation for being little more than the reason that Ochefu played so many minutes, but it got to the point on Saturday that he was being double-teamed in the post to get the ball out of his hands. That’s pretty remarkable.

As if the fact that Villanova, playing without their best rebounder, grabbed 12 offensive rebounds and totally controlled the defensive glass.

 

Much of that is likely due to the fact that Ben Bentil, the 6-foot-8 forward for the Friars that is the Big East’s leading scorer, was dealing with an ankle injury he suffered at DePaul earlier this week. He finished 20 points, but much of that came in the form of jumpers and shots at the rim while his two rebounds was much more indicative of the impact that he was able to make with his ankle.

But what was really concerning for Providence was that Kris Dunn was downright awful. He shot 4-for-15 from the floor, committed six turnovers and simply made the wrong decision too many times. Yes, he was likely pressing due to the fact that Bentil was injured and Villanova’s defense was keying on him, but it’s not exactly comforting to know that this is what his floor is.

He’s Kris Dunn.

He’s going to be keyed on by defenses every single time he steps on a basketball court.

He has to be better than he was today.