“That was the Providence College team that lost a lot of games,” Friars head coach Ed Cooley said, rather sternly, after losing to St. John’s, 91-67, on Tuesday night. “That was the worst defensive game I have ever coached. That will be addressed at 6AM. Emphatically addressed.”
Lesson learned in the first two-plus months of Cooley’s time at Providence: don’t be the team to play him after a bad loss, because his team will come out swinging.
Georgetown found that out on Saturday afternoon at the Verizon Center, but escaped.
In a game that was, at times, very ugly, the Hoyas were able to grind out a 49-40 victory for their 10th straight win.
In sharp contrast to Wednesday’s 71-68 win over Louisville in which they shot nearly 50 percent from the floor, the Hoyas mustered an unsightly 18-of-60 (30 percent) for the game, only to be outdone by Providence’s painful 25 percent.
Not always exploiting a size advantage on the block, the Hoyas shot 3-of-19 from distance, allowing Providence to get out in transition, which sparked a 12-4 run for the Friars that tied the game with just over eight minutes remaining in the second half.
It was the textbook definition of a defensive struggle, and credit that to Cooley’s commitment on that end of the floor. It wasn’t sloppy, with just eight Georgetown turnovers, but the Hoyas were forced into difficult shots and, simply, were not converting.
Center Henry Sims shot just 2-of-13 from the floor, but was able to sink 7-of-9 free throws, to end with 11 points.
A breakthrough eluded the Hoyas until Sims and fellow senior Jason Clark combined to score 10 of Georgetown’s last 14 points in the final six minutes, broken open by Clark’s layup, and the foul, with thirty seconds to play. Clark finished with the only impressive statline of the night, tallying 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting, and nine rebounds.
The win shows, for the second time this season, including the win over then-No. 12 Alabama, that Georgetown can grind it out against defensive teams and not turn the basketball over.
Louisville’s pressure defense caused 16 Hoya turnovers Wednesday night, but the win over Providence hinged on the single-digit turnover numbers for John Thompson III’s squad. They may be without a nationally-recognizable name this season, without players like Austin Freeman or Greg Monroe of the past, but they seem to all be on the same page.
Add Sims, who took three years to develop but now seems to be blossoming into a typical Georgetown big, and the Hoyas have an inside presence to go along with Clark and Hollis Thompson, who is averaging nearly 15 points on the year.
Georgetown will be this year’s surprise at the top of the Big East and, by starting 2-0 in the conference, are off on the right foot.
But, as the cliché has proven, and almost did Saturday afternoon, anyone can beat you on any given night in the Big East.