Immediately after No. 20 Notre Dame lost to No. 11 Georgetown on Monday evening, my colleague Mike Miller was here to tell you that you’d be a fool for picking the Irish in March.
Frankly, I don’t agree with that sentiment. Yet. If they can’t snap out of their shooting funk against Providence at home on Friday night, then I’ll start to get concerned about the Irish. But even after the past two games, I’m still of the mindset that Notre Dame has been impressive enough of the last month to earn the benefit of the doubt for now.
More than anything, what I took out of Notre Dame’s trip to the Verizon Center was just how good Georgetown is capable of being defensively. I’ve talked all season long about how effective this team can be in a zone with the length and athleticism that John Thompson III is able to put on the court at the same time. Against the Irish, the Hoyas showed what they are capable of doing in man-to-man situations as well.
Georgetown switched everything on the perimeter, something they are able to do due to the defensive versatility of guys like Hollis Thompson, Otto Porter and Greg Whittington. They put Notre Dame in a position where they had no advantage using a ball-screen — a staple of Mike Brey’s burn offense — and where any penetration would be funneled directly towards the shot blockers they have in the paint. Instead of helping off of shooters, the Hoyas challenged Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant to try and finish at the rim.
And it worked.
Whereas Notre Dame’s 4-31 shooting performance from three against St. John’s on Saturday was the result of the Irish and their inability to hit an open jumper, on Monday their struggles were due to the play of the Hoyas. Georgetown challenged every three, and Notre Dame simply never found their rhythm.
“They prepared for us really well. You have to applaud them for that,” Atkins said of the Hoyas. “We’re going to have to get back in the lab and get ready for teams doing that against us. I’m sure teams are going to look at this film and prepare the same way.”
“I’m very impressed with them defensively. Their size and their quickness bothered us,” Brey added. “I give a lot of credit to Georgetown and their defense. That may be the best defense we play against all season.”
The 41 points Notre Dame put up was embarrassing, but don’t forget to give credit the Georgetown defense. Because it was as dominating as its been all year long.