Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

MEN’S BASKETBALL | Veterans Shine in Hoyas’ Statement Win

Georgetown walked into Coleman Coliseum on Thursday night with a point to prove. Already sitting comfortably at 5-1 and boasting a win over then-No. 8 Memphis, the Hoyas knew another win over a top team likely would catapult them back onto the national stage and firmly into the top 25 in what many expected to be a rebuilding year.

Standing in the way was No. 12 Alabama, along with its 24-game home winning streak, a vocal sellout crowd in Coleman Coliseum for the first time since 2003, and a player — Tony Mitchell — intent on doing his best impression of Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, complete with multiple highlight-reel dunks.

Georgetown’s underclassmen, rightly lauded for their play in the early stages of this season, stuttered against the Crimson Tide. Freshmen Otto Porter and Greg Whittington along with sophomores NateLubick and Markel Starks managed just 10 points between them, making just four of 14 shots. They did find ways to contribute — most notably Porter, whose length and athleticism was key to shutting down Alabama’s stars — but the scoring load fell on the roster’s elder statesmen. Senior guard Jason Clark was the only player on the court who could consistently make jumpers, and finished with a game-high 22 points on just 11 shots. Fellow senior Henry Sims chipped in 13 points and junior Hollis Thompson grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and shook off early shooting woes to score 12 points, including the game-winning three on a handoff from Clark with 1.8 seconds left.

One of the heroes, though, nearly cost Georgetown the game after carrying the team painfully close to the finish line. When Alabama inbounded the ball with about 15 seconds left, Clark was whistled for a foul as he tried to fight through a screen, sending Trevor Releford — an 87 percent free throw shooter this year — to the line for two shots. Releford calmly nailed both, and Coach John Thompson III used his last timeout to call his players over and go over the final play.

“We wanted to get Jason Clark to come off the screen set by Henry Sims,” Thompson III said. “We knew we were in the one-and-one and tried to get the ball as close to the basket as possible … we couldn’t get the first part of the play done. [Alabama] defended the first part very well but Hollis was able to get open and do what Hollis does.”

“We had some breakdowns during the play,” Alabama Head Coach Anthony Grant said. “We talked about what we needed to do from a defensive standpoint in the timeout but unfortunately we didn’t get it done on the court.”

A major reason that Thompson was in position to be the hero was a stifling Georgetown defense that kept Alabama’s star forward duo of Mitchell and JaMychal Green relatively under control, although Mitchell managed to score 16 second-half points on an array of midrange jumpers and stunning dunks. Key to that defense was Thompson III’s decision to employ an active zone defense, which Crimson Tide shooters struggled to exploit. The hosts missed their first 11 threes and ultimately finished just 3-of-16 from behind the arc.

“Obviously we dug a hole for ourselves in the first half without any ability to execute and make shots,” Grant said. “The zone really bothered us. We’ve got to obviously do a better job in terms of our preparation and making sure that we’re doing what we need to do when we see zones.”

Both teams were held to a season low in points in the first half, with the Blue and Gray mustering just 23 points and the Crimson Tide a mere 16. Both teams improved their offensive output in the second half, but that was more a product of shots starting to fall than either defense letting up.

“We knew they weren’t going to just roll over,” Clark said. “We just had to stick together. “We told ourselves that we are going to stick together, keep playing our offense, keep playing defense and just play it until the clock ran out.”

Thanks to that defense and perseverance, the Hoyas were able to run their record to 6-1 heading into Saturday’s clash with NJIT. To hear Thompson III tell it, though, the Blue and Gray won’t settle for the kind of performance that earned them a win on Thursday night

“Our guys have a lot of room for growth. We’re playing a lot of young guys and they’re going to have to help us before the season is over,” Thompson III said. “I’m not looking into trajectories or anything like that. We need to take care of ourselves and everything else will fall into place.”

If the Hoyas do take care of themselves on Saturday and beat NJIT, Sims, Clark, Thompson and their teammates will find themselves in very familiar territory — back in the national spotlight and the top 25.

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