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

Third Time’s the Charm for Hoyas Against Syracuse Zone

Junior guard Chris Wright led the Hoyas with 29 points and six assists against the Syracuse 2-3 zone.
Junior guard Chris Wright led the Hoyas with 29 points and six assists against the Syracuse 2-3 zone.

NEW YORK – The first time Georgetown and Syracuse met at the Carrier Dome in January, the young Hoyas looked shell-shocked against a Syracuse zone that was long, fast and showed few openings. Georgetown was so frustrated that after the game none of the players were made available to the media.


Fast forward to March and the Hoyas, for the most part, looked like seasoned veterans, breaking the Syracuse 2-3 zone en route to 91 points against a team that entered the day giving up just 66.1 points per game.




“Even though the zone looks the same, they make adjustments that make it difficult to run anything consistently. Once they see you’re having some success with something, they take the next thing away,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “I think our guys did a good job of being patient and trying to figure out, ‘OK, can we get it to the short corner? Can we get it to the middle of the zone?'”




As has been the case all season, Georgetown’s fortunes were tied to the performance of junior guard Chris Wright. The fiery point guard led the Hoyas with 27 points, six assists and six rebounds, while going a cool 5-of-6 from the line.




“I think Chris Wright had a big night,” Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim said. “He really had a great game. I thought when he plays like that, that’s when they beat people.”




In the first half, Wright kept the Hoyas in the game with 13 points and three assists. With Syracuse off to a hot start, he kept the Hoyas alive with a hand in the Hoyas’ first three field goals, assisting on the first by Freeman and then adding two tough shots of his own, one in transition and the other in traffic in the paint.




The paint was where Wright made a living in the game. The 6-foot-1 junior had 12 of the Hoyas’ 42 points in the lane. It was a far cry from the perimeter-only offense Georgetown utilized at the Dome, in which Freeman, Clark and Wright rotated the ball around the perimeter, never penetrating or finding Monroe. On Thursday, however, the Hoyas stayed aggressive against the zone, finding gaps to work with, leading to high-percentage shots in the paint.




“Well, myself and Jason, we just wanted to try and be aggressive on the zone and try to … force the issue and try to get to the middle of the paint, and we’d get wide open shots,” Wright said. “As you see when we got the ball in the middle, Jason hit a couple of threes and Austin hit a couple of layups, and Greg was very effective in the high post.”




Shooting just 33.3 percent in the game from beyond the arc, the Hoyas overcame their long-range struggles with their aggressive attack.




In the second half, Wright’s biggest shot of the day came with the Hoyas holding a slim one-point advantage as he took a pass from freshman Vee Sanford with the shot clock running down and pulled up for a two to extend the lead to three points.




Just as important as Wright in attacking the zone was sophomore center Greg Monroe. Arguably one of the best passing big men in the country, Monroe did what he does best on the court: read and react.




After Monroe struggled at the Dome with eight points and six turnovers and dominated down the stretch at Verizon Center with 20 points, Boeheim wanted to focus on the first team Big East selection.




“He’s the best inside passer in college basketball easily,” he said. “And he can score in there. I thought overall we didn’t do a bad job with him.”




With the zone collapsing on him, Monroe had little room to work. Rather than get frustrated, he just shared the wealth, finding teammates in the corner, along the baseline or around the perimeter en route to seven of the teams’ 22 assists.




“It was clear that one of the judgments they made was they didn’t want him to score.” Thompson said. “He was still able to catch it. Then they crowded him more, they put more bodies at him, they sent guys at him, and so it was hard for him to get shots. We’re fine because he did a good job of finding his teammates for open shots, open layups, open cuts.”




Jason Clark, tasked with defending senior guard Andy Rautins in man-to-man sets, followed up his 16 points against South Florida with big shots and timely assists against the zone with 17 points and four assists. Junior guard Austin Freeman contributed 18 points and three assists.




The bench, which had been forced into action due to foul trouble at Syracuse and looked befuddled, stepped up and made big plays. Sanford hit the go-ahead shot on a runner on the right side to give the Hoyas a 60-59 advantage in the midst of a 19-2 run.




With junior forward Julian Vaughn on the bench against the quicker Orange defenders, Thompson turned to a smaller lineup, mainly featuring freshman guard Hollis Thompson, who overcame struggles from the line, where he missed four free throws in a row at one point, for eight points on 2-of-4 shooting and one assist in 25 minutes of play.




“I thought that was our best offensive group,” John Thompson III said of the smaller lineup. “I thought that if we hustled and scrapped we could get some stops, but [against the zone] you have to have an offensive group out there that all five guys can hit shots and make decisions and make plays. So we went small for a very, very long period of time, but we were able to constantly, continually score.”




Most importantly, when the Orange made their runs, the Hoyas continued to score, withstanding the barrage, which is something they didn’t do in January.




“They had runs against us in the previous two games,” Thompson said. “I think we did a very good job today, with the exception of the last minute or two, of not turning the ball over against them.”

The Hoyas have had their ups and downs this season, but the maturity they showed in attacking the Syracuse zone on Thursday shows just how far they’ve come from that miserable Monday night in January in Syracuse. Against a potential number one seed, it could be a sign of just how far they can go in March.






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