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

Hoyas Will Look to Stay Afloat at Duke

After debuting at No. 8 in preseason polls, Georgetown (4-2) has been falling at a steady clip. A Nov. 19 loss to Old Dominion in cDonough Gymnasium dropped the Hoyas to No. 18. Wednesday night’s disappointing home defeat to Oregon all but ensures that unless Georgetown topples Duke, it will fall from the top 25 altogether, a sad sign that the Hoyas have woefully underperformed thus far, at least in comparison to the momentous hype that surrounded the team entering the season.

“There are some things that we need to straighten out, things we need to fix,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said, “and so whether we are playing Duke or playing someone at the other end of the spectrum, I’ve said this from the beginning, we have a long way to go.”

For Georgetown, the improvement must come on both ends of the floor if it is to be the first non-conference opponent to win in Durham in 46 games.

Wooden Award candidates junior forward Jeff Green and junior center Roy Hibbert combined for just nine points and 11 rebounds against Oregon.

“We have to go about giving [Roy], as well as Jeff, the ball in different ways,” Thompson said. “They have to be much more aggressive about trying to get the ball, and then, we have to put the ball in the basket when we get the ball two feet from the basket.”

More distressingly, Green took just four shots, making two, and Hibbert hit just 2-of-7 from the floor – three of his misses were layups, and all were within arm’s length of the basket. Georgetown committed 17 turnovers and assisted on just seven of its 22 baskets, portents that the Hoyas’ `vaunted’ Princeton offense was not working.

Green’s struggles are particularly perplexing. He struggled early last season as well, but this year Green was supposed to take his game to a new level. He was supposed to be more assertive, more polished, and ready to be the man. Instead, he and his 10.8 point, 6.3 rebound averages have toiled in mediocrity. The second half against Vanderbilt (14 points, six rebounds, four assists) and the first half against Ball State (12 points on 4-of-4 shooting) have been the only exceptions.

“We have to get [Jeff] more looks, more touches, and he has to be more aggressive,” Thompson said.

“He’s a team leader and we’re all gonna follow him. It starts with him, really, and I’m right there to follow with him,” Hibbert added.

Against Duke, Green will need to forget his unselfish personality and be more forceful.

“I feel like that’s just me, by me being myself, I think it can hurt me just as much as it can help me,” he said.

Look at the numbers more closely, and Georgetown’s offensive struggles are that much more apparent. According to kenpom.com’s detailed analysis of college basketball statistics, Georgetown ranks 51st in adjusted offensive efficiency, which out of over 300 teams is solid, but a number of the Hoyas other offensive statistics are concerning. Georgetown places 146th in turnover percentage (turnovers/possessions), 177th in offensive rebounding percentage, and 122nd in free throws made per field goal attempted. In short, the Hoyas have turned the ball over too often, not grabbed enough offensive rebounds, and not gotten to the free throw line often enough.

Compounding the issue on Saturday, the young Blue Devils team – Duke starts three freshman and regularly plays a fourth – is quickly developing a reputation for its defensive savvy. The Blue Devils have held opponents to a dismal 35.6 shooting percentage from the floor and a dreadful 26.9 percent rate from beyond the arc. Duke averages six blocked shots per contest, led by sophomore forward Josh McRoberts’ 16, and has recorded 65 steals in seven games. Sophomore forward David McClure, 16, and junior guard DeMarcus Nelson, 14, lead the squad in swipes.

Only North Carolina Central, which still lost by 29, and arquette, the only team to beat the Blue Devils, have scored 60 points against Duke.

The Blue Devils ranked fourth nationally in kenpom.com’s adjusted defensive efficiency, a statistic which reflects points allowed per 100 possessions, taking into consideration the game’s location, opponent, and recentness.

“Duke’s always been a very good defensive team,” Wallace said. “I’ve seen them play a few times this year on TV and they still keep those concepts as far as playing real hard defense.”

At the other end of Coack K Court, Duke is not necessarily explosive, but it is fast-paced and it is steady. Led by Nelson’s 14.3 and McRoberts’ 10.7 points per game, the Blue Devils average just over 70 points a night on 49.1 percent shooting (43.2 from behind the arc).

Sophomore guard Greg Paulus, a top recruit a year ago, has struggled with injuries and inconsistency in the early going, and averages just 5.1 points and 4.3 assists in 24 minutes of action. cRoberts leads the team in rebounding at 6.7 a contest, and each Dukie has done his part on the glass so far, as the Blue Devils are averaging 8.5 more rebounds than their opponents.

“They still are terrific,” Thompson said. “They are a very good team; they have quality players at every position.”

Georgetown’s defense has been a mixed bag thus far. The Hoyas have blocked 35 shots in six games, led by Hibbert’s 16, but have forced fewer turnovers than they’ve committed. Georgetown has held opponents to 42.9 percent shooting and 62.5 points per game, but has been giving the opposition numerous open looks from all over the court. The Hoyas rank 218th in defensive efficiency; that is, Georgetown’s ability to control the clock and keep the ball out of its opponent’s hands has masked the fact that when its opponents do have the ball, they tend to score with ease.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement,” Thompson said of his defense, matter-of-factly.

Then, of course, there’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, the ultimate sixth man, one of the most difficult places to play in all of sports. The last time Duke lost more than twice on its home floor in a single season was 1996, when the Blue Devils finished 11-4 at home. Since, Duke has amassed an astounding 68-4 record at Cameron. All-time, the Blue Devils are 632-139 at home, an .820 winning percentage.

“Obviously you have to play against some really good players and also you have the Cameron crazies I guess yelling at you,” Hibbert said. “They sit like two feet away from you, I heard, so I think we’re gonna have to zone them out and listen to what Coach wants to do.”

Wallace added, “Cameron is going to be itself, loud and crazy, but we have to stay focused. The game is played within the lines. [We] can’t really get caught up with the fan factor.”

The challenging venue is one that Green welcomes. “I haven’t played there,” he said. “This is my first time going there, but from looking at games, it looks crazy – their fans are very into the game so it should be fun.”

There’s also the revenge factor. Georgetown ended Duke’s undefeated start a year ago and pushed the Blue Devils from the No. 1 ranking. Duke players were forced to walk off of the court as Georgetown fans stormed it.

“I know [Duke is thinking revenge],” Hibbert said. “The bull’s eye is on us, so we have to go out strong.”

When the Hoyas defeated the Blue Devils last season, they jumped into the national polls and the national consciousness. Georgetown was featured on front pages from coast to coast. Jan. 21, 2006, was a big step for the program.

“Going in last year, we may have [had] a lot of naysayers saying we couldn’t play with those guys, “Wallace said, “but at the same time we knew that we could, you know we were confident in ourselves as a team.”

Tomorrow’s matchup may not have the same kind of long term implications – though ending Duke’s home winning streak would be a historic feat – but a win would go a long way in rectifying the Hoyas’ slow start.

“We just bring that same confidence back with us this year,” Wallace continued. “We know we’re able to go in and compete with Duke and play our style of basketball.”

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