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

GU Set to Tip Off in Big Easy

Georgetown’s season opener at Tulane tonight has been almost as highly anticipated on campus as the end of midterms and Thanksgiving break combined. Fans and players alike are eager to wash out the taste of last year’s first-round exit from the NIT, and the Hoyas appear to have the talent to return to the top of the Big East.

Yet there’s a good chance tonight’s game will leave the fans wanting more. For the past three seasons, Georgetown has had trouble beating marginal opponents in its season opener. Last year the Hoyas’ shooting struggled from the field and they got outrebounded in a nine-point win over Jacksonville. Two years ago William and Mary forced Georgetown into more turnovers than assists, and the Final Four-bound Hoyas of 2006-2007 could not put the opener out of reach until the final two minutes

against Hartford.

History, coupled with the fact that this is just the second time this decade the Hoyas will open on the road, could make for a difficult game in the Big Easy.

“We’re excited and the game is at our place,” Tulane Head Coach Dave Dickerson said Thursday evening. “We feel that if we can feed off the energy from our crowd and do the basic things, then we’ll have a chance at winning the game. . It’s one of those early games where you don’t know what you’re going to get.”

The season opener will be part of a process for Head Coach John Thompson III and his team as they develop a cohesive style of play that will prepare them to win in the Big East.

“I think that this group is going to have to collectively figure out who we are and get an early feel for how we’re going to `figure it out’ as the year goes on,” Thompson told The Hoya after the team had a week of practice under its belt. “To be put in adverse conditions early will allow us to fight through situations and to work out some kinks. Hopefully such that when Big East play starts, we have the template for how we’re going to have success.”

Although he will have a good idea of where the pieces fit before tip-off tonight, Thompson said figuring out how to win is a fluid process that evolves as the season and players progress.

The core of the team, composed of three returning regular starters, appears clear at the outset.

Sophomore center Greg Monroe, who chose to return to Georgetown instead of entering the NBA draft, will make another homecoming Friday. The New Orleans-native won a Louisiana state title as a senior at Helen Cox High School, and he will have his first opportunity to play in front of the hometown crowd as a collegiate player.

The 6-foot-11 Monroe should feast on the guard-oriented Green Wave. In a 78-64 exhibition win over Loyola-New Orleans Monday night, Tulane did not start a player taller than 6-foot-7. The Green Wave were outrebounded and their five post players shot a combined 6-of-19 from the field for 17 points.

Dickerson said he will not base his defensive game plan around Monroe because the Hoyas have a number of offensive weapons.

“If you focus all of your attention on Greg Monroe . you can’t win the game,” Dickerson said. “We’re going to play our team defense, and we’re going to help each other out.”

The other two members of the Hoyas’ core – junior guards Chris Wright and Austin Freeman – will go up against Tulane’s own experienced backcourt duo of junior Kris Richard and senior Kevin Sims.

Against Loyola Richard poured in 27 points on a blazing 9-of-11 shooting night, and he hit all five of his three-point attempts. Sims added 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.

Outside of the Hoyas’ core, the rest of the pieces are not set in stone. In the frontcourt, sophomore

Henry Sims and junior Julian Vaughn will compete for a starting role, and freshman forward Jerrelle Benimon, who is a solid 6-foot-7, 242 pounds and was a prolific high school rebounder, could play a key role off the bench.

In the backcourt, sophomores Jason Clark and redshirt Nikita Mescheriakov and freshman Hollis Thompson are all in the mix for the final starting spot. Freshman guard Vee Sanford could come off the bench, although the Hoyas have more depth in the backcourt than they do in the front.

Even tonight’s starters and rotation will not necessarily show how the puzzle will look in January. Three years ago, Tyler Crawford (COL ’08) played fewer than eight minutes a game after starting in the opener. Two years ago, Patrick Ewing Jr. (COL ’08) was the starting small forward at the outset of the season, only to relinquish that role to then-freshman Freeman.

In addition to Thompson figuring out where the pieces fit, the players must figure out how to go about winning. Last year, the Hoyas struggled to win close games, but Thompson thinks his team will be better prepared for those situations this year due to experience.

“There’s no substitute for the lessons learned, the steps that they took last year,” he said. “So hopefully being in as many [close] situations as we were in and not finding a way to figure it out, not finding a way to come up successful, hopefully as a team and as a group we’ve learned. We understand making winning plays – not just winning shots – but whether it’s a deflection, whether it’s a rebound, whether it’s just filling the lanes hard – whatever the winning play is – [it could be] communicating on defense with your teammates so that we can get a stop. I think that this group has learned.”

Tonight’s season opener will be an important step for the Hoyas as they try to put last year behind them and start to figure out which path will lead to success this year. Yet if history holds true, don’t expect a resounding win.”

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