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Monday, January 14, 2008

Exhilarating, But Troubling: A Review of UConn & Preview of Pitt

Let me start with the good. The game against UConn was awesome. It wasn’t the best game that Georgetown has played this season – far from it. But it was the most exciting game that the Hoyas have participated in this season. The vibe from the 20,000 plus fans at Verizon was electric. And I have to give special props to the students for this one. They turned out in force. The student sections in the lower bowl were completely filled and there was an overflow of students filling up about a quarter of the upper level. I can’t remember the last time I saw a turn out like that.

It was obvious from the get-go that this was going to be a classic Big East show down. UConn is a big, physical team. Within the first 45 seconds of the game there was more body banging then in Georgetown’s previous 13 games combined. And UConn brought more than physicality. They brought their “A” game. For the first 15 minutes of the game the Hoyas played fantastically, but the Huskies stayed right with them. Georgetown couldn’t get up by more than five. The Hoyas got a little breathing room towards the end of the first half, but UConn battled back to get within four at the half. With a half-time score of 38 to 42 it was obvious that UConn was going to far surpass the Hoyas’ season averages for points allowed and field goal percentage.

And in the second half the Huskies really turned it on. With about 8 and a half minutes to go they took the lead. UConn appeared to be firing on all cylinders and the Hoyas seemed to be falling apart. I can’t even count the number of times that UConn got an easy, unguarded dunk. The crowd was despondent. They Austin Freeman stood up. Again. With the Hoyas down five with a little over 5 minutes to go Freeman hit a three. UConn answered with a two point lay-up and Roy Hibbert missed a jumper on the other end. UConn threw down another dunk and the Hoyas were down six with 4 minutes to play. Again, Freeman nailed a three pointed, bringing the game within three points with just three minutes remaining. Jessie Sapp added a three pointer to tie the game. And after the Huskies and Hoyas traded points, the stage was set for Roy Hibbert to hit the biggest three-pointer of his career. Granted it was only the second three pointer of his career, but it was still big.

On paper it looks like Roy Hibbert had an amazing game. He scored 20 points and had 8 rebounds. Then, of course, there was the shot. With about 5 seconds on the clock and the game tied Hibbert got the ball at the top of the key. His man was playing off of him. Did he drive to the basket? No, of course not. He took half a step back and nailed a silky smooth three pointer. Nothing but net. The crowd erupted. The Hoyas won. This is the game we had been waiting for Roy to have.

Or was it. I mean, Roy did log 36 minutes (the most this season). He effectively managed his fouls (a problem in past years). He went five for seven from the charity stripe (very respectable; especially given how bad the Hoyas have been this year). But he was only 7 for 14 from the field, and most of those weren’t three point shots if you know what I mean. There was a stretch when Thabeet was dominating Roy. I don’t know the exact number, but there were several shots that were swatted away. And I don’t think it was because Thabeet is that good. I think it was more of a product of the predictability of Roy’s move down low. Let’s be honest. Roy isn’t that dynamic. If you watch enough tape of him you can probably figure out that he has a certain number of “go to” moves in the post. It looked like Thabeet was just ready.

Maybe I’m nit-picking. But I’m a little concerned.

Which brings us to tonight’s game against Pitt.

For the second time in three days the Hoyas are going to appear on national television. With just one day rest the Hoyas have to go to Pitt – a venue where they have struggled historically. And they are playing against a Pitt team that is hungry to beat Georgetown. After Pitt’s victory over Seton Hall on Saturday the Panthers players were already turning their attention to the Hoyas. Remember, the last time these teams met was in the Big East Championship game. The Panthers want revenge and this is a game where they might get it.

Short rest, on the road, against a strong opponent, might spell disaster for the Hoyas. Then again, Pitt has had a lot of bad injuries this year. They are playing with out Levance Fields, their most talented playmaker, and Mike Cook. That puts extra pressure on Sam Young, who has emerged as the leader of this Pitt team. This is a totally different team than the Hoyas beat twice last year. It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out tonight.

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