In two nationally televised clashes with Memphis so far this season, the Hoyas have managed to secure two victories over the Tigers. Tonight’s rematch was a little easier going than their thrilling 91-88 overtime win in Maui though, as Georgetown won handily, 70-59. The team held a comfortable lead for most of the night, led by 18 points from Hollis Thompson and 17 from Jason Clark. Georgetown improved to 10-1 with the victory as they complete their non-conference schedule.
A packed Verizon Center crowd came to see the Hoyas, joining a few NBA scouts and a packed media contingent that came specifically to see the Hoya veterans. Clark, Thompson, and Henry Sims shined in that spotlight tonight, as the trio combined for 47 of Georgetown’s points. Sims controlled the paint all night and made his presence known with a couple of emphatic blocks and nine rebounds on the evening. Head Coach John Thompson III said the team focused on rebounding and their defensive effort this week, also noting that the rebounding burden does not fall squarely on Sims and the other big men.
“I spent most of this week getting on Jason Clark because he hasn’t been rebounding as well as he needs to rebound,” Thompson said. “So, we don’t look at it as our bigs’ responsibility to rebound. We all have to get in there and that’s something that has definitely been a point of emphasis with us across the board.”
The Hoyas’ work in the paint led to 34 rebounds, but it didn’t stop there, as their efforts in the paint led to 30 free throws. Many of those free throws came as the Hoyas’ crashed the offensive glass, exploiting the Tigers’ tendency to leak out on fast break attempts after offensive possessions.
The Hoyas neutralized an extremely athletic Memphis offense this time around. In their past contest, Georgetown ran with the Tigers and won, but tonight they played more to their strengths and controlled the pace of the game. In the process, they forced 18 turnovers, ten of which were steals that led to easy transition buckets. Four of those steals came from Clark, who helped hold Joe Jackson without a field goal and Will Barton to 3-10 for just 12 points. Thompson thought Memphis’ star was extremely effective despite the poor shooting, but acknowledged his team’s strong defense on him.
Will’s difficult to guard because he play’s so hard,” Thompson said. “It was a team effort to try to slow him down.”
“For most of tonight, our defense was very very good,” he said. “When we stopped their transition and didn’t have unforced turnovers, I thought out defense was pretty good for large stretches of the game.”
The Tigers had a tough time penetrating against the Hoya defense, as they simply could not establish themselves in the paint. Clark also felt that the constant pressure they applied, along with improved communication after halftime, helped them to put the game out of reach.
“Helping each other, our pressure caused them to turn the ball over a little more,” he said. “We were just in the right places at the right time, doing what we were supposed to do – I think that led to our fast break points.”
Setting the Rotation
Over the course of the game, Thompson only brought three players off the bench, all of whom were freshmen. Of those three, Otto Porter saw extended action and continued to display his ballhawk mentality, finding the ball time and time again. Tonight’s win marks the end of the Hoyas’ out-of-conference schedule and it looks like Thompson has finally settled on his rotation for the Big East stretch of the schedule. Nate Lubick produced some strong play in limited minutes on the day, but overall Thompson has opted to keep Porter in during crunch time in the second half.
The #16 Hoyas sit at 10-1 on the season, as they await the start of Big East play. Clark noted that this game was a good confidence builder for the Hoyas heading into the conference grind.
“It’s always good to beat a team two times in a row,” the senior guard said. “That’s the type of game we want to have when we get to the Big East, so it definitely boosted our confidence.”
The team gets to enjoy their Christmas holiday, but then need to get right back at it for their biggest game of the season thus far – on Wednesday in Louisville against the #4 Cardinals. The 7 p.m. game on ESPN2 could be an opportunity for the Hoyas to unseat an undefeated Louisville team, a feat that would open Big East play in emphatic fashion for the surging group.