The Georgetown Hoyas (22-7, 12-6 Big East) begin Big East Tournament play tomorrow at 2 PM, when they play the Pittsburgh Panthers (17-15, 5-13) at Madison Square Garden. The Panthers come in after walloping St. John’s this afternoon, 73-59. Senior guard Ashton Gibbs led the team with 20 points while Nasir Robinson chipped in 15 points to go along with 8 rebounds.
Awards and Snubs
Over the weekend, senior guard Jason Clark was named to the All-Big East First Team while classmate Henry Sims was recognized for his turnaround this season, as he was named to the Third Team. Junior guard Hollis Thompson was named Honorable Mention. The senior was proud of his accomplishment but in his own, selfless manner, deflected the attention towards the team.
“That’s a personal accomplishment, but I could only be in this position because of my teammates,” Clark said. “We’ve been winning games – at the beginning of the season, I just wanted to lead this team to victory. I worked hard, I think I deserve it, but there’s a lot more from on this point.”
His coach, John Thompson III, was very proud of Clark and Sims’ efforts as well, focusing in on Jason’s contributions to the team.
“Very happy for Jason,” Thompson said. “Jason Clark is someone, that for four years, has just worked – he’s just gone about his business, worked extremely hard for four years, has always been in the background, for four years has always been extremely selfless.”
In addition, Clark was awarded the Big East Sportsmanship Award, a testament to his peers’ perception of Clark. The guard did not hear about the award until reporters mentioned it to him yesterday, but was honored by the distinction.
“I’m just all about the game of basketball,” the Arlington native said. “I’m not with all the trash talking and all that other stuff. The game gets emotional sometimes, but I respect a lot of the other players around the league because they respect me. I’m out there usually having fun.”
Not everything went as expected for the Hoyas, though, as freshman Otto Porter was not named to the All-Big East Rookie Team. Porter leads the Hoyas in rebounding this season and has played his best in Georgetown’s biggest games. Still, Porter remains humble and simply wants to acknowledge the snub through his play this week.
“It motivates me,” said Porter of the snub. “But I just come in and play my game, basically. Just playing in the Big East is my motivation. I just want to win.”
Bouncing back and looking for revenge
The Hoyas are coming off a disappointing loss to Marquette on Saturday. With a win, the team would have secured the two seed in the Big East and a double bye. Instead, the 83-69 loss dropped the Hoyas to a five seed, leaving them with only a single-game bye. Clark acknowledged that the loss was upsetting but says his team has turned the page from the defeat.
“It’s a big disappointment,” Clark said. “That’s a big jump from 2 to 5 but we’re not thinking about that anymore. We’re going to go out and we know we have to win games Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. I think this team is prepared to do that, we’ve been working hard all season so I don’t think there’s any reason why we can’t do that.”
Aside from Marquette senior Jae Crowder’s stellar performance, the Hoyas were done in by an inability to counter the Golden Eagles full-court press. In all, they committed 14 turnovers but the press stagnated their offense and never allowed them to mount a comeback as they did in the teams’ first meeting back in January. Thompson said it is something they have stressed in practice when speaking with reporters on Monday. As for preparing for the tournament, the coach stressed that the team’s approach has to be different, as teams only find out their opponent about 24 hours before tipoff.
“This time of the year, there’s always going to be quick turnarounds,” said Thompson. “We’ve got to be ready to adjust, to adapt, to come up with things. But then you have to fall back on who you are – all of the defensive principles we’ve worked on all year, all of the offensive principles. This time of year, it’s difficult to reinvent the wheel for each game.”
The Hoyas also have a bit of a vendetta, as the Panthers beat Georgetown in Pittsburgh earlier this season. At that time, the Panthers were just getting used to having point guard Tray Woodall back in their lineup, making them all the more dangerous now that they’ve adjusted to his return. Sims expressed frustration with that game against Pittsburgh, but vowed the Hoyas would come out focused if given another shot at the Panthers.
“We just couldn’t get stops,” Sims reminisced. “It was aggravating to see them score so easily. We’re not supposed to let that happen. If we see them again, it’ll be a different story.”
Clark echoed his teammates’ sentiments but indicated that his Hoyas are in for a battle on Wednesday afternoon.
“Definitely, we want another shot at Pitt, said Clark before Pittsburgh’s victory over St John’s Tuesday. “That’s a good team – their record doesn’t reflect how good they are. That’s a team that battles, they play together. Either way, it’s going to be a tough game.”