COLUMBUS, Ohio - Five thoughts on Georgetown’s 74-59 win over Belmont in the NCAA tournament second round:
Why, again, were the Hoyas supposed to be a trendy upset pick? Sure, Georgetown wasn’t exactly dominant over the latter part of the season, with a jarring defeat at Seton Hall and a disappointing loss with the second seed in the Big East tournament on the line to end the regular season at Marquette. The defeat to Cincinnati in the Big East quarterfinals didn’t help, either, especially considering that the Hoyas squandered a sizeable second-half lead.
But there are still things that this team does well against most opponents and were set up to do especially well against a team like Belmont. The Bruins, while skilled and experienced, were literally overmatched and undersized against the Hoyas at every position.
Combine that with a focused intensity on the defensive end, and Belmont – a team that has already launched a 3-point shot by the time you think they have an opening to take on – was reduced to hesitating and desperately skipping the ball around the perimeter and across the court en route to finishing the night 10-for-27 from the arc.
“I think they’re a better team than I thought they were,” Bruins coach Rick Byrd said, but he’s the only one with a good excuse.
“Our defense has been old-school Georgetown defense, I think, for large chunks of this season,” Hoyas coach John Thompson III said.
Jason Clark was locked in early. As good and efficient as the Hoyas offense was against Belmont, shooting 54 percent in the first half and 70 percent in the second half, Clark shook off the nerves with a steely showing early. He drove to the bucket for Georgetown’s first points then knocked down the first of a trio of first-half 3-pointers, scoring 10 of the Hoyas’ first 14 points. By then, the rest of his teammates started to find the rhythm of the contest. Whether they would have without him? Try not to think about it.
Clark also had one of the best baskets of the second half, a reverse layup for a 50-38 lead during a portion of the game when Georgetown showed some welcome killer instinct.
Both Nate Lubick and Mikael Hopkins held their own in the first half while Henry Sims was saddled with foul trouble. Sims went out at the 11:15 mark with two fouls and never returned, leaving the Hoyas without the main initiator on offense. Lubick who has been inconsistent throughout the season, demonstrated that he’s still a pretty good passer when he gets the chance, delivering three straight assists to help Georgetown build its working margin. Of course, he then committed three straight turnovers and two fouls and had to take a seat himself, too.
Hopkins, who’s averaged 6.8 minutes per game this year, came off the bench to play the final six minutes of the half, grabbing two rebounds and scoring three points.
Hollis Thompson showed up just in time to make sure he didn’t finish scoreless. Having missed his five of his first six shots of the afternoon, Thompso finished 3-for-9, hitting a jumper from the wing for a 67-51 lead with 3:33 remaining sent fans streaming for the exits. On at least one miss in the first half, Thompson hesitated and took a step into a defender instead of releasing in rhythm when he got the ball. It’ll certainly be something to keep an eye out for as the Hoyas prepare for North Carolina State.
The Wolfpack are balanced, confident and playing well. With 22 points in North Carolina State’s 79-65 win over San Diego State, Richard Howell, who had 14 points in last year’s 82-67 Georgetown win when the teams met in Charleston, S.C., had his biggest scoring night of the year since the second game of the year, when he had career-high 25 points against Morehead State. He was also in some foul trouble.
The Wolfpack, who have now won five of their last six games, also got 17 points from Lorenzo Brown and 15 from CJ Leslie, who had only four in the first half. Scott Wood also stepped up in the second half, where scored eight of his 10 points. Leslie and Wood were both held in single digits in last year’s game, but under first-year coach Mark Gottfried, the Wolfpack is a very different team this year. Most importantly for Georgetown, they’ll also be a step up in level of competition.