It was as Ugly as Ugly gets in the Big East. Bricks flying in all directions, missed layups, missed free throws, 15 Georgetown turnovers (to Providence’s 8) and 42 total fouls (23 Hoyas, 19 Friars). However, there is not one single statistic that can explain how the Hoyas let this one slip away on the road on Saturday afternoon. With victories on the road in very short supply in the Big East, the Hoyas can’t afford to leave winnable games on the table if their goal is a happier ending at the end of the season, whatever that goal–a winning season in the Big East or something better.
Some might like to point to Mikael Hopkins’ 4 consecutive free throws at the end of the game (and 0 for 6 for the game) as a reason for the loss. The Hoyas overall 55% free throw percentage. Or Hopkins’ two goaltending calls to lead to 4 points for the Friars. But Mikael cannot be singled out to blame. Neither can DSR for a last second shot clock 3-pointer heaved from Mars. Nor can Paul White for fumbling the ball after receiving a pass from DSR in what could have been a last second winning 3-point shot in OT when he didn’t have a prayer to get the shot off with a few seconds left as he was well covered by the D. We also can point to a worthy opponent, the Providence Friars, but my eyes tell me that the Hoya team has the greater talent, with perhaps the exception of forward LaDontae Henton, whom Fox Sports 1 informs us “hates to lose”.
The Game: In a nutshell, this was a nip and tuck, sloppy contest from start to finish. The Hoyas started the game with a missed free throw (DSR), two turnovers and soon were down 9-3. In typical Hoya fashion, the team fought back yet ended the first half with their lowest point total of the season, behind 23-21 at the half, and with Georgetown Big Men Smith and Hopkins in foul trouble, again.
Fortunately, the Providence Friars were equally as flat. There wasn’t much improvement in the second half, with the exception of Hoyas getting the majority of their points from Smith, another double double, 14 points and 12 rebounds in 21 minutes, amounting to less than half of this OT game; DSR had 15 points and Paul White, who came off the bench early in the first half and started the second half, finished with 11. Some have to imagine what the Hoyas could be if their Big Man could play 30 minutes or more.
Georgetown Production (or lack thereof): The Hoyas were led by Smith and DSR offensively, but this was no offensive juggernaut. The other 3 Georgetown starters, Hopkins, Trawick and Peak, struggled offensively, and while Peak continues to show promise, what the Hoyas need are points. Enter Paul White, perhaps the most pure, natural shooter on the Hoya squad. The most positive development of the day was the overall play of White, who did many good things, including hitting a critical jumper coming into overtime to give Georgetown a 52-50 lead and finished the game with 11 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists (and 4 turnovers).
Freshman Isaac Copeland grabbed 4 boards in 10 minutes of play and little else, Tre Campbell saw 10 minutes and hit one timely three, and Aaron Bowen played 11 largely unnoticeable minutes, mainly because the team never really got him into the flow. Georgetown finished with a total of 8 assists, and that won’t generate much scoring on any day. Even Bradley Hayes saw minutes today (7), scoring 2 and managing 2 fouls in such brief time on court to fill in for the foul plagued Smith and Hopkins. The Hoyas finished the game with a 37% field goal, 23% 3-point and 55% free throw percentage, 11 of 20. That won’t get you many wins in any conference, much less the one with the highest team RPI in the nation. Why the Hoyas were in the game is that Providence was even less accurate in the first 2 categories (32 and 20%, respectively) yet hit 70% of their free throws.
The Friars’ Effort: The Friars were led by potential Big East player of the year candidate LaDontae Henton, who scored 19 points, and guard Kris Dunn, who scored eight of his 14 in overtime to lead the Friars to victory. Dunn also had nine assists and three steals for the Friars, who are now 3-1 in the Big East and 13-4 overall. The Hoyas are now 10-5 and 2-2 in the Big East.
Let’s Start with the Problem: The Problem for the Hoyas against Providence, and so far this season, is deeper–a failure of strategy, and/or execution, when the game is on the line, or at that critical juncture when the play leads to a win–or a loss. What name to give that Problem, a lack of leadership, confidence, passion, is still percolating in my keyboard. I lean towards something that is a combination of all of the above.
A. Leadership: Who Wants the Ball and Who Can Be Effective? To use a famous quote from the Law, like pornography, everyone knows Leadership when they see it. (Justice Potter Stewart) It’s unmistakeable, it’s either there or not and today for long stretches, the Hoyas again looked lost and leaderless and fans were/are waiting for someone to step up. Hence, when I saw the flashes of brilliance from freshman Paul White, attacking the zone effectively, looks like a current and future leader of this team. No one knows any team that has experienced success without that fearless leader. Let’s start with the Hoyas, past and present. Patrick Ewing. Sleepy Floyd. Reggie Williams. Alonzo Mourning. Fast forward: Jeff Green. Jonathan Wallace. Greg Monroe. Otto Porter. Whether it starts with the five coaches and is instilled or whether it is instinctive, it is currently lacking.
B. Confidence: “I Have the Ball and Can Get the Job Done” An essential element of leadership is the desire and confidence to get the job done. At times today with the Hoyas’ inability to crack the Friars’ zone, they were stymied and stalled and appeared lost and without confidence to lead the team to victory. Taught, natural or a combination, fans are waiting for that player to say “I’m The One”, “Give Me the Ball” and those exhibiting this quality today more than others were White and Smith.
C. Passion: “I Love this Game, My Team, My Coach, My School and Fans, and I Want, Even Need, to Win, or Hate to Lose” More than anything I think the Hoyas are in need of a heavy does of passion. Where that comes from, the top, team chemistry, a parent, a mentor or peer, Hoya fans who have been following through the decades, and remember the ’80s and ’90s, and even 2007 and moments since then, are awaiting the passion of cheering from the bench, a coach or coaches who inspire and are dissatisfied with the outcome such as today’s. Alumni and fans play a key role too. No doubt all of these players want to win, but who will ignite the passion? Players such as Trawick and Bowen have been the closest to showing the passion, but the sparks aren’t igniting the team.
It doesn’t get easier from here for the Hoyas. Next stop Chicago, a 9pm game at DePaul on Tuesday night 1/13. DePaul finally lost its first game in the Big East, 81-64 today at Villanova. The DePaul contest is followed by two home games: the first against Butler, who beat the Hoyas in the Battle4Atlantis consolation round, and the next to league leading and #8 in the nation ‘Nova Wildcats.
The questions remain?
A. Who is the leader or leaders for this Hoya team?
B. Where is the confidence?
C. Do you have the passion?
Hoya fans eagerly await the answers to these questions and more.