Georgetown won’t soon forget its victory Friday night over Tennessee.
It might wish to. Nay, it almost certainly would love such a scenario.
When a final score carries the hint of peach baskets – and the Hoyas’ 37-36 triumph surely did – there isn’t a whole lot to savor beyond survival.
“That wasn’t nice to watch? Some people would look at that as a thing of beauty,” coach John Thompson III deadpanned. “I don’t know if I’ve been a part of a game like that.”
If he and the 13,656 on hand at Verizon Center are fortunate, he won’t ever again.
This was an SEC/Big East Challenge game, and the most confounding task in front of either team was the most elementary in basketball. Neither team hit layups. Or 3-pointers. Or foul shots.
There were struggles to score early (the Volunteers had four points in the first 10 minutes), in the middle (the Hoyas didn’t make a shot from the floor in the final 10 minutes of the first half) or late (the game’s final basket came with 4:10 to play).
This was a challenge, all right, right down to the 11 scoreless possessions between the teams to close things out.
“You walk away from a game where you score 37 points and you win, part of you says ‘Hell, I’ll take that,’” Thompson said.
It’s the correct sentiment, too. Thompson and the Hoyas (5-1) would soon board the bus to head back to campus, and there was all the reason in the world not to linger. Why let someone say they had to give it back.
In truth, Georgetown earned the triumph because of everything it did that did not involve shooting, and that end of the floor should leave Thompson downright giddy. The Hoyas thrived even after forward Nate Lubick logged only eight minutes in the first half after hitting his elbow, prompting Georgetown to use sophomore Jabril Trawick for a career-high 30 minutes – and 30 solid defensive minutes at that.
The Hoyas’ zone confounded the Volunteers (4-2), their length helping to deny entry passes to forward Jarnell Stokes from start to finish.
Tennessee’s leading scorer took only three shots, and yet it still harbored hopes of winning into the final seconds. A pair of potential game-winners weren’t remotely close, and so an unsightly game reached an unsightly denouement, with an unfazed coach shrugging off the ridiculousness of the night’s offensive ineptitude.
“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. “At the end of the day, you’re trying to get out of here with a W. It doesn’t need to be pretty. Bottom line, you’re playing a very talented ballclub, you get a W and you leave the scene. That’s the most important thing.”
The Vols would leave the scene all right, just not with what they came for. Yet just as it was for the Hoyas, the night was only half-bad for Tennessee.
After all, they held an opponent to its lowest total since a 40-33 triumph over Ohio Northern in 1983-84. That was also the same season Georgetown was last held to 37 points, in a round of 32 NCAA tournament victory over Southern Methodist.
Perhaps Friday could be dubbed “Turn Back The Shot Clock Night,” only that it ran on a constant loop throughout an evening in which no player could crack double figures.
“Shots are going to fall,” forward Otto Porter said, offering a sound philosophy for nearly any night besides this one. “As long as we’re taking good shots, I don’t think we have a problem. We just have to keep continuing to play.”
Just so long as they don’t continue to play like this. Thompson racked his brain for about 10 minutes before finally remembering a game quite like the one he just coached. He scored 10 points in a 13-11 victory.
Oh, and he was eight years old. The 46-year-old could probably stand to let about another four decades pass before he sees a contest of this ilk again.
“Glad I can sit here and joke about,” Thompson said. “This isn’t us. This isn’t them, either. But we move on and we get better. “