Georgetown rebounded from its first loss and worst performance of the season by authoring a pre-Christmas opus Wednesday afternoon against Harvard.
Dominating the Crimson in every conceivable category, the 14th-ranked Hoyas buried Harvard 86-70 behind a career effort from its focal troika of Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Greg Monroe.
The trio outscored the visiting Ivy Leaguers by themselves, combining for 71 points as the Hoyas (9-1) bounced back from Saturday’s loss to Old Dominion in its final tuneup before opening Big East play New Year’s Eve against St. John’s.
“Coming off the Old Dominion loss, we wanted to really focus from start to finish today,” Wright said after posting career highs in scoring (34 points) and steals (six). “I wasn’t really looking for my shot today. I wasn’t trying to force anything, but I did take what was there.”
An exam break removed from an impressive two-game run through New England in which Harvard pushed Connecticut to the wire in a 79-73 loss and dropped crosstown big boy Boston College for the second consecutive season, the Crimson (7-3) employed an unusually aggressive halfcourt defense against the Hoyas. Led by Ivy League MVP favorite Jeremy Lin (15 points), Harvard’s guards pushed out well beyond the 3-point arc on Georgetown’s perimeter players, taking away the long-range jumper but virtually begging the Hoyas to attack with dribble penetration.
Wright was more than happy to comply. The 6-foot-1 junior from Bowie spent all afternoon blowing by his man at the top of the key and either creating opportunities for his teammates or finishing at the rim. Perfectly complementing their blur of a point man, Freeman repeatedly punished the Crimson on the wing and Monroe cleaned up the leftovers inside.
Freeman finished with a career-high 21 points, and Monroe arguably played his most complete game since arriving at the Hilltop, adding a career-high 16 rebounds to his 16 points, five blocks and four steals.
“I think we just outworked them today inside,” the 6-11 sophomore center said. “I think it was as simple as that in terms of the difference in rebounding [38-28].”
Harvard actually kept pace with the Hoyas for most of the first half, knotting the score at 33-33 on a basket by sophomore point man Oliver McNally (11 points) with 3:31 remaining. But courtesy of some smothering defense, a slew of steals and resulting transition baskets, Georgetown closed the first half on an 11-0 run to take a 44-33 lead into intermission.
“That was the dagger for us,” third-year Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said of Georgetown’s half-closing spurt. “It gave them a lot of energy going into the second half, and we had our heads down and rightly so. Giving them an 11-point lead at home was too big a hill for us to climb.”
The Hoyas carried the momentum into the second half, stretching the lead to 66-42 on a 3-pointer from Wright with 10:57 remaining before coach John Thompson III began liberally substituting to season his somewhat short bench.
“That 11-0 run at the end of the first half was all the difference in the game,” Thompson said. “We prodded the big fella [Monroe] a little bit to get him going, and it was just the effort at the end of the half that put us over the hump. … That run was us working off our exam rust. We really picked up our aggressiveness and energy level from that point on.”
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