In the span of 10 seconds, Greg Monroe turned an ugly performance into a survival lesson instead of a galling loss.
The Georgetown center spun around Temple’s Lavoy Allen at the top of the lane and flipped in an off-hand layup with 6.5 seconds remaining to give the 19th-ranked Hoyas a one-point lead, then snuffed a coast-to-coast drive from Temple’s Luis Guzman in the final seconds to give Georgetown a 46-45 victory Tuesday afternoon at Verizon Center.
“I think Lavoy did a terrific job on Monroe for the most part, but [Monroe’s] a great player,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “He let [Monroe] escape late two times, but that’s what great players do; they arrive with the game on the line.”
The Hoyas (2-0) get a breather Saturday when they travel to ex-Hoyas player Horace Broadnax’s Savannah State team, which Georgetown drubbed 100-38 in the District last season.
Following Tuesday’s 40-minute defensive grinder with Temple (1-1), the Hoyas certainly look like they could use a more forgiving foe. The good news for the Hoyas from Tuesday’s salvage job against a Temple team picked to finish no better than fourth in the Atlantic 10 is twofold:
First, Georgetown’s defense already is playing at a higher level through its first two games than in all of last season’s disappointing 16-15 campaign. In an atypically poor showing for coach John Thompson III’s teams on the Hilltop, the Hoyas allowed last season’s opponents to shoot better than 40.7 percent from the field. Though nobody is going to confuse Tulane or Temple with Villanova or Connecticut, the Hoyas have held the Green Wave and Owls to a combined 36.2 percent, at times Tuesday resembling the suffocating teams John Thompson Jr. once featured.
And second, Tuesday’s offensively halting affair was precisely the kind of game the Hoyas lost time and again last season, when they blew second-half or overtime leads in nine of their final 10 losses and finished 2-4 in games decided by three points or fewer or in overtime.
Last year’s squad seemingly found ways to lose close games; Tuesday’s last-minute victory suggests that perhaps this season’s group will find ways to win them.
“We definitely aren’t going to lose these types of games this year,” said Monroe, who had 11 points and nine rebounds. “That’s all people on and around the team could talk about throughout this summer - finishing games. This year, we’re going to finish games.”
The Owls kept failing to finish with chances to seize control. After rallying from a 27-15 deficit early in the second half, Temple led 39-33 on a rare 3-point connection from guard Ryan Brooks (2-for-14 shooting) with 6:53 remaining. The Hoyas rallied to a 42-39 edge behind the strong play of Monroe and junior guard Chris Wright (15 points).
Temple surged back to a 44-42 lead behind the relentless work of Allen (12 points, 14 rebounds), a 6-foot-9, 225-pound junior who earned respect with his play at both ends of the floor against the 6-11, 247-pound Monroe.
But the Owls missed four free throws in the final 4:27, including two front ends, to give the sputtering Hoyas a chance to steal the victory. And that’s just what happened when reserve Temple guard Ramone Moore missed the opener of a one-and-one with 24 seconds remaining to set up Monroe’s final heroic sequence.
If Monroe’s timely arrival and a strong defensive effort count as optimistic signs, Tuesday’s victory provided plenty of reasons for the Hoyas to be concerned. Thompson got just two points and six rebounds from his bench, almost all of which came from redshirt freshman swingman Hollis Thompson (two points, four rebounds, three assists).
After sputtering last season from behind the arc, the Hoyas made just three of 18 attempts from 3-point range against the Owls. And after routinely nearing or surpassing the 20-assist mark in Thompson’s first four seasons, the Hoyas struggled last season and again against Temple, faltering to 16 turnovers against just seven assists.