Nearly five thousand miles from Hawaii, there was a valiant attempt at disguising Georgetown’s “mainland game” against UNC Greensboro on Monday with the trappings of the Maui Invitational.
The Verizon Center floor was painted with Maui Invite logos and theme to “Hawaii 5-0” played over the speakers. Coaches John Thompson III and Mike Dement were presented with a ceremonial surfboard. Thompson begrudgingly wore a blue lei for about 1.2 seconds before pawning it off on the Hoyas bench.
Of some concern for Thompson was the notion that his team might overlook the Spartans in lieu of their upcoming matchup next Monday against No. 12 Kansas, even instructing a reporter not to use the word “tune-up” in discussing the Greensboro game for fear of giving his team an excuse to go on cruise control.
Thompson needn’t have worried. The Hoyas were ready from the opening tip, running out to a 26-8 lead over the overmatched Spartans on their way to an 86-45 laugher – the kind of game that will send this callow Georgetown squad to the islands filled with confidence.
“I think that our guys played hard and there was a focus for all 40 minutes, regardless of who was in there, which was needed,” Thompson said. “After I sit and digest it, I’ll figure out what we take out of it.”
If the Hoyas are going to make waves in Hawaii, it will be because of their smothering defense, which was on display against the flustered Spartans.
Georgetown’s length – with four players 6-foot-8 and taller on the court at times – disrupted UNC Greensboro’s offensive attack throughout the game, as long arms and quick feet deflected passes, cut off driving lanes and forced ill-advised shots.
“They are frenzied defensively,” Dement said. “They really get after the ball when you catch it and they took it out of our hands. They are intimidating with their defense.”
The Hoyas forced 22 turnovers and held the Spartans to 29 percent from the floor by simply making it difficult for them to run their offense.
“As much as you look at the turnovers, what I want is the opposition to get tough, contested shots, and I think we did a good job of getting them to get tough shots,” Thompson said. “The turnovers that we can cause can be an added bonus.”
Jason Clark, one of the smaller Hoyas at 6-2, had three quick steals to get the pressure started, and soon after, the rest of his teammates were swarming to the ball.
“That’s what we’ve been wanting to do – that’s what we’ve been stressing,” said Clark, who finished with 17 points. “We want to set the tone.”
These two games were important for Georgetown’s psyche heading to Hawaii, but given that the team has had additional practices and games from their China trip, the Hoyas won’t be as raw as some would think heading into a loaded Maui field.
“We’re not the only team to take a foreign trip,” Thompson said. “It definitely helped us, I think. How much? Who knows? We’ll see.”