Hoyas’ Big East struggles disconcerting

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The arrival of the Big East schedule promised to clear up some issues for a Georgetown team whose murky play during the nonconference slate left some wondering about the prognosis for this young group. So far, the results have not been pretty.

The Hoyas had a tough row to hoe in their conference opener against Marquette, and a one-point road loss was nothing to hang their heads about. In its home opener Tuesday against Pittsburgh, however, Georgetown suffered an embarrassing 28-point loss, the team’s worst defeat in nearly 40 years.

Now the Hoyas, who travel to St. John’s for a Saturday morning clash with the Red Storm, are staring at an 0-3 start in the Big East for the first time since the 1999-2000 campaign, when they opened with losses to Providence, Seton Hall and St. John’s.

It may not be panic time on the Hilltop just yet, but Georgetown (10-3) has to figure out a way to get back in the win column quickly.

“We have a lot of things we need to work on,” Hoyas coach John Thompson III said.

The primary concern has to be the team’s offense, which has been stagnant for most of the season. Gone are the smooth cuts and good looks often generation by the Princeton-style offense favored by Thompson’s teams. Instead, the Hoyas have labored to find clean looks for shooters and struggled to develop an interior offensive presence.

Georgetown has scored fewer than 50 points four times this year, and it’s a testament to its defense that it is 2-2 in those contests. But more troubling is that the team’s offense seems to have regressed now that the stakes are higher.

No Hoyas player scored in double figures against Pittsburgh, and in Big East play, the team as a whole is shooting an anemic 37.3 percent.

“It’s not just bad luck,” Thompson said. “We’ve tried to make changes as the season has gone on. We’ve worked on a lot of different things. There’s no one thing — different kinds of shots, different people shooting, different kinds of motion.”

The trio of Markel Starks, Otto Porter and Greg Whittington has accounted for 54 of the Hoyas’ 83 shots in conference play, meaning there’s been minuscule production from post players Mikael Hopkins and Nate Lubick.

“We have to make a concerted effort to get [Hopkins] the ball where he can be effective,” Thompson said. “And he just has to relax. He’s thinking now.”

In particular, Lubick has attempted just five shots in 59 minutes of conference play, a surprising number for one of the team’s most experienced players.

“I think it’s on all of us — the older guys and the younger guys,” Lubick said of the team’s struggles. “As coach said, we have some things that we need to address, and they will be addressed. We have to remain positive that we’re going to fix these things.”

Conference teams are also much more aware of Porter, and have zeroed in their defensive efforts on trying to slow the sophomore forward, who is 7 for 19 from the floor in two Big East contests.

“It’s the Big East. It’s hard,” Porter said. “Every game we play is hard.”

Saturday’s game sends the Hoyas back to Madison Square Garden, site of one of their most impressive victories of the season, a 64-41 throttling of Texas in which they shot just 41 percent but held the Longhorns to below 30 percent from the floor.

The game against the Red Storm (9-6, 1-2), who have already knocked off a ranked team in Cincinnati, would appear to be a must-win affair, but Thompson isn’t adding any more importance to this contest than the last one.

“What’s important for our team is to understand the notion that every game is urgent,” Thompson said. “Each and every game is the most important thing. I worked and played in the Ivy League and there’s no conference tournament, so you quickly get the mindset that the first game of the year is as important as the season finale.

“Our guys have to get that mindset, that understanding. It’s urgent because it’s the next game on our schedule. That’s how I feel.”

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