PHILADELPHIA | When Georgetown beat Tennessee earlier this season, it allowed 36 points. It wasn’t pretty, but defense wins.
In a perfect world, defense wins championships. But when the second-seeded Hoyas began their NCAA tournament quest Friday night, defense failed them in a 78-68, upset loss to 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast.
“The thing that we pride ourselves on, we just couldn’t get stops,” guard Markel Starks said. “We couldn’t get stops.”
The Eagles shot 40 percent from 3-point range but also outscored Georgetown in the paint. Their transition game was working, and the Hoyas couldn’t find a solution.
Coach John Thompson III said Thursday that Florida Gulf Coast was a team with athletes that could spread an opponent out and wreak havoc. He proved to be right.
“They’re athletic. They’re big and athletic,” Thompson said. “It’s not a small, little team.”
Florida Gulf Coast came from a small conference in the Atlantic Sun, but they put on a big offensive performance in knocking off Georgetown. Sherwood Brown led the Eagles with 24 points, and Bernard Thompson had 23.
But it was point guard Brett Comer who ran the offense and destroyed the Hoyas.
“The problem was that they got everything they wanted to get.,” forward Nate Lubick said. “They cut us up on offense. We couldn’t get any stops. Every different [way]. The kid Comer was picking us apart, coming off of ball screens. Our defense was really bad.”
When the offense isn’t clicking and players are lamenting missed shots and wondering what’s going on, Georgetown figured it could lean on defense. It had all season.
Not Friday night at Wells Fargo Center, when players were forced to acknowledge they were outplayed by Florida Gulf Coast.
“They were making shots. Everybody was making plays for each other,” Lubick said. “They played really well, and it wasn’t that we couldn’t get stops. We just didn’t get stops.”
It’s not like the Eagles did it just by raining down 3-pointers. But when they made a run to extend the lead to 19 points, it didn’t matter how they were piling up the points on Georgetown.
“They got out in transition and that started their run,” forward Otto Porter said. “They started knocking down the shots. It’s hard when a team is knocking down shots like that.”
It just snowballed for the Hoyas, who cut it as close as four points in the final minute. But defensive lapses for much of the game made it too deep a hole.