SPRINGFIELD, Mass.Only one team lived up to its mascot when Georgetown and Georgia met last night in the Hall of Fame Tip Off Classic. Georgia played like Bulldogs; the Hoyas simply played like dogs.
Unheralded Georgia outscrapped, outhustled and shamefully outrebounded the 16th-ranked Hoyas at Springfield Civic Center, burying the hapless Hoyas 73-59 before 7,246 fans.
There will be no 16-0 start for Georgetown this season. And next week, when the new AP poll is released, there likely will be no national ranking. Thankfully for Georgetown (1-1), Coastal Carolina comes calling at McDonough Arena tomorrow night, offering the Hoyas an almost immediate opportunity to put a few pieces of its shattered dignity back together.
The Hoyas played 33 games last season without being embarrassed on the boards the way they were last night. Despite featuring no regular in its rotation taller than 6-foot-8, Georgia (2-0) savaged the Hoyas on the glass, earning a 52-37 rebounding edge and routinely scoring on third- and fourth-shot offensive opportunities.
“Georgia just outhustled us and kicked our butts on the boards,” said Georgetown coach Craig Esherick. “The offensive rebounds just killed us. We would go three and four possession stretches where we just didn’t rebound the ball at all.”
Offensively, both starting power forward Mike Sweetney (18 points, nine rebounds) and starting center Wesley Wilson (11 points, nine rebounds) played well at times. But Georgia coach Jim Harrick, who won a national championship with UCLA in 1995, immediately recognized that Georgetown’s primary advantage was inside, advising his team to sag into a zone and deny the Hoyas any entry passes.
Facing the sagging front, Georgetown’s motion offense immediately devolved into a three-guard game of perimeter hot potato. Eventually, one of the Georgetown guards would lose patience with the routine and force up a 3-pointer. And if the Hoyas were pathetic on the boards, they were even worse from beyond the arc, connecting on just one of 17 attempts. For the mathematically inclined, that’s a sub-arctic 5.9 percent shooting percentage. Any five people in attendance could have managed as much blindfolded.
“We just didn’t hit our outside shots,” said senior point man Kevin Braswell (15 points, five assists), apparently trying to establish a new standard for understatement. “If we hit our outside shots, we can beat anybody. If we don’t shoot and rebound, we’re a pretty regular team.”
Georgia didn’t look quite as pedestrian as expected. The Bulldogs, predicted to finish last in the SEC’s East division, were very quick and moved extremely well without the ball a hallmark of Harrick teams. Shooting guard Ezra Williams (20 points, five assists) burned the Hoyas time and again with his cuts to the basket, earning 12 trips to the free throw line. And his primary running mate, swingman Jarvis Hayes (19 points, seven assists) was too quick for any of the Hoyas’ cast of small forwards to handle.
After Georgetown cut the lead to 55-51 on a free toss by Braswell with 6:48 remaining, the tandem of Williams and Hayes took over. While Georgetown struggled offensively, Williams and Hayes traded scores on four of the Bulldogs’ next five possessions to give Georgia a 63-55 lead with 1:35 remaining that effectively ended the game.