- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2008

Georgetown seems to have lost its offensive focus.

The eighth-ranked Hoyas (20-3, 10-2 Big East) have spent the first half of February mired in an offensive slump.

On the positive side, Georgetown still sits atop the league standings entering today’s matchup at Syracuse (16-9, 6-6). On a negative one, it’s difficult to imagine the Hoyas maintaining that position over surging Louisville and Connecticut if they can’t stop the four-game offensive stagger that resulted in a blowout loss at Louisville and ugly escapes against three of the Big East’s weaker teams.

“As a coach and as a team, we look in the mirror and are honest with ourselves,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “We’ve got to continue to get better. But if we can win games when we’re not playing well, if we can win games playing ugly, if we can win games while we improve, that’s better than not winning. … Fortunately, our defense has gotten us through a sluggish phase here with our offense.”

There are two primary culprits for those recent offensive woes. The first is a spike in turnovers because of the team’s struggles against the fullcourt press.

Seton Hall handed the rest of the nation a blueprint for defending the Hoyas when the Pirates forced a Georgetown into a season-high 21 turnovers on Feb. 2. In 19 games before the giveaway fiasco against Seton Hall, the Hoyas had averaged 12.2 turnovers.

In the four games since, they’ve averaged 16.5 turnovers, as both Louisville and Villanova parlayed Seton Hall’s pressing schematic into Georgetown chaos.

The Hoyas will have to improve against the press if they hope to hold on to the Big East pole position and make another deep postseason run. But given the team’s dearth of quickness and lack of a premier ball-handler in the backcourt, this season’s team likely will continue to struggle against the press relative to other elite-level teams.

The other glaring recent offensive issue, however, has a simple solution.

Senior center Roy Hibbert isn’t getting enough touches, and that has more to do with a lack of focus than any fundamental shortcoming.

“We’ve got to get him more touches because he’s such a presence down there,” junior guard Jessie Sapp said. “That’s on us. I think everyone knows what happens when he does get the ball. Our offense is at its best when we’re working inside out.”

Earlier in the season, most notably at Memphis, Hibbert (13.2 points. 6.8 rebounds) wasn’t doing the best job of presenting himself for entry passes.

Of late, however, the 7-foot-2, 283-pound senior has remained active, well-positioned and open on the low block, but his teammates haven’t consistently fed him the ball. Hibbert won’t admit his frustration, though he did have an animated discussion on the subject with Sapp during the first half of Monday night’s last-second victory over Villanova.

Among the six major conferences, 22 post players lead their respective teams in scoring. Hibbert ranks fourth among those players in points a shot (1.57). But he ranks last among that group in field goal attempts (8.39).

Sure, Georgetown plays at a slow pace, which limits Hibbert’s shot opportunities. But not as slow as Wisconsin, which manages to get Brian Butch 10.25 shots a game, although Butch is less efficient than Hibbert (1.24 points a shot).

Sure, opposing defenses routinely double- and triple-team Hibbert and surround him with bodies. But the same could be said of any of the other 21 post players.

The Hoyas don’t do a good job of getting Hibbert the ball, a puzzling fact given his passing abilities. Georgetown’s offense functions smoother when the ball runs through Hibbert, who ranks third in assists (1.87) among the 22 aforementioned leading scorers.

“It’s our job as a team to do a better a job of getting him the ball,” Patrick Ewing Jr. said. “He’s a great player. You think Georgetown right now, and you think Roy Hibbert because he’s very dominant.

“If he gets the ball, he’s going to demand a double- or triple-team. And if not, he’s going to score on whoever is trying to guard him one-on-one. And at the same time, he’s not selfish. He knows when he should pass the ball or when he needs to make a big play. When the ball is in his hands, he makes good things happen. And for us to be successful, he needs to have the ball more…. He can’t do it by himself. He can’t pass it to himself. We’ve all got to make a conscious effort to find different ways to get him the ball.”


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