- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2009

Two games into its Big East schedule, Georgetown has shown two weaknesses - inconsistency and rebounding.

In combination, those two issues could derail an otherwise promising season, and the Hoyas will be tested on both elements Monday night at No. 7 Notre Dame (10-3, 1-1).

These Hoyas (10-2, 1-1) are erratic, which could be expected from a young team featuring an eight-man rotation of four sophomores, two freshmen and two upperclassmen (senior guard Jessie Sapp and junior forward DaJuan Summers).

No. 11 Georgetown is probably neither as good as the team that dismantled No. 2 Connecticut in its Big East opener nor as bad as the bunch that was routed at home Saturday by No. 3 Pittsburgh.

“We’re playing a season. It’s just one game,” coach John Thompson III said. “You can’t get too high over wins or too low over losses because both will affect the next game. And we have no turnaround. We leave [Sunday] morning for South Bend. So we can’t dwell on that for too long. That’s a very good team. We’re a very good team. We just had a difficult stretch from that 14-minute mark where they did an excellent job of executing and we didn’t.”

The Hoyas might well prove to be a good team, but Saturday’s loss wasn’t the result of a brief lapse in execution. A 48-23 rebounding deficit isn’t the result of a short-term hiccup; it was the product of systematic domination of the boards by Pittsburgh (14-0, 2-0). The Panthers were 3-for-19 from behind the 3-point arc but still crushed the Hoyas thanks to 20 offensive rebounds and 24 second-chance points.

Rebounding isn’t a new issue for Georgetown. Thompson’s teams have never been good rebounding squads. But the minor shortfall of the 2007 Final Four team that morphed into a routine weakness last season has devolved into a consistent, glaring flaw.

The Hoyas have been outrebounded in seven of 12 games this season. Not only was Georgetown thoroughly whipped on the glass in its two losses (to Pittsburgh and Tennessee), the Hoyas were bested on the boards by Jacksonville, Wichita State and American.

Part of the problem is personnel. The Hoyas essentially are playing without a center; freshman Greg Monroe is actually a point forward, a slightly taller version of former star Jeff Green.

Despite his size (6-foot-8, 236 pounds), Summers is a classic shoot-and-slash wingman in both disposition and reality. And sophomore swingman Austin Freeman (6-4, 239) qualifies as either an undersized forward or an oversized guard. Among the team’s reserves, only Florida State transfer Julian Vaughn (6-9, 246) has the size and bulk to be a factor on the boards, but the sophomore is trying to learn to play inside after being used to floating around the perimeter.

If all had gone according to plan, this season’s bench also would feature another pair of serious bodies in Vernon Macklin and Chris Braswell. But Macklin transferred to Florida after a disappointing sophomore season, and Braswell (who would be a freshman power forward) failed to qualify and is now a Charlotte commitment and postgraduate prep player at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va.

But given Georgetown’s consistent rebounding issues under Thompson, the cause also seems somewhat systemic.

“The way they play offensively, they have skill guys. They spread it out,” Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. “It’s give and take. If you play certain ways, you give up something.”

Georgetown’s offense requires its “center” routinely to flash to the top of the key to set screens or the high post to trigger the back-cut offense. Accordingly, Thompson’s primary prerequisite when recruiting frontcourt players is versatility. That pool of skilled pivots isn’t usually populated by many, if any, blue-collar bangers.

Without a Mike Sweetney, Jerome Williams, Patrick Ewing Jr. or even Don Reid, Thompson is somewhat at a loss as to the solution for the rebounding woes.

“I’m not sure [what to do], to be honest,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a question of tactics or methods or go-watch-a-new-video to figure out what we need to do. I just think we need to go get the ball.”

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