NEW ORLEANS | Georgetown’s Big Easy celebrated his Crescent City homecoming with double-double dominance.
Led by New Orleans native Greg Monroe (18 points and 11 rebounds) and a suffocating defense, No. 20 Georgetown sprinted away from Tulane in a season-opening, 74-58 victory Friday night at tiny Fogelman Arena.
The versatile, 6-foot-11 Monroe exploited the Green Wave’s smallish frontcourt at will after a sluggish first half.
“We went through a stretch there in the first half where they were getting too many uncontested looks,” coach John Thompson III said. “In the second half, I think we did a better job of getting out and shutting those off, and that’s our theme: Make them take tough, contested shots. That worked for us tonight.”
The Hoyas now return home to prepare for a more daunting foe. Temple comes to Verizon Center for a Tuesday afternoon tipoff as part of ESPN’s 24-hour basketball marathon.
Don’t be misled by the comfortable final margin in Friday’s opener - the Hoyas struggled mightily during a first half and took a 32-27 lead to the locker room after failing to establish any semblance of offensive rhythm.
Much of the ragged start was due to a rough evening for junior point guard Chris Wright. The Bowie native had four turnovers and no assists in the first half and finished with just 11 points and two assists. The Hoyas committed 15 turnovers against a Tulane squad not known for its defense.
Wright’s uncharacteristically sloppy start was overwhelmed by a pair of superb performances by backcourt mates Austin Freeman and Jason Clark. After suffering through a shooting slump in his sophomore season, Freeman returned to his freshman form, making six of nine shots to finish with 16 points while adding six rebounds and five assists.
Clark lived up to his billing as the team’s most improved player. The sophomore guard used his 81-inch wingspan to frustrate the Green Wave at the top of Georgetown’s zone; he added 13 points and five assists while committing just two turnovers.
Not only did the 6-2 guard look far more comfortable handling the ball Friday than at any time during his freshman season on the Hilltop, but his defensive intensity was relentless also. Much of the game, Clark was locked on Tulane’s Kris Richard (15 points), and the dangerous slasher did little of his damage against him.
Perhaps the ultimate bright spot for the Hoyas was the improved play of Julian Vaughn, who like Clark did not disappoint after moving into the starting lineup.
The 6-9 junior forward from Vienna played with poise, intensity and decisiveness, posting seven points, five rebounds and two assists and providing one of the team’s few sources of first-half offense.
“Both Julian and Jason are different guys this year,” Thompson said. “They are playing at a totally different level than we saw from either of them last year. Part of that is the experience of being in the program for another year, and part of that is a result of the work they’ve put in and the confidence they’ve gained.
“That was definitely good to see, but not at all unexpected.”