After a conscious effort to test a Georgetown roster that relies heavily on freshmen and sophomores, coach John Thompson III took his team into Big East play on Wednesday with five non-conference losses for just the second time in program history.
It was a disappointing enough start to the season to make Thompson lament: “We’re in a bad place right now.”
Heading into its conference opener at DePaul, Georgetown (7-5) already has been beaten by the likes of Radford, UNC-Asheville and Monmouth at home.
“If you look at our pre-league [schedule], it probably didn’t go as we would have liked, but at the same time, I think we’re OK,” Thompson said. “I think we have a ways to improve, but I think our guys are making progress in the right direction.”
There have been occasional bright spots this season for Georgetown, which won a national championship and played in two other NCAA title games under Thompson’s father, then made it back to the Final Four in 2007 under the man everyone calls JT3.
The Hoyas lost close games at Maryland and against defending national champion Duke, and picked up victories against Syracuse and last season’s runner-up, Wisconsin, which has struggled this season.
But Georgetown had not entered conference play with five losses since 1980-81 — 35 years ago.
One glaring problem this time around has been defense: The Hoyas are giving up nearly 70 points per game, the most in Thompson’s 12 seasons in charge. It’s been something they’ve been working on since defeating Charlotte on Dec. 22, until Wednesday their most recent game.
“I just want to make sure we keep getting better,” Thompson said.
Carrying much of the load for the mostly inexperienced Hoyas have been a pair of senior starters, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Bradley Hayes.
Smith-Rivera, as expected, leads the team at 15 points per game despite shooting a career-low 29 percent from 3-point range. Hayes is averaging 9.8 points and 8.3 rebounds after scoring a total of 30 points through his first three college seasons.
Freshmen Jessie Govan and Marcus Derrickson have made some positive contributions — Derrickson has started every game and has two double-doubles, while Govan has reached double figures in scoring three times — but both have more turnovers than assists.
It’s not just the number of losses that is unusual. It’s also where they are happening and to whom.
Georgetown has traditionally been exceptional at home, particularly in non-conference play: A 33-game non-conference home winning streak ended last season, and since the formation of the original Big East, the Hoyas had never lost three home non-conference games in a season.
On the other hand, struggling against mid-majors has been a recent issue for Georgetown, which lost to a lower-seeded team in its past six NCAA tournament appearances. Four of those losses were against mid-major opponents.
”Now we sit here with some good wins and some bad losses,” Thompson said, “and what’s most important is: Did this team learn and grow from it? Can we stop making the same mistakes?”
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