After adding two more wins to its total with two road games in three days, the Georgetown men’s basketball team returns home this week to face Rutgers on Saturday. While no coach would scoff at sweeping such a quick turnaround, Head Coach John Thompson III wants more from his team as the gauntlet that is Big East conference play rumbles on.
Despite sophomore point guard Markel Starks sitting out with an unspecified stomach illness, the No. 10 Hoyas (15-3, 5-2 Big East) defeated the DePaul Blue Demons on Tuesday night 83-75. Still, there were obvious flaws in Georgetown’s game, starting with a season-high 18 turnovers. Those miscues allowed the Blue Demons to hang with the Hoyas for most of the game, remaining within a basket as late as the 13-minute mark of the second half.
“You look at that and say, ‘We still came away with the win,” Thompson told reporters after the game. “But we’re better than we showed them here.”
Against St. John’s on Sunday, the Hoyas prevailed 69-49, but that impressive margin of victory was the product of a 21-4 run over the final six minutes, much of which came after the Red Storm’s chief offensive threat, freshman Moe Harkless, fouled out.
Focusing on the flaws in two games that the Hoyas won by a combined 28 points may seem like nitpicking, but affordable mistakes against the Big East’s bottom-dwellers can be fatal, even against the conference’s middle class — a fact the team witnessed firsthand in losses to West Virginia and Cincinnati.
Georgetown plays five games over the next three weeks, a stretch that could either solidify the team’s position as a Big East contender or leave it stranded in the middle of the pack. First up is an inconsistent Rutgers squad, with two wins against top-10 opponents. Then there’s a road trip to play a desperate, Big East-winless Pittsburgh team, followed by a marquee home game against No. 13 Connecticut. The stretch closes out with a home game against South Florida and the biggest game of the season: a matchup with No. 1 Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, the only time Georgetown will play the Orange this year and the last conference matchup between the teams.
Over the past few weeks, the Hoyas’ play has been stellar outside of a few crucial areas. Maintaining control of the ball has been the main challenge. Over the past five games, Georgetown has averaged 15.8 turnovers, compared to 12.9 turnovers for the season so far.
Even more troubling might be the Hoyas’ recent struggles from the free throw line. The players have proven themselves this year as one of the best-shooting teams in the country, but they shoot a pedestrian 70.1 percent from the foul line. They’ve been even worse recently, including a 57.1 percent performance from the stripe against DePaul.
“It does kind of get to you,” Clark said. “But you know, if you’re a good free throw shooter, you’ve just got to keep shooting them.”
Of course, the Hoyas still have plenty to be proud of. The team didn’t get to 15 wins and an AP top-10 ranking without playing good basketball. Field goal shooting has been an obvious bright spot, and their 47-25 rebounding edge against DePaul, led by freshman Otto Porter’s 15 rebounds, showed that the Hoyas can be dominant on the boards. But this isn’t the team that began the season as an unranked afterthought in the Big East race. With success, expectations have changed.
“To come in and have two road wins Sunday and Tuesday and to go home with two victories is good,” Thompson III said. “But we have to be better.”