Double Teamed: No moral victories for these Hoyas

February 9, 2012

It would be easy to look at the Hoyas’ overtime loss to Syracuse last night as a moral victory. Georgetown found a way to make the No. 2 Orange look pedestrian, and the team was just a few missed layups away from winning. Not to mention they happened to do all this while playing in front of 27,820 orange-clad fans in the Carrier Dome.

But it would be insulting to the Hoyas to call this game a moral victory. Because after 45 minutes of play Wednesday night, Georgetown proved that there are no such things as moral victories this season.

Whether it was warranted or not, the Hoyas had been labeled as overachievers—a young, unheralded team that exceeded all expectations, but hadn’t quite proved it belonged in the top tier of contenders. It hasn’t helped the Hoyas that some of their marquee wins from earlier in the season (Alabama, Memphis, Louisville) have been devalued by their opponents’ subsequent decline. In the current polls, the highest-ranked team that Georgetown has beaten is No. 18 Marquette.

Last night’s game didn’t change that. What it did show, however, was that Georgetown could play with a full-strength Syracuse for 40 minutes, which is more than any other team in the country outside of Notre Dame can say. Any team that can do that can’t settle for moral victories—because it should be winning against every team it plays.

The Hoyas were dominant in some ways against the Orange (winning rebounds 52 to 35), but perhaps the most impressive thing Georgetown did was play without Henry Sims and Jason Clark. Both seniors picked up their third fouls in the first minute of the second half, and were soon sitting on the bench. Meanwhile, the Orange were going on an 8-0 run to turn a two-point Georgetown halftime lead into a four-point deficit.

Enter Georgetown’s four freshmen. Playing alongside Hollis Thompson, they scored every point on a 6-0 run to take back the lead. Save for one Nate Lubick offensive possession, the freshmen stayed on the court as a unit for close to eight minutes, holding their own against Syracuse’s best.

Before the game, Coach John Thompson III said Syracuse’s strength lies in their quality depth—not only can they play 10 different people, but there’s little to no drop off with any of them. The way Georgetown’s freshmen held their own is confirmation that they’ve continued to develop as players. After showing flashes in the beginning of the season, the newcomers can play just as well as anybody else. That’s going to frustrate a lot of teams—including Syracuse.

After Syracuse walked away with the 64-61 overtime victory, Orange head coach Jim Boeheim spent the first three minutes of his postgame press conference explaining what a “disaster” this game was for his team. It felt like Boeheim would have said the same thing no matter how the game had ended—he thought his team was playing terrible basketball. In many ways, he was right; his team was playing some of their worst basketball of the season. But the Orange’s inability to rebound, their failure to get out on the fast break, and their difficulty scoring didn’t occur in a vacuum. Georgetown had a hand in it.

In fact, Thompson could have gone on a similar rant in his press conference. He didn’t, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he had done it in the locker room. For all they did well, the Hoyas were abysmal under the basket on offense (Henry Sims and Mikael Hopkins were a combined 2-for-20 from the field). They turned the ball over 15 times, leading to 20 Syracuse points. Kris Joseph was constantly left open beyond the arc, including his game-winner.

In short, the Hoyas didn’t play their best basketball, but they still found a way to nearly beat what may be the best team in the country. From the faces and words of Thompson and his players after the game, they didn’t take any pride in that. And that’s because they already knew what that game showed everyone else—there is no ceiling for this team.

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