I know it was two days ago, and there is YET ANOTHER big game tomorrow, but it’s finally time to talk about the Georgetown sadness. Partly because I needed some time to process the loss, partly because this is the first chance I’ve had to breathe since then.
I’m not blisteringly angry about the game — and that’s not just the 2-day layoff talking, I felt about the same right after it ended. I’m mainly just bummed out. They could have won, sure. But I never got the feeling that they ought to have won. We all knew it would be a tough game and could go either way. I wish they’d won. I’m sad they didn’t. But I think I know why it happened, at least.
It’s tempting to blame the seemingly endless array of offensive fouls called on SU (and the resulting ineffectiveness of Rick Jackson) but I actually think I need to give the Son Of The Beast credit for his defensive game plan. The SU offense relies almost exclusively on two things: Jackson post-ups, and pick-and-roll-based lane penetration. The Georgetown defense was well-designed to challenge that type of attack and take it away as much as possible. Lots of help defense and rotations that gummed up the works and dared SU to make extra passes. Sometimes the Orange were able to oblige, but sometimes they weren’t.
I think the general effectiveness of their defense became most important in those last few minutes when the game turned. Because what we saw from the Orange on offense was an abrupt abandonment of their offensive game plan. Watching it in real time, it looked as if SU — having played with remarkable patience for 37 minutes — suddenly reverted to the “bad Orange” from November. Ill-advised one-on-three drives, contested three-pointers. And there seemed to be no reason why they’d turn into pumpkins so immediately. But after I thought about it for a while, it seems to me that the reason was Georgetown’s defense over those first 37 minutes. It’s not that the Hoyas had completely stifled every Orange possession, forcing them to radically change course. But, their defense was good enough and consistent enough to put doubt into the minds of the Orange players. SU had been stopped enough times that they no longer trusted their regular offense to get a “big” basket in crunch time. And so the offense devolved into a scattered, tattered, finger-crossing festival. The team, despite their enormous talent, still doesn’t have a consistent, reliable “go-to” scorer or play. Sometimes they have had guys make plays, and sometimes they haven’t. It might be their biggest remaining weakness, and Georgetown exploited it perfectly.
At least, this is my take on what happened, as a longtime observer. I haven’t yet read any of the postgame coverage, to see what Boeheim thought about those last couple of minutes. The rest of the game I thought they played pretty well, against a very solid team that is on a roll. It just got away at the end. It’s pretty late in the season to be talking about “learning experiences”, but perhaps this game can nonetheless serve as a teaching tool, to help them keep their heads next time things go down to the wire. Who knows, they might need that lesson tomorrow afternoon.
And hey. At least we didn’t lose to Rutgers on a 4-point play.