Saturday, January 17, 2009

Oh Well -- Duke 76, Georgetown 67

The Hoyas were still in the game -- maybe even leading -- when one play made me realize there was a force at work with which our plucky blue-gray bunch was not equipped to deal.

Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. The inbound play where Duke just lofted the ball up in front of the basket and Gerald Henderson (whose father authored a still-famous dunk on Alonzo Mourning in a regional final game between these two schools in 1989) appeared to drop from the ceiling of Cameron Indoor Stadium and slam the ball home.

The thought I had at that moment was, "Uh-oh. I don't think my team has anybody who can do that."

Indeed, Henderson was the difference. (Though I do love a no-nonsense big man like Kyle Singler -- a guy who doesn't do anything fancy but always, ALWAYS figures out how to get the ball in the basket when he gets it down low. He dunks when he should dunk. He goes glass when he should go glass. He doesn't take that dumb dribble Mourning always used to take when he got the ball down low. He just takes it up and scores, and gets back down the other end to try and block one, leaving it to a guy like Henderson to buzz around the floor like a spring-loaded badger and shoot (and hit) from anywhere.)

My fear was that Duke would shoot the lights out, and they did -- better than 48 percent. I don't feel like the Hoyas played particularly poor defense (that number notwithstanding). I don't feel like they were outmanned, or that this was some kind of a mismatch. In DC, it might have gone differently. On a neutral court in March, it might go differently. Basically, this came down to an unreal game by Henderson and that devastating 10-minute stretch at the end of the first half and beginning of the second where the Hoyas made no field goals and the Dukies started bombing threes.

Other than that, it was kind of even, and there were some good signs. Summers fears nothing but the free-throw line, and is having the kind of year where I think he'll just keep getting better and more confident in his offense. Monroe is an animal and will fare better in games where go his way a little bit more.

I worry about Jessie Sapp, who has I think graduated from shooting slump to lousy season. And Chris Wright doesn't look as loose and as sharp as he did in the early going. But what matters is that Georgetown survived this hellish six-game stretch (at UConn/Pitt/at Notre Dame/Providence/Syracuse/at Duke) with a 3-3 record and can get back to Big East business knowing they're still alive in the conference and the national polls. They have questions to answer, sure. You'd still like to see more from Vaughn and Sims and Clark off the bench. And Sapp needs to hit a big three in the worst way. And the next game is West Virginia, which only feels easy because of what's come before it but most certainly is not easy.

But there's a chance for a big finish here. Pomeroy predicts a win for Georgetown in each of its remaining regular-season games, and a 60 percent or better chance for a win in all but one of them (at Marquette, 54 percent). That's not to say they'll win them all, but there is a sense that they've somehow survived the worst and are in a position, if they've been toughened by this stretch, to do some damage and factor into the race for a third straight regular-season conference title.

And who knows? Next time they see Duke, things could be different. Maybe they could even keep Gerald Henderson somewhere near the ground.

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