Hoyas solving their chemistry issues
John Thompson III heard the critique about his team repeated over and over last season.
"What is wrong with Georgetown’s chemistry?" many asked.
"Georgetown’s chemistry has disappeared," others said.
Thompson, who had brought in a heralded recruiting class and one of the nation’s top talents at the time, was looking to capture another Big East regular-season championship and return to the NCAA tournament for a fourth straight year.
The Hoyas, though, were never able to gel.
Senior guard Jessie Sapp and his personality had become a problem in the locker room, sources told FOXSports.com senior writer Jeff Goodman, and junior forward DaJuan Summers was far from happy either, later becoming the first Georgetown player to ever declare early for the NBA draft without testing the waters.
Those issues off the court eventually translated into ones on the court.
Georgetown ended up dropping five straight games in January and never recovered, quickly falling off the national radar before March and missing out on a fourth straight NCAA tournament appearance with a 7-11 mark in the Big East.
But with the departure of Summers and Sapp and the return of sophomore big man Greg Monroe and junior point guard Chris Wright, Georgetown appears to have resolved those chemistry questions from a year ago.
"I think we have a close-knit group," Thompson said after an impressive, 74-66 victory over No. 17 Washington in the Wooden Classic Saturday at the Honda Center.
"This group works hard for each other, and they have confidence in each other."
It’s that confidence that has led No. 15 Georgetown to an 8-0 start as one of just 15 undefeated teams left in the country coming into Saturday’s action.
"The whole group, as a core, we have good chemistry," said junior forward Julian Vaughn, who stepped up to record a team-high 18 points and seven rebounds.
"We keep playing unselfishly. Everyone looks for each other and tries to get the best shot on offense."
But after a solid win over Butler in the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday and another one Saturday over a second straight top 25 team, Thompson and his players can return home to Washington, D.C., knowing that they took care of business against two quality teams that many expect to be in the Big Dance come March.
"I don’t look at it like that," the sixth-year Georgetown coach said about the Hoyas improving their NCAA tournament résumé with the two victories.
"I look at it as preparing us for league play and for us to get used to the emotional and mental ride of playing in the Big East. That’s what this week was about, but we still have a long way to go."
Yet, it’s really the Pac-10 that has an even longer way to go.
That’s because with more than a month of the 2009-10 season gone, the conference has yet to secure a win over a top 25 opponent.
Cal, which was picked to win the conference for the second time in school history, failed to come up with a win in its trip to New York City last month and has since stumbled on the road at New Mexico.
Arizona, in Sean Miller’s first year in Tucson, managed to capture only a win over Colorado in Maui and more recently has come up short against UNLV at home and Oklahoma on the road.
And UCLA, which started the season with a laundry list of injuries, appears to be going through the rebuilding process after losing to four non-BCS schools earlier this season and getting blown out by Mississippi State on Saturday in the second game of the doubleheader event.
Washington, meanwhile, cruised to its first four wins before getting pushed at home by a pesky Montana team and then falling in overtime to Texas Tech in the Huskies’ first true road game.
And though the Huskies will get another non-conference test in less than two weeks when No. 16 Texas A&M comes to Seattle, this was one that the defending Pac-10 champs needed to win to help repair the conference’s current standing.
"It’s very disappointing, first and foremost, for our team," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said of the loss. "We would have liked to take advantage of this opportunity because the Pac-10 has not come out on top in many of these non-conference games."
But the Huskies, in the end, were just too sloppy.
Washington, despite shooting over 45 percent for the game, turned the ball over 13 times in the first half and threw the ball away on another 12 occasions after halftime.
"We didn’t get it done," Romar said.
Against an experienced and scrappy team like Georgetown — which had all five starters score in double figures — it proved to be a recipe for disaster.
"We have a resilient team," Thompson said. "This group realizes we have many different pieces and many different options."
The Hoyas, after leading by one at halftime, ran out to a 20-point advantage midway through the second half on the shoulders of Vaughn and Monroe and never looked back.
"We came out lackadaisical," Washington forward Quincy Pondexter said after carrying the Huskies with a game-high 23 points on 10-for-15 shooting.
"We were moving in slow motion."
Georgetown, on the other hand, was anything but slow, particularly on the defensive end.
"We are trying to keep finding ways to win," said Monroe, who finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. "It’s nothing special that we are doing."
It may not look all that special right now, but Thompson’s team could be with a few more signature wins in its portfolio.