Hoyas won't have to worry about bubble
President Obama and Mike Krzyzewski might have been dazzled by everything that Georgetown did while dispatching Duke last month, but Hoyas coach John Thompson III had a different take.
Thompson understood why the world thought Georgetown was capable of beating anybody after that thunderous 12-point victory.
But he also added a post-Duke disclaimer: His team was also capable of losing every remaining game.
And for three uneven weeks, the Hoyas seemed determined to prove their coach absolutely correct, losing three of their next five, including one to South Florida (gasp) and another to Rutgers (howl).
Subsequently, the Hoyas limped into Freedom Hall Tuesday night ranked 11th in the nation and sixth in the Big East. They are projected as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament and a No. 6 seed in the Big East tournament.
With good reason, America wondered: Even with an 18-7 record, how good is Georgetown?
Today, America has a better idea: Good enough that people can stop making comparisons to last season, when the Hoyas started 12-3 and finished 4-12 and then missed the NCAA tournament.
There’s no more paranoia dogging the Hoyas, not after they ran Louisville out of Freedom Hall by outrebounding, outdefending, outshooting and outscrapping Rick Pitino’s team.
The final score was 70-60. It wasn’t that close, at least not in the second half.
Georgetown went from down 11 to up 15 so powerfully that Louisville couldn’t stop the Hoyas’ momentum by having Denny Crum and Darrell Griffith address the hometown crowd.
Austin Freeman played like what he is, which is the best guard not named Scottie Reynolds in the Big East.
Greg Monroe played like what he is, which is the best all-around big man of any name in the Big East.
And the rest of the Hoyas’ narrow supporting cast showed why Georgetown is a team that makes 50 percent of its shots (fourth in the nation) while limiting opponents to less than 41 percent.
“We needed this win,” said Monroe after dropping the Cardinals. “We’ve got to keep on playing even though we’re not one of the so-called bubble teams.”
“It’s human nature, it’s the nature of your job, it’s the nature of fans to start looking at standings and rankings and assume that this team should do that to that team,” Thompson added.
“Across our league, the difference between the top teams and the guys who are down on the bottom is a magnification of small differences.”
The differences looked pretty large against Louisville, and they were usually delivered by Freeman, the thick junior guard, and Monroe, the relentless sophomore center.
Freeman not only outscored Edgar Sosa, Jerry Smith and Preston Knowles, Louisville’s veteran backcourt trio, he nearly outscored all of Pitino’s team.
Freeman needed 105 seconds to wipe out Louisville’s six-point halftime lead. He started the second half like this: 3-pointer, reverse layup, 3-pointer. He scored 24 points in the second half, one fewer than Louisville.
“I just want to stay aggressive,” said Freeman, who has scored 20 or more in six of the Hoyas’ last eight games. “If things don’t fall for me in the first half, I still want to stay aggressive in the second half.”
“When he gets hot, I don’t think anyone can stop him,” Monroe said of Freeman. “He can do so many things. He can penetrate. He can score off the ball. He can shoot for three. He got some offensive rebounds.
“When he sees the open shot, he’s going to take it — and he’s most likely going to make it.”
Indeed, Freeman finished with 29 points and looked like a guy that could average 29 instead of his standard 17. But he plays like a guy who understands what Thompson preaches, focusing more on efficiency than volume, forcing nothing but taking everything that’s there to be taken.
“He can be aggressive and not force it,” Thompson said. “He’s a smart basketball player.
“He sees. He understands. He’s one of those guys who can go into an aggressive mode, yet he’s not going to make too many mistakes, he’s not going to make too many bad decisions.”
Neither is Monroe. At 6-foot-11, he is listed as two inches taller than Samardo Samuels, Louisville’s center.
Double check the tape measure because Monroe swallowed Samuels in a one-sided matchup that 14 NBA scouts gathered to see.
Monroe’s footwork was better. He spun and danced through an assortment of pivots, scoring 16.
His nose for the ball was better. He positioned himself between Samuels and the glass, collecting 14 rebounds.
Offensive rebounds were off limits for Louisville. The Cardinals managed only five.
And though the box score says Monroe did not block any shots, the box score deceives. His long and smothering arms had Samuels launching four-foot shots when he was five feet from the rim.
Samuels finished with 11 of the most difficult points he has ever scored.
Georgetown, in the meantime, tied the Cardinals for fifth in the Big East and now faces a considerably less demanding schedule with Notre Dame at home Saturday, a visit to West Virginia Monday and a trip home to battle Cincinnati in its regular-season finale that weekend.
Louisville, on the other hand, has back-to-back games at Connecticut and Marquette before saying farewell to Freedom Hall on March 6 against Syracuse.
So is it time for the Hoyas to exhale?
“We just want to win the next game and not look at the big picture or look at anything else,” Thompson said. “Just win the next game.”