Tuesday, November 22, 2011
A closer look: Kansas 67, Georgetown 63
By Eamonn Brennan
Overview: As usual, ESPN analyst and American hero Bill Raftery said it best: "This good this early is impressive." He was talking about the quality of Maui's first-day finale, and he was entirely correct: Kansas and Georgetown played a brilliant 40 minutes Monday night. Both teams were tight, composed and clearly well-coached, and the Jayhawks were never comfortable in their 67-63 survival of a win.
Turning point: I'm not sure there was one, exactly. KU's biggest lead was six points, and the Hoyas steadfastly refused to go away. Georgetown had its chances in the final moments, however. Jason Clark hit a big 3 with 30 seconds remaining -- thanks to a clutch rebound by freshman Otto Porter -- that closed the Kansas lead to 65-63. But Georgetown's press couldn't turn the Jayhawks over, Travis Releford made his two free throws after a foul, and the Jayhawks' advantage lasted until the clock ticked to zero.
Why Kansas won: Its beautiful offense and well-drilled defense. The Jayhawks are always one of the best passing teams in the nation, and that trait was already on full display Monday night. Kansas moved the ball from side-to-side on the perimeter, creating creases in Georgetown's zone that led to open shots, penetrating drives or -- most frequently and most enjoyably -- thunderous Thomas Robinson dunks.
Why Georgetown lost: It never found its 3-point range. The Hoyas, like most Princeton-derivative teams, are at their best when everyone on the floor is a long-distance threat. Against Kansas, Georgetown made just seven of its 24 3-point field goal attempts, just 29.2 percent.
Star of the game: Thomas Robinson. There's a reason so many expect so much out of Robinson in his first year as a starter: He's a dominant force at the rim. His final line comprised 20 points on 7-for-14 from the field, 12 rebounds and two blocks. Five of those seven field goals, believe it or not, were dunks. The kid's a beast, folks.
What it means: Both teams have plenty of reason for optimism. For Kansas, the win is meaningful, but not nearly as much as the means by which it was achieved -- through gorgeous, pass-heavy offense and solid help-oriented defense. It means just as much for Georgetown, if not more; after losing Austin Freeman and Chris Wright to graduation this spring, the Hoyas were picked to finish No. 10 by the Big East coaches this preseason. That prediction deserves serious revision.
More observations: Robinson may be the most exciting player in the country. Even crazier is that he's just scratching the surface of his talent. The big man isn't great with the ball in his hands, he isn't an intuitive passer and he doesn't have much in the way of a traditional low-post game. Right now, he's simply very good at rim-running, rebounding and finishing with authority. Fortunately, Kansas is very good at utilizing its passing to get Robinson moving at the rim where he can catch the ball in easy scoring spots. But if he develops just a hint of polish, look out. He may well be unstoppable.
What’s next: Kansas moves forward to face UCLA in the second round, where it looks like an easy favorite to outwit and outplay the work-in-progress Bruins. Georgetown will have to settle for a trip to the consolation bracket, where it should easily handle Chaminade and move on to play the winner of Memphis-Tennessee. If the Hoyas bring this midseason form to the next two days of the tournament, they could well leave Maui with at least one quality win.