Friday, November 30, 2012
A closer look: G'town 37, Tennessee 36
By Myron Medcalf
Overview: No. 20 Georgetown's 37-36 victory over visiting Tennessee was one of the sloppiest games of the season to date. At one point in the first half, Tennessee was shooting below 19 percent from the field against Georgetown’s frustrating 2-3 zone. But the Vols climbed back into the low-scoring matchup because their opponent failed to register a field goal in the last 10 minutes of the first half. Trae Golden's floater beat the buzzer to give Tennessee a -- wait for it -- 18-16 lead at halftime. It was the worst half for the Vols in nearly a decade. The offensive production was mediocre in the second half, too. But Georgetown started with a 13-5 run. Tennessee answered with a 13-6 run. There were six lead changes in the final 8 minutes, 19 seconds of the game. But neither team scored in the final 4:08 of regulation as the Hoyas preserved the one-point lead. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it was the first time that Georgetown had won by scoring 37 points or fewer since beating Catholic during the 1945-46 season. Wow.
Turning point: Tennessee made two crucial surges. It responded to Georgetown's early eight-point lead in the first half, then it fired back when it rallied early in the second. But the game was ultimately decided in the final seconds. With his team up 37-36, Greg Whittington fumbled a pass, resulting in a turnover that gave the Vols possession with 22 seconds left. But the home team pressured the 3-point line all night, which was evident when Skylar McBee and Jordan McRae missed contested 3-pointers in the final seconds.
Georgetown's Mikeal Hopkins (3) and Greg Whittington, who combined for 16 points, surround Tennessee's Kenny Hall.
Why Georgetown won: Well, Markel Starks scored the winning basket with 4:08 to play. But the Hoyas really won because of their defensive pressure. No player on either team scored in double figures. It was one of those gritty November matchups. Defense really was the difference because shots weren't falling. John Thompson III's squad forced 12 turnovers and held Tennessee to a 3-for-16 clip from the 3-point line.
Why Tennessee lost: The Vols spent the night digging out of ditches. They were down in the first half but bounced back. They were down in the second but bounced back. Those early holes, however, affected them down the stretch. They missed so many easy shots, shots that have fallen in other games this season. And they expended a lot of energy trying to make up for it. Credit Georgetown's defense for its role in creating that offensive chaos. But Tennessee did have a chance in the waning seconds. Not sure why the best plays were a couple of 3-pointers -- shots that hadn't gone in most of the evening -- when the Vols were down by a point. Paging Jeronne Maymon (12.7 points, 8.1 rebounds per game in 2011-12). He's still recovering from knee surgery. Tennessee could have used him Friday night.
Star(s) of the game: Hard to identify a star in a game that featured so many droughts, right? Otto Porter had eight points, seven rebounds and three steals. Whittington had the same stat line. They were both 4-for-11. JTIII is obviously cloning 6-foot-8 forwards.
What it means for Georgetown: It means the Hoyas need to become a better offensive team to beat top-tier squads in the Big East. They certainly have the defense to do it. And it seems Porter and Whittington are stars. But the offensive gaps will crush them against tougher teams.
What it means for Tennessee: The Vols need Maymon. Yes, they have to take smarter shots, but they also need Maymon. I think he changes the program's prospects. And they're just not tough enough defensively to afford the offensive lapses that plagued them against the Hoyas.
What’s next: Tennessee will face Virginia on the road Wednesday. Georgetown will take on Texas on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden in the Jimmy V Classic.