Manhattan, New York (WUSA) -The Bulldogs of Georgetown take it to the Bearcats of Cincinnati, advancing to the Big East Semifial round.
If a bulldog and a bearcat met in an alley, whom would you take? Chances are the cat would be the feistier of the two, swinging its paws rapidly in attempt to intimidate the bulldog. But the bulldog's ability to stay calm & defend itself would prevail. At least, that would be the course of thought I'd take if posed the question.
The Georgetown Hoyas, winners of the regular season in the Big East didn't find themselves in an alley, but they were most definitely in a dogfight of a ball game as they prevailed to victory, 62-43 over the Cincinnati Bearcats. Not once, but twice, the referees were forced to call each player on the floor in a disjointed huddle, to join together and bring down the level of physicality.
Players, coaches, and fans alike knew this would be the tactic enacted by Mick Cronins scrappy bunch. The Bearcats embody the spirit of their head coach. Young, scrappy, aggressive, and a "never say die", mentality that led the Bearcats to 22 regular season wins. Cronin was charged with a technical early in the first half and his behavior exuded that of a coach who would potentially be watching his team from the locker room rather then the sideline.
It's the final Big East tournament and fans got no shortage of one thing they have always received: hard fought basketball.
The difference maker in this one without question was the Hoyas second half defense. In a game where a 16 point first half lead completely vanished and 5 threes were made by the Bearcats to finish the second half, Georgetown held Cincinnati to only one three in the second half. When Coach Thompson was asked whether his team's second half defense was what got his team the win, Thompson got straight to the point. "Without a doubt. In the first half we gave them open looks. In the second half we were much more attentive, I think they only made one three. We did a very good job of guarding their penetration once we stopped them from three."
The Bearcats took their first lead of the evening at 33-31 early in the second half and that was the brightest things got for the, the remainder of the game.
Georgetown never made it easy on Cincinnati, constantly alternating between man-to-man and zone defense. "We wanted to keep them off balance. Once they fall into their rhythm their hard to stop. That's one of the things that happened at the end of the first half, we stayed in our zone too long and they went on a run," said Coach Thompson.
Cincinnati is led by three outstanding guards in Sean Kilpatrick, Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker, with Kilpatrick being the captain that wrights the ship. Kilpatrick who averages 17 points a game was held to 4 points on 2-12 shooting despite leading his team in minutes. That wasn't by coincidence. Georgetown put its best perimeter defender on the junior, Jabril Trawick.
"Jabril was on him most of the night and he did a good job of not getting stuck on screens, chasing him and just trying to get him to take tough shots. I think overall he did a great job of just sticking with him."
Moses Ayegba and Trawick both played exceedingly heavy minutes, evidence of how important defense was in the winning effort. Ayegba exceeded his season average in minutes per game by halftime and was key in fending off the Bearcats physical play. Anyone who's watched the Hoyas knows Moses is not the most gifted offensive player but is built like an action figure and defends well on and off the ball.
Offensively, the Hoyas usual suspects were guilty of shooting lights out. Led by Big East Player of the Year Otto Porter, who had 18 points and only trailed Moses Ayegba (8) in rebounds with six. Starks finished with 14 and Smith-Rivera added 13.
All in all the Hoyas handled their business, but have some worries Hoyas fans, I do sense a chink in this teams armor. Only six players got heavy minutes, in what was their toughest game since loosing to Villanova earlier this month. Here's how the minutes were dispersed:
Otto Porter-39;Nate Lubick-25;Markel Starks-38;Jabril Trawick-37;Dvauntes Smith-Rivera-34;Moses Ayegba-18
This can be seen as a negative or a positive, depending how you look at it. The negative being the obvious; only six players got quality minutes. The positive being that Moses Ayegba rarely plays heavy minutes like these and showed that he is more then capable of having his presence felt on the floor. Ayegba ate up the minutes that are usually awarded to Mikael Hopkins who only expended 6 minutes of thirst quenching energy against Cincinnati. Fact is, Hopkins style of play is just to, well, soft for a big-boy match up like Cincinnati.
I won't dive to far into troubles this could cause the Hoyas right now but the further in March you play, the deeper your bench should be. As for now, the Hoyas are 15-1 as the number one seed in the Big East Tournament and will face Syracuse tomorrow night in the semi finals. What more could the Hoya faithful really ask for?