JTIII: "[Creighton] can score in any kind of way'

JTIII: "[Creighton] can score in any kind of way'
January 24, 2014, 9:45 pm
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As if Monday's heartbreaking overtime loss to Marquette wasn't bad enough. Since the 80-72 setback in which the Hoyas blew a late lead in regulation, Georgetown has been studying all things Creighton. That meant watching footage of the Bluejays draining Big East record 21 3-pointers against Villanova from that same Monday. That meant getting an eyeful of All-American forward and likely NBA Draft lottery selection Doug McDermott. That meant viewing the insanely hot-shooting Justin Wragge, who made nine of those 21 3-pointers.

Talk about your nightmarish and thumbs down scenarios. Actually, the Hoyas (11-7, 3-4) are already in the midst of a terrible stretch, having lost three straight and four of five games. On Friday, coach John Thompson also announced the loss of center Joshua Smith for the season due to academics.

The Hoyas - or any team - are bound to lose if Creighton (16-3, 3-1) matches its stunning perimeter display from Monday. The Big East-leading Bluejays sank their first nine 3-pointers, made 21 of 35 overall en route to a dominant 96-68 win, handing Villanova its first conference loss of the season.

"That was surreal watching the Villanova game," Thompson said on Friday at McDonough Arena before the team headed to Omaha for their first-ever conference meeting against Creighton. "Hopefully they got that out of their system."

Behind its star forwards, Creighton won for the 11th time in 12 games. McDermott, the Big East's leading scorer with 24.8 points per game, shoots 44 percent from deep while Wragge sinks half of his 3-point attempts. They aren't the viable only long-range shooters available for coach Greg McDermott, Doug's father. The Bluejays rank third nationally with 10.8 makes from beyond the arc per game.

"They are an outstanding offensive," Thompson said. "Their spacing is terrific. They put five guys on the court that can shoot. They put two guys on the court who are great shooters and they have one guy [McDermott] on the court who is the best player in the country. They can score in any kind of way."

The 6-foot-8 McDermott and 6-foot-7 Wragge can certainly shoot over the top of defenders.

"Having big guys that can shoot like that makes things pretty hard to guard especially when they're setting a lot ball screens," said Georgetown forward Nate Lubick, who will be one of the primary chasers against Creighton's front-court shooters. "You kind of have to play ball screens a little different with McDermott and the kid Wragge, who is shooting the hell out of the ball."

Adding to the frightening scenario, the shorthanded Hoyas have struggled with their own perimeter defense lately. Marquette, the worst 3-point shooting team in the conference, hit three in the final minutes including one to force overtime.

Georgetown remains without guard and defensive presence Jabril Trawick (broken jaw). Senior swingman Aaron Bowen, freshman Reggie Cameron and former walk-on John Caprio have taken on larger roles in Trawick's absence.

"We have guys that are now all of a sudden here in the middle of the season thrust into different roles and our 3-point defense has not been good," Thompson said. "A lot of it is because our communication has not been good. In the first half of games, our defense is right in front of our bench so we can talk them through [situations] from the bench.

"In the second half, it's just those five guys down there by themselves because they can't hear us. Our communication, we had mix-ups in situations where we should not have had mix-ups. It's hurt us."

If that situation hurts the Hoyas against Creighton, the flight from Nebraska to D.C. will be a long one.

Thompson: "We've worked on protecting the 3-point line, on our communication. We worked on listening when your teammates ask you to do something. Hopefully we'll see the fruits of it [Friday]. It's going to have to be [better] against this team."