Georgetown's 37-36 scoring-challenged win over Tennessee proved the Hoyas could triumph with minimal, truly minimal offense - at least when paired with a tenacious defensive effort. Considering the number of good looks generated against the Volunteers that went astray, Friday's performance does not have the look of a concerning trend - at least if the starry forward combo of Otto Porter and Greg Whittington stay on the court.
One dynamic that has stuck around longer than desired for the 15th ranked Hoyas involves the rebounding battle. Despite good length across the starting lineup, Georgetown has rarely had a comfortable edge on the glass this season and against its three recent power conference opponents, none at all.
The Hoyas (5-1) finished victorious in two of those three games with the only blemish an overtime-loss against top-ranked Indiana. However, a similar rebounding scenario could prove problematic Tuesday night (7:00 p.m.) against a burly Texas squad at Madison Square Garden in the Jimmy V Classic.
Tennessee finished with a 37-29 rebounding advantage, including 10 offensive boards. Indiana ended up 33-28, UCLA 40-31. Even against overmatched an undersized Liberty in the season's second game, Georgetown's final margin was just two, 29-27.
"We just have to be better at rebounding," junior forward Nate Lubick said following Monday's practice. "People can say it's our lack of depth inside, but we're over 6-foot-8 across the [starting lineup] so there is no excuse not to rebound. That's going to be a big key to [Tuesday's] game against Texas. They are very big and rebound the ball very well."
Indeed they do. The Longhorns (5-2) stand as one of the nation's better rebounding teams. Six players average at least four rebounds per game including 6-foot-4 guard and leading scorer Sheldon McClellan (17.0 ppg). Paced by wide-bodied big men Jonathan Holmes and Cameron Ridley, Texas is averaging 40.7 per contest or seven more than the Hoyas.
"They have a big team," Thompson stated. Asked how his team can reverse its recent rebounding deficiencies against a formidable Texas lineup, the coach bluntly stated, "Box out and go get the ball. It's not rocket science."
Simple enough, as is the importance of corralling those misses.
"Rebounding is the most important thing," said the stretchy Whittington, Georgetown's leading rebounder (8.7) and scorer (12.7). "If you rebound, you limit [other] team's second chances. If you rebound, everything flows."
The Hoyas imposing zone defense certainly prevented Tennessee's offense from flowing. The Volunteers rarely found opportunities inside and missed 13 of 16 three-point attempts. This scheme is largely responsible for holding opponents to 39 percent field goal shooting on the season. However, the yang to the zone defense's yin comes with rebounding assignments. Guarding an area rather than a single player makes impeding progress toward the basket of a would-be rebounder more challenging.
"It's definitely hard to rebound out of a zone, not having one [player] be responsible for boxing out," said Lubick who will play against Texas despite missing the entire second half against Tennessee after suffering an elbow injury. "That's going to be something we have to figure out because we're a team that plays a lot of zone during crunch time."
As for his injury, which limited him to only eight minutes on Friday, Lubick said, "I kind of ripped a rebound down and I kind of slammed my elbow on [Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes'] head. My arm just went totally numb. My hand went totally numb. I gave it a go, but couldn't keep going."
Thompson said Lubick, who has played in 71 straight games at Georgetown, was limited during Monday's practice, but both player and coach said the rugged forward would be ready for Texas. "100% percent better," Lubick stated.
Asked if his team's offense would be better following Friday's horror show, Thompson said, "I hope so. We've got to put the ball in the basket. I think we missed 17, 18 3-foot shots."
Georgetown finished 36.4 percent from the field, did not score a point over the final 4:10 and lacked a single double figure scorer for the first time since January 11, 1952. Of course, in those scoring and accuracy areas, Tennessee fared worse.
Notes... Despite the offensive struggles against Tennessee, Georgetown's 48.4 field goal percentage ranks 22nd nationally. ...The Longhorns continue playing without point guard Myck Kabongo. The star sophomore has yet to play this season over eligibility concerns stemming from potential improper benefits. ...The matchup against Texas represents Georgetown's final major non-conference opponent and away game until the Hoyas open Big East play Jan. 5 at Marquette. Starting Saturday against Towson, Georgetown closes 2012 with four straight home games. ...The 1952 game, a 55-40 loss to Maryland played in College Park at the Ritchie Coliseum.