- Austin Freeman (15) struggled again as Georgetown suffered their third loss in four Big East games. (Photo: Associated Press)
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins described Georgetown's trio of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, and Jason Clark as "three of the best perimeter guys in the country, and I don't think there's anybody even close."
But on Saturday afternoon, the Georgetown trio had the spotlight stolen from them in a brilliant solo effort by Casey Mitchell, who scored 28 points in the Mountaineers' 65-59 victory. The loss not only dropped the Hoyas to 1-3 in conference play, but with seventh-ranked Pitt paying a visit Wednesday, the defeat likely dealt Georgetown a severe blow, if not a death knell, to their chase for a regular season Big East title.
Strictly speaking, the fault did not lie with either of the three. Clark went 7-for-10 from the field with 16 points, while Freeman, though not at his absolute best, made two crucial three-point shots (both of which tied the game) with eight minutes remaining in the second half. Wright struggled the most of the Georgetown Three, going 3-for-13 from the field (including 1-for-7 from three-point range) and finished the day with just nine points to his name.
But the main problem for Georgetown was the same one that's plagued them in all three of their conference losses: the fact that no one else is ready or able to carry the load when one or two or all three of their perimeter stars struggle.
Consider, for example, Georgetown's other two starters: Hollis Thompson and Julian Vaughn. Between them, they played a combined 49 minutes, shot a combined 5-for-7 from the field, and grabbed 10 points and 6 rebounds. Those would be barely adequate stats for one interior player. When they're the combined stats for two, it presents a massive problem. Indeed, so reliant on the jump shot is Georgetown that the Hoyas only shot 11 foul shots Saturday afternoon, 13 fewer than the Mountaineers.
"We have 13 guys in that locker room, a head coach, a couple of assistants, trainers," said Georgetown head coach John Thompson III. "It falls on all of us."
It's a noble sentiment, but it doesn't jibe with the facts, which are these: If no one from the group of Vaughn, Thompson, or even freshman Nate Lubick (who was first off the Georgetown bench and performed solidly in his 10 first-half minutes, though less so in the 13 minutes he played in the second half) can step up to take some of the load off the shoulders of the Clark/Freeman/Wright trio, then Georgetown is facing a long slog through the regular season, a low seed in the Big East Tournament, and a tough first-round matchup (if they make it that far, that is) in the NCAA Tournament.
"In the first half, I wasn't aggressive as I was in the second half," said Freeman, who finished with 11 points, all of them after halftime. "I played pretty passive in the first half, but in the second half I was more aggressive and tried to get myself and my teammates looks ... My teammates need me to be aggressive and get my shot and help them get their shots, so it's on my part."
Obviously, it's not good for your stars to underperform and play passively to such an extant that even they can't help but notice. But at the same time, it's not humanly possible for one player (or two, or even three) to take a team to the promised land if their shots aren't falling. And at the moment, Georgetown's shots aren't' falling.
Their schedule doesn't do the Hoyas any favors either, with difficult games against Pittsburgh (home), Connecticut (away), Syracuse (home and away), Cincinnati (home and away), Louisville (home), and Villanova (away). The calculus is clear: either Freeman's shots will start falling again, or Georgetown will begin an agonizing tumble down the Big East standings. They'll all go down together, to be sure, but it won't be where they should be.