The Georgetown offense - which is really fun to watch up close - is partly predicated on constant motion. The Hoyas utilize a plethora of back cuts and ball reversals, with the intention of taking advantage of a defense that ultimately becomes either disoriented or lazy. This is why you hear the phrase "worn down" or some variation tossed around all the time by opposing coaches in postgame interviews.
Just how much effort and focus it takes to defend these guys for 40 minutes is astounding, and any head coach who can have his players prepared and inspired enough to do what U of L did on Saturday deserves an extreme amount of credit.
The wardrobe switch at halftime was nice too, but Rick Pitino gets first mention today because his kids were playing just as hard and just as alert in the final five minutes of the game as they were in the first five.
The contested three-point shot is the always the final resort for Georgetown, and the teams that have had the most success against the Hoyas have been the ones who have been able to hold them to a three-point percentage significantly lower than their 37% average. GU was 3-of-20 from three in their loss at Pitt, 3-of-14 against Memphis, and now 4-of-22 against Louisville.
Part of the reason that Georgetown was forced to take so many outside shots was the Louisville press. While the press forced (I believe) four turnovers, it's bigger role in the game was that it made the Hoyas start their offensive possessions with 22-26 seconds on the shot clock. For a team that runs such a precise, methodical offense, those seconds are highly valuable.
John Thompson III is one of the brightest minds in the game, and the fact that his team wasn't getting baskets late in the game in instances when JT III was calling timeouts to set up specific plays is another testament to just how fantastic U of L's defense was. The Hoyas kept trying to take advantage of the back of the Cardinal zone by sneakily slipping Jonathan Wallace to the bucket, but the play only worked once in the second half.
Overall, just a marvelous scouting job by the coaching staff, and superb defensive effort and execution by the players.
I made the comment near the end of the game that I was overcome with a desire to run out onto the floor and give David Padgett a hug. Sunday morning I found out that the feeling was mutual.
Georgetown had backed off, quit fouling, acknowledged defeat. The crowd of 20,083 was screaming. Padgett was beaming.
"I wanted to hug every person in the audience," he said.
Every one of them wanted to hug Louisville's indestructible center right back. The comeback Cardinal has become emblematic of a comeback team.
There really might not be a more valuable (or cooler) player in college basketball. While they aren't exactly comparable in terms of athleticism, Padgett is to this Louisville basketball team what Dennis Dixon was to the Oregon football team. You take either away and a national championship contender immediately morphs into a very average club.
It's amazing how comfortable I can feel when the ball is in the hands of a guy who can't handle it very well. Panic and angst immediately dissolve when the rock is in the hands of the big man, the most calming presence since your mother. When once, heavy ball pressure elicited shouts of "give it to DeJuan" or "come get the ball 'Cisco," it's now the tallest guy on the floor wearing white whom the home crowd urges to restore order. It's amazing, really.
You knew Padgett was going to go hard at Hibbert when he got the ball on offense, but even if he hadn't scored a point, the work he did on the other end of the floor was enough to merit serious praise. The Georgetown big man is as talented as advertised, and when he gets the ball in the right spot, there's absolutely nothing you can do except hope that he doesn't make the shot. The only way you can keep him from scoring 20 points is to not let him catch the ball or force him to catch it outside, two things David - and Derrick when he was in - worked extremely hard to accomplish.
Have I mentioned that the guy can pass?
Senior Day is going to be rough on the heart.
Just a quick note to the hefty kid in the flat-billed white U of L hat who was sitting two rows behind Vitale and Schulman: don't do that.
The crowd was truly extraordinary, and I was extremely grateful (I love you Lytle) to have been in attendance. The pregame intros were out of this world.
I'll think of this game everytime I hear "The Way I Are" for the rest of my life...unless I'm somewhere where the song is playing and some guy near me with one too many buttons unbuttoned is dancing and singing way too intensely, in which case I'll be thinking about how much I don't like that guy.
Also, the red blinking pom-poms are the best idea since the hiring of Paul Rogers.
You can prepare and play as hard as possible in a game like this, and it will be all for not if you don't have somebody step up and hit some big shots. Thankfully, Jerry Smith chose to come to Louisville.
His shooting was the biggest difference in the first ten minutes of the second half where Louisville outscored Georgetown 20-6. Still, I think my favorite Jerry play was when he caught the long rebound off of an Earl Clark miss, faked what would have been a challenged three, and found a wide open Juan Palacios for a lay-up. The crowd was already in a frenzy from his last two makes, and obviously he had the green light to take the shot, but he didn't let the emotion of the moment get the better of him and made an extremely level-headed decision.
His extreme celebrations are also awesome.
When Smith needed a break it was Preston Knowles who picked up the intensity, and again gave ten really solid minutes. We went man on a number of possessions when Preston was in, and this was where you were really able to see just how able a defender he is.
It's no secret that the Georgetown "Princeton offense on steroids" utilizes back door cuts. If a Hoya player has the ball and sees a defender who he think is overplaying his man, he'll dribble right at him, and his teammate will make a break for the bucket. GU dribbled right at Knowles on multiple occasions, but each time he stayed right with his man when he made his cut.
The ability of his teammates to make threes when he stands up and raises his arms on the bench is also uncanny.
My fears that the environment might hurt U of L more than Georgetown in the game's opening minutes were realized, and at halftime I actually made the comment that we would have been better served if the game had been play on a Tuesday night. But the team fed off of the crowd when it mattered the most, and the atmosphere really did end up being an enormous positive.
Everyone says that Georgetown "doesn't rattle," but the Hoyas didn't exactly rise to the challenge when they needed to. At least a couple of the players (I'm looking at you Jeremiah Rivers) appeared noticeably unsettled, and GU obviously didn't come up with the stops or the makes when it had to have them.
Hibbert will make the big shots if he gets the ball in the right position, but the reach of his ability to impact the game in key situations is obviously limited. Jeff Green is gone and JT III desperately needs someone to step into that role of big-time playmaker. It's going to be DaJuan Summers eventually, but if Saturday is any indication, he isn't quite there yet.
Terrence Williams played very poorly in the first half on both ends of the floor. The turnovers were pretty egregious, but it was his defense that was especially disappointing. The guy playing the three is going to be the one doing the most cutting to the basket in Georgetown's offense, and T-Will should have been ready for this, instead he was beaten back door on three occasions.
He looked like a completely different player in the second half, defending, getting to the bucket, and making heady plays with the ball in his hands. Louisville took the lead in the second half when he was on the bench, and he was still the first guy on the floor celebrating when the TV timeout came. I loved this Williams quote from the aforelinked Pat Forde column.
"When he first got hurt, he called me to his room and told me," junior Terrence Williams said. "I actually started crying."
Like all of us, the kid isn't without his faults, but lack of heart or dedication to his team certainly aren't among them.
It was disappointing to see Edgar Sosa come into the game thinking that he could do the same things against Georgetown that he did against Marquette. The Hoya defense preys on over-penetrating guards, and Sosa over-penetrated time-after-time in the first half. I noticed that he was rocking the hurt puppy look when the team came out after halftime, and sure enough it was Andre McGee who got the second half start.
To his credit though, Sosa was the guy running the show when U of L made its biggest move. With the exception of taking a crowd-inspired contested three, he played within himself and made a really nice pass to David Padgett on a drive. He also gave good effort on the defensive end even though he wasn't getting his points.
Speaking of McGee, he put together another quietly tremendous game, and continues to build on a season for which he'll likely never see the credit he deserves.
McGee isn't going to be able to score against a team like Georgetown, and with the exception of an ill-advised jump shot in the first half, he didn't try to. He played 19 minutes, handled the Hoya pressure, got the offense started, and committed zero turnovers.
And then there's the defense.
His injuries the last two years must have been far more severe than any of us knew, because we didn't see this defender as a freshman or sophomore. He made a tremendous block of a pass when Derrick Caracter was late recovering on a pick-and-roll in the first half. He made a huge steal on the press that entrenched momentum firmly on our side. And he continually made Wallace, Freeman and company work harder than they would have liked when they had the ball near the top of the key. It's the sort of thing that doesn't seem important until you rewatch the last five minutes of the game, and realize just how frustrated the opponents look.
This was the type of attitude from Earl Clark that Rick Pitino was calling for after the St. John's game. The kid is going to make mental mistakes, but Pitino can live with that as long as he's being aggressive.
Earl was a man in the paint from the opening tip until the closing seconds. He may have only been credited with seven rebounds, but he got his hands on several other balls that would have otherwise landed safely in the hands of Hibbert or one of GU's other bigs. The same attitude hurt him at times on the other end of the floor, but it also led to him coming up with some key buckets.
Of course there are still the moments where you can't help but wonder if he's focusing on what he's going to eat after the game. The length of the court pass with a minute and-a-half to go resulted in me holding my hands over my head for the longest time since I got beat for a touchdown in a grade school playoff game (we still won). There was also a pretty funny moment late in the game where we were coming out of a tv timeout with the lead, the crowd was going nuts, the players on the bench were on their feet, the other players came onto the floor and started to set up the called out of-bounds-play from the sideline, but Earl started to walk down to the other end of the floor to play defense. It happens.
I enjoyed seeing Clark and Palacios on the floor at the same time. JDP is probably more of a natural three anyway, and playing him there with Earl at the four is another good way to get T-Will a breather.
The lay-up at the end of the half may have been the biggest crowd-killer I've ever witnessed. Twenty-thousand people went from enthused to despondent in a matter of three seconds, and stayed that way for the next 15 minutes. The halftime shootout never stood a chance.
I didn't notice it until I watched the replay of the game on Tivo, but when Juan Palacios was chasing after Freeman on the play, his running style looked eerily reminiscent of Phoebe Buffet's. Please try and act like you don't watch Friends reruns.
It was awesome to see Rob (aka "Jacket Waver") in the dance contest thing, but when the other dude busted out the Truffle Shuffle you knew it was over. It's an unstoppable formula for victory as old as up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start.
There's no real reason to dislike Georgetown, and they're actually probably my second favorite Big East team. Thompson is a class act, the kids all come off as humble and well spoken, and they play a really good brand of basketball. I'll cheer for them in every instance when a loss doesn't work to our benefit.
I said after the Seton Hall fiasco that the game wasn't at all indicative of the direction this team was headed, and encouraged everyone to "hang in there." Well, kudos to you for doing so.
This could be the beginning of a very special two months.