Saturday, December 12, 2009

Monroe and Hoyas travel west for another test

Sophomore center Greg Monroe had a career night last time out, scoring 24 points.
Washington Post Staff Writer

There are multiple components to the five-day conditioning drill that Georgetown Coach John Thompson III ginned up to gird his Hoyas for the Big East season. Among them:
Taking on a ranked opponent, No. 22 Butler, at New York's Madison Square Garden.
Following that with a game four days later against another ranked team -- No. 17 Washington -- chosen expressly because the Huskies play a dramatically different style of basketball than Butler.
And compounding the back-to-back challenge with a cross-country trip to Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., where the loyalties for Saturday's game will surely lie with the Pacific-10's reigning champion.
No. 15 Georgetown took the first step toward acquitting itself in this elaborate conditioning scheme by improving its record to 7-0 with Tuesday's 72-65 victory over Butler.
Saturday brings the remainder of the test: A late-morning tip-off (11 a.m. local time; 2 p.m. on the East Coast) against an up-tempo Washington team that averages 31.4 points more per game than the Hoyas' opponents to date (86.3 points per game to 54.9)
Saturday's first meeting between Georgetown and Washington (6-1) serves as the opener of the John Wooden Classic and presents an opportunity for the Hoyas to build on their strengths and address the weaknesses that have emerged in their carefully scripted start.
The highlights have been more assertiveness by sophomore center Greg Monroe, who scored a career-high 24 points and had 15 rebounds against Butler, and teamwork on both ends of the court, with players seemingly more concerned about each game's outcome than their individual contributions.
The Hoyas' weakness is glaring: turnovers, which allowed an overpowered Butler squad to claw back into a game that Georgetown could have put away handily.
"We have to make major improvements on turnovers," says Thompson, whose squad has a minus-1.7 average turnover margin. "But that evolves with getting in sync."
Washington is great at forcing opponents to cough up the ball (boasting a plus-4.3 average turnover margin) and converting the gaffes to fast-break points.
On defense, Georgetown's biggest challenge will be keeping a lid on the Huskies' high-scoring tandem of Quincy Pondexter, a 6-foot-6 senior forward, and 5-8-sophomore guard Isaiah Thomas (no relation to the NBA Hall of Famer), who average 22.3 and 20.3 points, respectively.

Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar, who earned Pac-10 coach of the year honors following last season's 26-9 campaign, says Georgetown will be the best team the Huskies have faced this season (Texas Tech handed Washington its only loss, in overtime).
Georgetown is also Washington's most storied opponent so far.
"It's amazing," said Pondexter, a native of Fresno, Calif. "Growing up watching John Thompson and his great players -- Alonzo Mourning and Allen Iverson. You always wanted to be able to be in a position to play with them or play against them. It's crazy, actually, to be able to play a team such as Georgetown. To me, it's like a Duke or a North Carolina. It has one of those names that brings out so much feeling in you as a basketball player."
For the Hoyas, Washington also represents the best team they've faced to date. Georgetown has had little trouble spoiling the shooting percentages of opposing teams' prolific scorers. Monroe had an especially good defensive outing against Butler's Matt Howard (1 9), while setting career marks on offense.
With a gaggle of NBA scouts looking on from the stands at Madison Square Garden, Monroe took over the offense with five minutes remaining in the first half against Butler, scoring 11 of the Hoyas' final 13 points in the period.
Thompson was characteristically restrained in his praise, as if convinced that compliments must be distributed as equally as the ball, with every player getting a share.
"I think where [Monroe] is, is the same place that our team is: We're growing, and we're getting better," Thompson said when asked about Monroe's performance. "I don't think you can look at one game and say, 'He has arrived' or 'We have arrived.' "
Romar, Washington's coach, doesn't hesitate to single out Monroe.
"He's so versatile at 6-11," Romar said. "He can put the ball on the floor and make a play for himself and make plays for others. You don't find a lot of guys like that. I don't know if we have anyone in the [Pac-10] who can do what Greg Monroe does. Right there, that makes [Georgetown] different."


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