In the waning minutes of Georgetown’s 86-69 dissection of Memphis on Thursday night, the Hoyas ran a backdoor cut on an inbounds pass from the halfcourt line. The halfcourt line.
Really, though, it wasn’t that surprising because the Hoyas — playing with experience, seasoning and immeasurable discipline — had already done it from nearly every other spot on the floor. It was as predictable as it was unstoppable, and Georgetown imposed its will on a Memphis team that could seemingly only sit and watch.
“They were killing us on those backdoors,” Memphis freshman Chris Crawford said. “Coach told us to put a head and a chest on them when they cut. But we got out there, and it was a different story.”
Georgetown shot 56.9 percent from the field and got a combined 43 points from senior guards Austin Freeman and Chris Wright. The only other Memphis opponent to shoot better than 50 percent from the field was Kansas, which handed the Tigers their only other loss of the season.
“You’re not going to beat a team that shoots 57 percent from the field,” Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. “We went zone and got hurt, so we back to man and we tried to force more difficult shots and better defensive matchups, but they just shot the daylights out of it. It’s just one of those games they deserved to win tonight. They were the better team tonight, and there was no doubt about that.”
Freshman-laden Memphis was not fit to handle Georgetown’s deliberate and precise halfcourt offense, and the Tigers knew it. Memphis started the game pressuring the ball and creating transition at every opportunity.
But the Hoyas refused to miss. And though Memphis played about as well as it could play in the first half — Will Barton was 6-of-11 for 14 points and Will Coleman had eight points and five rebounds — Georgetown still took a 40-36 lead into halftime.
And in the second half, the facts came to light: the Tigers just weren’t good enough to stay in the game. Georgetown continued to perforate Memphis’ alternating defenses, and when the Tigers did manage to create transition, they missed easy shots, bricked layups or turned the ball over.
Georgetown took control of the game and extended its lead to double digits early in the second half, and Memphis barely managed to threaten. The one time the Tigers did, though, came at the 7:35 mark when Will Barton caught an alley oop pass from Chris Crawford and dunked it home to pull Memphis within 65-56.
Barton briefly hung on the rim before letting go and landing on the court, at which point he was whistled for a technical foul for hanging on the rim.
The call was questionable at best, but even if it does technically break the rule, it doesn’t seem right for an official to make that kind of call at such a crucial point in a game of that stature.
“It was bogus,” Coleman said of the technical foul. “I felt like some of the officiating was terrible.”
With the momentum gone, Freeman hit both free throws and followed it up with a 3-pointer that put Georgetown’s lead back into double digits for good.
“I guess you could call that the momentum swinger,” Barton said. “But we can’t let that be an excuse for why we lost the game.”
Witherspoon, Stephens return from injury
Wesley Witherspoon, no more than two weeks removed from knee surgery, was back in the starting lineup against the Hoyas, partially because freshman center Tarik Black was still battling flu symptoms. Pastner said he looked “great” in practice the previous two days and was cleared to play by doctors.
Only thing is, he didn’t play like it. Witherspoon 1-of-5 with three points, three rebounds and three turnovers.
Sophomore forward DJ Stephens, who’d been nursing a sore groin, gave Memphis a minor burst off the bench and its highlight of the night when he caught an entry pass on the block, elevated, drew a foul and punched it home on a Georgetown defender.
Pastner closed out his postgame press conference with this gem in lieu of the usual “winning is hard”:
“Losing stinks, winning is fun. Losing is the worst. But it should stink. … When you lose, you’re miserable. The best way to avoid losing is to remember that feeling.” — Josh Pastner
The Tigers will get the weekend off for the holiday before returning to Memphis on Monday. They’ll practice Monday, twice Tuesday and twice Wednesday before hosting Lipscomb on Thursday.
Brandon Harris covers Tiger basketball for Memphis Sport. You can follow him via Twitter @bharris901.