Overview: One day after a double-overtime victory against Tennessee, the eighth-ranked Memphis Tigers were forced into an extra period once again in Wednesday’s fifth-place game against Georgetown. This time the results weren’t as favorable for Josh Pastner’s squad, which fell 91-88 to the Hoyas.
While Memphis, which was thumped by Michigan in Monday’s opener, leaves Hawaii as the Maui Invitational’s biggest disappointment, Georgetown was arguably the event’s most pleasant surprise. The Hoyas' roster features 10 freshmen and sophomores, but they hardly played to their age Wednesday. Georgetown kept its poise while Memphis crumbled under pressure. Jason Clark scored 26 points and Henry Sims added 24 for the Hoyas, who improved to 4-1. Will Barton had 22 points to lead the Tigers.
Turning point: With his team trailing 86-85 in overtime, Clark buried a 3-pointer with 52 seconds remaining that gave Georgetown an 88-86 lead and momentum it would never relinquish. Clark made four of his seven 3-point attempts and was 9-of-17 from the field overall. Memphis had one last shot trailing 91-88, but Antonio Barton’s guarded 3 at the buzzer barely nicked the rim.
Why Georgetown won: The Hoyas' size and overall length was certainly a factor, as Memphis had trouble establishing any sort of presence in the paint. Georgetown also pestered the Tigers into 17 turnovers. But the biggest difference was the Hoyas’ patience on offense and overall shot selection late in the game. Both teams made about 49 percent of their field-goal attempts, but Georgetown was more disciplined during crunch time than the Tigers, who forced things and pressed when it mattered most.
Why Memphis lost: Early on, Pastner’s squad was terrible defensively. There’s no way such a young Georgetown squad should have 47 points at intermission. The other problem was that Memphis made a ton of bone-headed mistakes down the stretch that likely cost it the game. One of the most crucial errors came in final seconds of regulation with Memphis leading 78-76. Instead of letting some time run off the clock, point guard Joe Jackson penetrated into traffic just a few seconds into the shot clock and tried to force a pass to Wesley Witherspoon. Georgetown came up with an easy steal with 35 seconds remaining, and the Hoyas capitalized when freshman Greg Whittington got an easy put-back off Sims’ missed jumper to force a 78-78 tie with 18 seconds left.
More sloppiness ensued moments later, when Memphis couldn’t come up with anything close to a quality shot as time expired. Instead, Adonis Thomas was forced to throw up a 27-foot 3-pointer that didn’t even hit the rim. Also, despite calling a timeout, Memphis failed to get a good look on its final shot in overtime. With none of his teammates open, Antonio Barton had no other choice but to pump fake and shoot an off-balance 3-pointer that would’ve tied the game. The attempt was way off.
Other observations: The Hoyas signed a true gem out of Missouri in freshman Otto Porter, who had 9 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists and 2 blocks off the bench Wednesday. ... Speaking of freshmen, Memphis’ Thomas (5 points, 1 rebound, 4 turnovers) isn’t progressing nearly as quickly, despite being more highly touted ... Memphis forward Stan Simpson, a juco transfer, came off the bench and hit some huge free throws late in Wednesday’s game. ... The slew of NBA scouts that made the trip to Maui this week surely developed a positive opinion of Georgetown’s Hollis Thompson, whose versatility was on full display Wednesday. ... Take away Nate Lubick’s 0-for-6 performance from the field, and Georgetown went 34-of-64 Wednesday. Pretty impressive ... I’ve been saying this for two years, but Hoyas guard Clark is one of the country’s most underrated players. ... Same goes for John Thompson III in the coaching category.
What it means: There’s no way Georgetown is the 10th-best team in the Big East. The Hoyas are big, versatile, athletic and well-coached. Their biggest flaws are a lack of an experienced, high-level point guard and their overall youth. But anyone who witnessed Georgetown’s games against Kansas and Memphis could see that their younger players are seasoned beyond their years. At this point Georgetown looks like a fringe top-25 team that could break into the rankings with a few more quality wins.
No one doubts Memphis’ talent, and the Tigers have certainly come a long way from last year in terms of maturity. Still, Pastner’s team doesn’t look crisp on offense and the intensity often seems to be lacking on the defensive end. But the bottom line Wednesday was that Memphis just didn’t play smart basketball when it mattered the most.
Up next: Georgetown hosts IUPUI on Monday before traveling to Tuscaloosa for a Dec. 1 tilt with Alabama. We’ll know a lot more about the Hoyas after that game, as the Crimson Tide will provide Georgetown’s toughest test of the season to date. As for Memphis, it hosts Jackson State (Monday) and Austin Peay (Saturday) next week before traveling to Miami for a tough road game Dec. 6.