Tag:Chris Wright
Posted on: February 26, 2011 2:28 pm
 

Hoyas struggle without Wright

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Down three with 36 seconds left against Syracuse, Georgetown would normally go to Chris Wright, the Hoyas’ point guard who has hit plenty of clutch baskets this season.

Unfortunately, Wright is out with a broken left hand.

As a result, Georgetown settled for a contested 3-pointer from Jason Clark and couldn’t pull out a win, falling to the Orange, 58-51.

The Hoyas had an inspired effort, outrebounding the bigger Syracuse frontline and getting an impressive second-half performance from Austin Freeman. Nate Lubick and Henry Sims also had their moments.

It still wasn’t enough, though.

Without Wright, Georgetown lacked creativity on offense. Against the Syracuse 2-3 zone, the Hoyas settled for outside jumpers and contested shots. They didn’t have anyone to attack the defense and create shots near the end of the shot clock – or when they needed a basket at the end of the game.

Freeman and Clark are excellent shooters and form a terrific backcourt tandem, but neither is a true point guard or is used to being the team’s primary playmaker.

Defensively, Scoop Jardine took advantage of the Wright-less Hoyas. He constantly hit big shots and got into the lane to either score himself or dish off to an open teammate. Jardine finished with 17 points and seven assists, to go with only one turnover. He also scored seven points in a game-changing 9-1 run once Georgetown took a two-point lead midway through the second half.

After the news came down about Wright’s injury, pundits and analysts immediately wrote Georgetown off. A loss at Cincinnati in the season finale would be three consecutive losses to finish the regular season – the Hoyas’ seed could plummet if Wright does not return by the NCAA Tournament.

For Georgetown’s sake, Wright needs to return.

The masses are well-versed in Georgetown’s struggles when Wright doesn’t play well – when he doesn’t play, the Hoyas apparently struggle even more.

Photo: US Presswire

More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: February 24, 2011 11:21 am
 

This one could really hurt, Hoyas

Hoya fans don't want to see Chris Wright sitting next to JT3

Posted by Eric Angevine

If it were anyone other than Chris Wright, an injury to the non-shooting hand might be something to adjust to. But Wright's game -- while it includes a fair amount of scoring -- is not valued by mere points produced.

This season, Wright has been on the floor as much as his fellow senior Austin Freeman. Freeman scores over 24 percent of the team's points, with Wright coming in second with 18 percent of the Hoya's scoring output in his column. Wright gets to the line more than any other Hoya as well, and nobody even comes close to his contributions as a distributor and decision-maker.

That's the statistical impact, but there's so much more under the surface. Consider the backcourt chemistry that Georgetown has had to draw on this season. Two powerful, adept guards, each weighing over 200 lbs, allowed JT3 to play a power game at every position on the floor – pretty valuable in the Big East.

The distribution is the part that seems most difficult to replace right now. A pure scorer can play with a cast on his hand (witness Arizona’s Derrick Williams) but a point guard who can only use one hand is a problem.

This is not to say that losing Chris Wright cost Georgetown the Cincinnati game, because the Hoyas were in trouble before their senior guard was injured with 15 minutes left in the second half. However, Wright had two assists before his injury ended his night, and that still stood as 25 percent of the team total of eight by the end of the evening. And whether Wright is expected to be the team’s leading scorer or not, he had been shouldering more of that load over the past three games, leading the Hoyas with 20 points vs. Marquette, 19 in a loss at UConn, and a season-high 26 at South Florida on Saturday.

There’s no good time for an injury like this one, but stopping a player cold in the middle of a streak of great play is extremely disheartening. JT3 can show us where his coaching acumen stands if he gets through the final two games of the season without this team falling apart. Fortunately, he has time on his side. The Hoyas host Syracuse on Saturday, then have a full week off before an afternoon rematch with the Bearcats. If Wright can recover quickly, this is still a top-25 team. If not, the Hoyas could drop several pegs in the postseason seeding.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 16, 2011 11:06 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2011 1:22 am
 

Walker returns to form, exhibits his best power

Posted by Matt Norlander

HARTFORD, Conn. — If Jim Calhoun can barely contain himself at the podium in the post-game press conference, then something really special just went down.

Kemba Walker’s about the only person in any arena who can make the UConn coach ramble on and on and on to the media. After a loss to Syracuse two weeks ago, Calhoun refused to talk about Walker’s play because it was so bad; the UConn junior scored season-low eight points in the Feb. 2 66-58 home loss to the Orange.

But Wednesday night? Calhoun was so chat-happy he only had time to allow three questions from reporters. The UConn coach of 25 years couldn’t move his mouth fast enough when talking about how big his team’s 78-70 home win over No. 9 Georgetown was and how fun Walker was to watch.

“He’s leading a lot of young people to some awfully good places,” Calhoun said of Walker. “At one point in the middle of the second half when we finally took the lead, he just wanted to beat everybody. You could see it. I’ve never been able to see a guy do those kinds of things. And those are the kind of magical things that he’s done throughout the entire year. … It was a pleasure to watch him compete like that.”

We shouldn’t — and won’t — talk turning points with UConn because its situation doesn’t call for that kind of praise; after all, this is a 20-6 team that’s assured itself of a 5-seed at worst after ending Georgetown’s eight-game winning streak. Calhoun clearly considered this win his team's most important since the Maui Invitational in November.

Walker’s play, however, does enable us to discuss turning points for him. Man, oh, man what a show. A massive uptick/a return to form was due for No. 15, who put on his first impressive, efficient performance since Jan. 15 against DePaul — and does that really even count? — wherein he scored 31 points, the same tally he had against the Hoyas.

Walker’s night was highlighted by a play that will go famously be remembered as one of the best of his college career. An intentional bank pass/shot from the foul line to himself, which he caught, then put through the hoop with an off-balance bunny shot. If you haven’t seen the highlight by now, just zip to the video at the bottom of this column.

“It was the only play I could make,” Walker said of the Kobe-like maneuver. “I had Henry Sims on me. I stepped back, picked my dribble up, I didn’t have anything. It was just me and the rim and the backboard.”

Walker was believed to be a distant third, perhaps even fourth, behind newcomer Nolan Smith of Duke, in the national Player of the Year race. But Walker won’t ever truly be out of the running, not when he’s dazzling up scoreboards and dropping thousands of jaws — like he did tonight. His play at the XL Center put to bed all doubts of who should be the Big East Player of the Year, at a minimum.

When asked to explain his play against a top-10 team, Walker said, “I just took whatever the defense gave me.”

Pretty sure Walker took everything, period.

“He basically put us on his back, led us to victory and scored every way possible,” teammate Alex Oriakhi said.

On the flip side, Georgetown coach John Thompson III was dour as could be after the loss. He credited some of Walker’s play, but was matter-of-fact in summing up why his team — which was in the game until the final minute — fell to 20-6 and 9-5 in the Big East.

“Our defense was horrible today,” Thompson said.

Funny how Walker can make coaches say that. The Hoyas lost for the first time in more than a month (Jan. 12 at Pittsburgh).   Thompson’s point guard, Chris Wright, explained why Walker did what he did and does what he does.

“He stretches the ball screens out very well, and it forces the bigs to keep stretching, so it’s hard for the guards to get back in front,” Wright said. “So then he plays around the screen and it’s to his advantage. … Once he got in the lane, he pretty much was doing whatever he wanted.”

For all Walker did, and for as incredible as he was to watch, how about the carousel of Robins that have emerged to Walker’s Batman? This is a definite pattern. At the beginning of the year it was Oriakhi who was playing a strong complementary role. Then freshman Shabazz Napier showed promise and helped UConn get out to a 10-0 start. For a portion of January, Jeremy Lamb became the No. 2 guy for the Huskies.

Now: Hello, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel.

Walker is not the only reason UConn is where it is. This rotating posse of supporting players is keeping the Huskies unpredictable for opponents and steady in week-to-week chunks. McDaniel’s come a long way from the disappointing player he and fans considered him to be last season.

“I learned a lot from last year,” Coombs-McDaniel said. “Like, when you sulk and stuff and don’t get playing time, and you do nothing about it, you’re not going to get any better.”

On the topic of giving Coombs-McDaniel more minutes after he put up a career-high 25 points in Sunday’s 75-57 win over Providence, Calhoun said, “That seemed to be a good idea.”

“Where Jamal reminds me of Rashad Anderson is that they never met a shot they didn’t like,” Calhoun said. “And if they miss a shot, they’re going to take the next one. … I couldn’t be happier for Jamal.”

With a stabilized role, McDaniels was able and ready to be the latest beta to Walker’s alpha.

“I’m trying to be that glue guy, that hustle guy, for the team,” Coombs-McDaniel said. “[Earlier in the year] I was working from outside-in, especially when I was starting. I’m not the type of shooter to just come in and start knocking down 3s. I have to have a feel. I’m mature enough know that, and now that’s what I’ve been working on.”

But for the 19th time at UConn, Calhoun is a 20-game winner. Kemba’s the reason why.

“I think tonight is just a giant win for us in a hundred different ways,” Calhoun said. “It really was. I mean, they’re (Georgetown) really good. Here at home, to get a win like that, and have the crowd so much involved. … It’s an awful lot of fun. It really is, with these guys.”

Jim Calhoun is having fun and enjoying a season with a team that’s certainly got its share of flaws. That is the power of Kemba Walker who's still every bit as electrifying as any other college player in the country.

Photo: US PRESSWIRE


Posted on: January 29, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: January 29, 2011 5:52 pm
 

Freeman perfect go-to guy for Hoyas

Posted by Matt Norlander

PHILADELPHIA — He’s just so casual about it.

Perhaps that’s the most impressive aspect to Austin Freeman’s personality — because it contrasts so glaringly with how he makes a stat sheet pop. Thirty points, six assists, one turnover, 8 for 8 from the foul line, two 3s, three rebounds and, most importantly, lifting his team for the first time this season to an above-.500 record in the Big East.

Yep. That’s right: It took until Jan. 29 for No. 21 Georgetown to get its head above water in the conference. But it’s now there because of what Freeman (right) did to Villanova Saturday afternoon in a 69-66 Georgetown road win. He’s more than insurance policy; he’s a certified life saver.

And here’s Freeman at the podium in the post-game press conference looking as quiet as a boy sitting next to mother in church.

And there’s Freeman talking to a handful of reporters in the hallway after said press conference — because this kind of performance demands more than the usual 10-minute meeting with the media horde — acting as businesslike as the men assigned to empty the garbage cans at the Wells Fargo Center on the outskirts of Philadelphia’s city limits.

Saturday afternoon’s dramatic, important and possibly season-changing (but let's wait for more evidence before going there) win against eighth-ranked Villanova could be the type of win every team hopes for but not the one every team gets: a W that validates a conference season, a purpose and place, for a group of young men.

Freeman's production was significant and consistent for 40 minutes, but it was during the final stretch his play ensured his Hoyas would head home happy.

“Austin Freeman, in most situations, is unflappable, so that last three minutes was indicative of what he’s done for four years here,” Georgetown head coach John Thompson III said. “I tell you what, I’m glad … No. 15 was on our team. There’s a comfort level. They (Villanova) were running, jumping, trapping, tripling sometimes; just made it hard to do anything. Just felt, when we got the ball in his (Freeman's) hands, good things happen.”

There is little doubt, had Freeman not been on the floor Saturday, Georgetown probably wouldn’t have won the game. No. 15 was everything his head coach needed him to be and more. After all, it was just earlier this month that many so quickly began to forget about or dismiss Georgetown. Three-game losing streaks aren’t uncommon, even among the strong in the strongest conference in the country, consistently, so perhaps tales of the Hoyas’ demise were exaggerated.

But, still, after falling in those three consecutive tilts — to St. John’s, West Virginia, Pittsburgh — Georgetown went from a top-15 ranking in the national polls to 1-4 in the conference and chilling in the Big East basement with South Florida, Seton Hall and Providence. All this in the span of nine days.

Plenty of time for everyone, me included, to get hasty in our judgments of JT3's teams. Just a few days ago, maybe even as late at 1:45 p.m. ET, Saturday, the Hoyas weren’t considered to be in Villanova, Syracuse or Pittsburgh’s class. (Just take a peek at how those teams have performed of late.)

A veteran crew, led by invaluable go-to man Freeman, has kept this team from losing pace.

“Having Chris (Wright), Austin, Julian (Vaughn) and Jason (Clark), guys that have been through this, we realize how long the year is, and we’ve had time to climb out,” Thompson said. “There was no panic.”

I previously wrote about, in the broad scheme, Wright’s value to Georgetown. But in tense moments, it's clear Freeman is the guy who needs to have the ball in his hands. Just ask the Georgetown point guard, who summed up his teammate’s role matter-of-factly.

“The thing about it is, we all have roads, and Austin’s road is to score 30 points in games like this,” Wright said. “The jumper he hit on the left wing [at the end of the game] was crazy. It would be stupid of me and my teammates to not give him the ball.”

And so JT3 can use simple coding from here on out to send a message to his team while on the floor: Don’t be stupid, or: give Austin the ball. Freeman does it all, really. The argument exists that his biggest play wasn’t a made shot.

Even when Villanova really threatened near the game’s end, forcing a couple of bad, uncharacteristic Hoyas turnovers in the final three minutes, everyone knew to not get stupid; just give it to Freeman.

With that collective mindset, Freeman scored 12 of the final 16 Hoyas points in the remaining seven minutes. He accounted for two of the four he didn't score on an assists, a heady play in the form of a 40-foot pass out of a trap to a wide-open, seldom-used Nate Lubick, who flushed down a dunk with 23 seconds left. It’s easy to forget about that sequence after Freeman hit a shot from the corner that went up just before the shot clock hit 0, with 41 seconds to go, crowd squirming, that gave Georgetown a 63-60 lead.

“They did get a little more aggressive on the defense end with forcing traps,” Freeman said.

Within these games, as they are happening and his stat line is looking more and more pregnant, is he aware of the damage he’s doing?

“Not really,” a coy Freeman added.

Despite his age and experience, Freeman said these kinds of games, win or lose, haven’t gotten easier or tougher — they’ve merely continued to be part of his college experience. “It’s just always tough,” Freeman said. “I just try to prepare myself physically and mentally for every game.”

Mentally, Georgetown only has to have one conviction and game plan going forward: don’t be stupid.

Photo: AP

Posted on: January 10, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2011 5:31 pm
 

As Chris Wright goes, so do his Hoyas

Posted by Matt Norlander

Who knew one piece of a three-guard puzzle could be this valuable?

When a triumvirate starting backcourt is as dynamic, intelligent and responsible as Georgetown’s, most would expect two guys could pick up the slack if the third was having an off night. But it seems fellow starting guards Austin Freeman and Jason Clark — the rest of the team, too, really — can’t overcome a Chris Wright slump.

The Hoyas are already 1-3 in the Big East, putting one of the country’s most guard-heavy, capable teams well behind the 8-ball (currently in 12th place) in what more and more people are considering, yet again, the best conference in the country. (Sorry, folks, the league looks premier yet again.)

Recently, SI.com’s Andy Glocker wrote of the 10 most irreplaceable players in all the college hoops land. Wright didn’t make the list. Should he have? If you do want to tag him replaceable, then you’ve got to ironically give as much weight to his value. Consider: In the Hoyas’ four losses this season, Wright’s been off. Way off. Not non-existent, but non-productive compared to what he normally provides JT3’s team. When his rut is enough to unintentionally help St. John's, then heads begin to turn.

Across the board there’s been a dip in the senior guard’s play, but the performances in losses are heavily weighing on those statistics. To date, Wright is averaging fewer minutes and points per game than last season. His shooting percentages have swooped considerably, although he is dishing out nearly two assists more per game.

There’s an intangible quality to Wright’s play and how that correlates to his team’s collective swagger; you can pick up on that just by watching 10 minutes of the next Hoyas game you catch on the tube. But we can apply his numbers to Georgetown’s (lack of) success as well. You bet your brain we’re about to do this right now.

In G-town’s first loss of the year, against what’s probably an NCAA tournament team in Temple, Wright scored 10 points, six of which came on perfect free-throw shooting. The Hoyas’ senior guard shot 28.5 percent, effectively, from the field (that stat combines the value of a 2- and 3-point shot), but only scored on four of his Georgetown’s 66 possessions. He factored in on just 16.5 percent of the possessions, overall. For a starting point guard, that number is entirely too low.

In the Dec. 29 Big East opener against Notre Dame, Georgetown fell, decisively, 69-55. Wright’s stat line in that tilt: 3 points in 34 minutes; an 18.3 possession percentage; an effective field goal percentage of 11.1; 1 for 3 from the foul line; 6 assists; no steals or blocks; and three turnovers.

The pattern was beginning to emerge. At this point Georgetown was 11-2 with good road wins over Old Dominion and Missouri, plus a nice home W against WAC bully Utah State. Six days prior to the Notre Dame loss, the Hoyas waxed issue-riddled-and-young Memphis, 86-69, on the Tigers’ home floor. Wright scored 19 points and factored in on 28 percent of Georgetown’s possessions. His numbers against Missouri and Utah State were also very influential.

But some hours after the confetti got swept off the streets of Times Square, Georgetown’s 61-58 loss down the way against St. John's on Jan. 3 all but confirmed the correlation.  There was Georgetown, scoring in the high 50s/low 60s, letting supposedly inferior teams hang around again. Wright played all but three minutes in the game.

His point total: seven. That’s also the amount of 3-pointers he heaved, making just one.

The home game against enigmatic West Virginia this past Saturday cemented the theory that Wright’s woes dictate how Georgetown goes. Loss No. 4 (catalyzed in part by No. 4) was a 65-59 final at the Verizon Center. A 62-possession game (that’s a very slow game, FYI) saw Wright actually factor in on nearly 30 percent of his team’s possessions. Only this time his frequent influence was as negative as it was positive — Wright turned the ball over 31 percent of the time.

He had a 27 eFG% number for the game (nine points of 3-of-13 from the field) and only managed two assists.

Now, Georgetown can win in a lot of ways and it doesn’t always need Wright to be the alpha to earn a W. But in losing, there is one constant: Wright goes silent or he goes erratic. His mediocre performances coupled with Georgetown losing is no longer a question, so it now ushers in the next one.

With a few months remaining in his college career, can Wright prevent his poor play from popping up in order to prohibit Georgetown from transforming? If other teams shut Wright down, the Hoyas go from a power team to a pedestrian one pretty quickly.

Photo: US PRESSWIRE

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 6, 2011 10:46 am
Edited on: January 6, 2011 6:12 pm
 

Dayton hopes to turn NIT title mojo into NCAA bid

Posted by Eric Angevine

The Dayton Flyers are 'flying' low, in spite of a hot end to last season that saw the team defeat blue-blood UNC to claim the NIT crown. That's because the Atlantic 10 conference is getting better every year, and it's absolutely loaded this season as well.

The three teams that made the Big Dance last season -- Temple, Xavier and Richmond -- are a combined 30-11 following non-conference play. Each has won games against multiple power-conference teams (Seton Hall, in particular, may want to schedule elsewhere in the future). If Dayton is to get back to the NCAAs this season, head coach Brian Gregory must make full use of the tools at his disposal.

For instance:

Chris Power – Senior Chris Wright (right) is the engine that makes Dayton go. He scores more than 20 percent of the team’s points night in and night out. His athleticism is NBA-worthy, and his leadership has helped the Flyers come back from big deficits to win three times this season. Junior Chris Johnson is just behind Wright in terms of production, and the two complement one another well. Johnson contributes more deep shooting and hits the offensive boards to great effect.

Hometown Hero – Freshman point guard Juwan Staten drew attention from in-state powers like Xavier, Cincinnati and even Ohio State during the recruiting race, but the Dayton native decided to stay put and play for the Flyers. The youngster’s passing chops and decision-making skills are already highly developed: he sports a 2.4 to 1 assist to turnover ratio and has begun to flirt with the points/assists double-double on a nightly basis. Staten’s offense has played second fiddle to his role as distributor thus far, but he uncorked a memorable driving dunk in Dayton’s win over New Mexico that had the local press buzzing.

Continuity - Over the summer, Brian Gregory's name came up frequently when open DI jobs were discussed. Not as often as Brad Stevens of Butler, but probably pretty close. Gregory didn't jump, for whatever reason, and that gives his team a sense of security that he'll stick around and get the job done. The A-10 has improved by leaps and bounds as it becomes a destination for talented coaches instead of a short-term stepping stone. That' doesn't mean Gregory will never leave, but he's obviously not jumping at the first chance he gets, either.

Size - Gregory's team has excellent size. There's legit 6-foot-10 Devin Searcy alongside three other guys 6-8 or above who can spell him in the post. The most promising is sophomore Matt Kavanaugh , a 250-lb load who is gradually learning how to combine his bulk with brains to become a lethal weapon down low.

University of Dayton Arena - It's one of college basketball's oldest and most cherished arenas. It's a great place to play home games. It serves as carrot in that sense, but it should also be used as a stick to motivate the team to achieve. The Flyers do not want to play there in March, because that's where the First Four of the new 68-team format will play. Dayton has seen the good and bad side of the bubble, and they want to put themselves squarely in the 'lock' category as soon as possible. Aside from the scheduled league game with St. Louis on 3/2, No Home Games in March should be the rallying cry for this team.

Dayton has a marvelous opportunity to build a tourney-worthy resume within their own conference. The A-10 is easily a four-bid-worthy conference in the age of 68 teams. Dayton has what it takes to be one of those teams.

For more on Dayton, check out this video of  Pete Gillen's interview with Brian Gregory following the Flyers' A-10 opener.

 
 
 
 
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