WASHINGTON (AP)—Georgetown’s latest nonconference test gave coach John Thompson III a chance to prove a point. It turns out his team doesn’t need to make a bunch of 3-pointers to win a game.
And it also turns out that when Chris Wright makes a suggestion, it’s probably a good one.
The No. 16 Hoyas had been making more than 11 3-pointers per game, but they shot only 2 for 9 beyond the arc in Saturday’s 68-51 victory over Utah State. Georgetown instead won the game the old-fashioned Georgetown way, with defense, rebounding, aggressive moves to the paint and a dominant second-half run.
“They did a terrific job of taking away the 3s. We didn’t get that many open looks,” Thompson said. “Our team has done and is doing a good job of taking what the defense gives you. We don’t have to make the 3s to win games.”
Wright was again the catalyst, finishing with 21 points and four steals as the Hoyas improved to 8-0 for the second straight season. The senior point guard was the only player for either team to reach double figures scoring and left to a standing ovation.
It was at his behest that Georgetown kept up the full-court pressure during a stretch in which his team forced 12 turnovers in 13 minutes.
“For us to be good, we all have input,” said Thompson, letting the world know that his system isn’t quite as autocratic as perceived from the outside. “It’s not like I’m one of these coaches where I’m going to say, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ When we come to timeouts … ‘What do you see? What do you think?’ They have an understanding of how we do things. And there’s certain things that they see on the court that you may not see on the sidelines.”
Lest anyone think that Georgetown might be heading toward democracy, Thompson’s father and Hall of Fame coach John Thompson—who works for a local radio station—then made it a point to ask how often his son takes advice from freshmen or sophomores.
“How frequently?” Thompson III answered. “Very seldom.”
Pooh Williams scored nine points to lead the Aggies (5-2), the preseason selection to win the Western Athletic Conference and a mid-major power that regularly struggles against top-tier teams. Coach Stew Morrill is 299-101 at the school, but he’s just 5-15 against ranked opponents—although he’s usually forced to play them on the road.
“If you told me they were only going to make a couple of 3s, I would have told you we were going to be right there. Unfortunately, they shot a ton of free throws,” Morrill said. “We had some harebrained fouls, some harebrained passes. … The credit goes to Georgetown for getting us rattled.”
Utah State is one of five Georgetown nonconference opponents picked to win its conference—or a division within its conference. The others are Old Dominion, Coastal Carolina, Wofford and Temple—and that doesn’t include the Hoyas’ victories over N.C. State from the Atlantic Coast Conference or Wednesday’s overtime win over No. 9 Missouri from the Big 12.
The Hoyas’ first eight opponents went a combined 174-98 last season, and the Big East schedule has yet to come.
“There’s no space in there for trap games, right?” Thompson III said. “With this preseason schedule, hopefully it’ll develop that hardness, that mindset” for the Big East schedule.
The Hoyas opened the second half with a 17-2 run and shot 62 percent for the half and 52 percent for the game. They worked the ball inside for layups and fouls—shooting 27 free throws to Utah State’s eight—and didn’t make a 3-pointer until Hollis Thompson swished one with 18:06 left in the game.
“Today was a little different,” Wright said. “They were running the 3-point line, so we had to penetrate and get in gaps. There’s multiple ways we can be effective on the offensive end, and as long as our defense is solid, we’ll be all right.”
The Aggies kept it close for a while, responding to Georgetown’s 12-0 run with a 13-2 spurt that tied the game late in the first half. Then Georgetown turned up the full-court defensive pressure yet again and rolled off seven straight points with two more steals, with Wright converting one with an improbable over-the-shoulder layup.
“I was just trying to draw some contact,” Wright said, “and shot the ball up and it went in.”