Georgetown scouting report: Sims, Thompson, Porter will be difficult matchups

Marquette will begin what head coach Buzz Williams is calling a “really long week” with a visit to No. 9 Georgetown on Wednesday night. The Hoyas are coming off an impressive 71-68 road victory over then-No. 4 Louisville and a gritty 49-40 home win over Providence last week. Here’s a look at the Hoyas (12-1, 1-0) and what Marquette can do to steal a win in its first Big East road contest.

It was only a matter of time before shooting guard Jason Clark transformed from a solid role player to the Hoya’s leader, and it has happened in his senior year. The team’s leading scorer at 15.1 points per game, Clark has been efficient on the offensive end and remains one of the Big East’s best perimeter defenders. Darius Johnson-Odom lost his first true one-on-one battle of the year against Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins but will get another chance against Clark. Both are undersized at 6-foot-2 but can fill up the box score in a hurry. The game may not be decided by their play, but this matchup will be fun to watch.

Henry Sims will be a difficult matchup for Davante Gardner.

Buzz Williams said Sunday after Marquette’s 81-77 win over Villanova that his front court did an excellent job trapping and rotating on the Wildcats’ bigs. They will need to be even better facing Henry Sims, one of the best passing bigs in the nation. The 6-foot-10 senior is averaging 3.7 assists, best on the team, and has an assist rate of 30.8, tops in the nation for centers. Aside from that, he’s also averaging 12.0 points per game. His transformation has been one of the main reasons Georgetown is one of the nation’s biggest surprises and he stands to give Davante Gardner fits all night long.

As if dealing with Sims wasn’t enough, forward Hollis Thompson is equally as good on the other block. The 6-foot-8 junior is making 1.8 3-pointers per game at a 47.1 percent clip and takes high percentage shots in the paint to average 13.7 points, second-best behind Clark. Jae Crowder and Jamil Wilson seem to be the likely candidates to guard Thompson and both will need to be active for 40 minutes.

And the Hoyas aren’t done in the front court. Freshman Otto Porter has played a staggering 27.7 minutes per game and has produced, grabbing 7.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game to go with 8.5 points. The top-50 recruit turned in his most impressive outing in the Hoyas’ win at No. 4 Louisville last week, going for 14 points and 14 rebounds. 6-foot-8 Sophomore Nate Lubick has played limited minutes as a starter but, along with Porter, will give Marquette trouble inside.

Sophomore Markel Starks isn’t your traditional point guard, but rather a scoring threat who has been hit-or-miss the entire season. He is averaging just 1.5 assists per game but has had scoring outputs of 14, 18 and, againt Louisville, 20 points. One area where he is all “hit” is shooting the ball. Starks is shooting 54 percent from the field, 47 percent from three, and 76 percent from the line. He has hit 14 3-pointers in his last six games and will be a tough cover on the perimeter for Junior Cadougan.

A trio of freshmen, 6-foot-5 Jabril Trawick, 6-foot-8 Greg Whittington and 6-foot-9 Michael Hopkins round out the rotation.

What the Hoyas do well

What don’t the Hoyas do well? Arguably college basketball’s biggest surprise this season, John Thompson III’s squad has been exceptional on the defensive end, allowing under 57 points per game and holding opponents to a 37.6 field goal percentage. A massive front court and talented defenders on the perimeter makes the Hoyas one of the best defenses in the country, and points will be at a premium for the Golden Eagles.

Jason Clark has been a huge reason why Georgetown boasts one of the most efficient offenses in the country. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The Hoyas are a good, not great, offensive team that will look to get the ball inside early and often. They won’t look to push the ball too often and, especially against Marquette, will look for inside buckets in half court sets. Its top five scorers are shooting a combined 49.4 percent from the field and while the Hoyas shoot a solid 36.2 percent from beyond the arc, they make their money inside.

The Hoyas have made teams conform to their style of basketball all year and it has paid dividends for the ultra-efficient group. They don’t turn the ball over, they play well in close situations and rarely get into foul trouble. Marquette will have its hands full for 40 minutes Wednesday night.

Where the Hoyas can be beat

One of Buzz Williams’ mantras this year is guarding “before the catch.” Nowhere did the Golden Eagles do this better than at Wisconsin, when they made offensive sets a nightmare for the Badgers. While the Hoyas don’t play as slow as the Badgers (statistically, no one does), the same strategy will need to be applied.

Not allowing easy entry passes into the paint and playing tight defense on the perimeter should make it more difficult for the Hoyas inside. When they eventually get it into the paint, Marquette’s trap will need to be as good as it was against Villanova. Jamil Wilson’s athletic versatility will be key, as the Hoyas move the ball out of the paint as well as any team in the Big East.

Georgetown is assisting on just 52.9 percent of its made field goals, so forcing the Hoyas into situations where they need to make passes to score baskets will be key. If Sims, Thompson or Porter get the ball isolated on the low block and no help comes, Marquette will struggle.

Three keys to success

1. Hold down the interior: This is clearly easier said than done, but Marquette needs to contain Sims and Porter in the paint. Whether this means fronting the post, doubling every time Sims touches the ball or even throwing a zone look, Marquette will need to find a way to limit defensive paint touches. Georgetown’s trio won’t be stopped but Marquette has a better chance of winning if it makes the Hoyas win with outside shooting.

2. Make free throws: Opponents are averaging a modest 17.8 free throws per game against the Hoyas and Marquette has been one of the best teams in the nation getting to the line (26.6 attempts per game, 12th in the nation). However, the Golden Eagles are just 65.3 percent from the line in their last four contests, which includes a 90 percent performance against Milwaukee. Every point will be crucial against the talented Hoyas defense. Marquette must make its freebies.

3. Make the most of the offensive glass: Teams miss plenty of shots against Georgetown which means there are ample opportunities for offensive rebounds. The Hoyas are allowing 9.1 offensive rebounds per game and Davante Gardner has been a vacuum in that area lately. Providence racked up 13 offensive rebounds to keep the game close in its 49-40 loss to Georgetown on Saturday. Gardner, Vander Blue and Jae Crowder will need to crash the offensive glass, considering the Hoyas don’t push the ball often.

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