Feb. 27, 2012
WASHINGTON (AP) – After a rough road trip, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey was thinking about home.
“Let’s get this over with,” Brey said with a smile as he stepped to the podium for his postgame news conference. “I’m ready to go back to South Bend, man.”
Who could blame him?
Held to 33 percent shooting from the field, including 3 for 17 on 3-point attempts, and its lowest point total in nearly four years, No. 20 Notre Dame lost 59-41 to No. 11 Georgetown on Monday night in a key game for Big East tournament seeding.
“That may be the best defensive team we played against this season,” Brey said.
It was Notre Dame’s second consecutive loss – and second consecutive struggle at the offensive end – following a school-record, nine-game conference winning streak.
The Irish made only 4 of 31 3-point tries in a loss at St. John’s on Saturday.
“We’re going to have to make some more 3s. We didn’t shoot it very well on this road trip,” Brey said. “Part of our run – our nine-game run – (was) we shot it well at key times. We didn’t really shoot it well” against St. John’s or Georgetown.
Notre Dame last scored this few points in a 61-41 loss to Washington State in the second round of 2008 NCAA tournament.
“Their length and their size and their quickness bothered us,” Brey said about the Hoyas. “We had the tempo we wanted, but we’ve got to score a little bit more to make it interesting.”
No one scored more for the Irish (20-10, 12-5) than the nine points from Eric Atkins and Scott Martin. Jack Cooley had two points and zero rebounds in 25 minutes.
“For Jack, I know he’s very disappointed. And I couldn’t figure out how to help him,” Brey said.
“That’s really, by far, his worst effort. I mean, for him to play 25 minutes and not get a rebound is staggering, because that’s the one thing he can do. … I thought he was just a step slow,” Brey said. “Maybe we need to get him a little rest tomorrow.”
Cooley had problems dealing with the defense of Georgetown center Henry Sims, who also did well at the other end of the court.
Playing at home for the last time, Sims and Jason Clark combined for 25 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for Georgetown (22-6, 12-5).
While they have led the way all season for Georgetown on a roster with 10 freshmen and sophomores, there was plenty of help from the youngsters, as usual.
Greg Whittington contributed 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting, including 3 of 3 on 3-pointers, and another freshman, Otto Porter, had 10 rebounds.
In typical John Thompson III fashion, Georgetown’s coach managed to focus on a negative side of Whittington’s play, delivering this line with a wink and a smile: “Yeah, well, he forgot that we still need him to rebound. Because you look at this little stat sheet here: Whittington, one rebound. So he fell in love with his shooting today and forgot to do everything else.”
It’s easy to kid around after an easy win, and this was the second straight for Georgetown, which beat Villanova by 21 points while holding it to 28 percent shooting.
As always with Thompson, the emphasis is on defense, and he pounded that home with his players after a 73-55 setback at Seton Hall last week.
“A tough loss. An embarrassing loss,” Clark called it. “We knew that we needed to step up our defensive intensity.”
That they did. Georgetown led by 10 points at halftime and kept pulling away. Whittington’s 3 with about 8 1/2 minutes left capped a 9-0 run that made it 48-29 and pretty much sealed the victory.
Clark and Sims left to a standing ovation with 1:43 remaining, greeted by huge hugs from Thompson.
“I remember my last home game. Many moons ago, but I remember it very well,” Thompson said. “And I’m sure they will remember tonight for the rest of their lives.”
Said Clark: “We didn’t want to go out with a loss.”
Both the Hoyas and Fighting Irish are in the running for a top-four seeding and a double-bye into the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. Georgetown finishes its schedule at No. 8 Marquette on Saturday, while Notre Dame closes against visiting Providence on Friday.
“Forget all that,” Thompson replied when asked about the conference standings and tournament. “We have to prepare for our next game. And then after that, you have to prepare for the next game. And if you start thinking about double-byes, single-byes, seedings, this, that and the other, you forget to prepare for the next game.”
Looking ahead to Friday, while also ruing what happened against the Hoyas, Brey said: “I hope we can play as well on `Senior Night’ as these guys did.”