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Young Georgetown team already understands how to win with defense

Georgetown guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera puts up a shot that probably did not go in. (US Presswire)

NEW YORK — Hideous game. I’d try to give it a prettier turn of phrase, but it doesn’t deserve it.

Georgetown , a good team in its own right that’s no doubt heading to the NCAA tournament (likely with a solid seed a few months down the road) bided its time, went through the motions and dispatched a Texas club that’s got to be the worst of Rick Barnes’ career. Final: 64-41 here at the opener of the Jimmy V Classic inside Madison Square Garden. It was the fewest points for Texas in a game in nearly 26 years, and thank God it’s over. But enough about the Horns; they’re a team in the midst of a season of change, an NCAA investigation taking way too long (and is really ridiculous when you step back and look at it), and I think Barnes is going to miss the first NCAA tournament of his career.

For Georgetown, it’s got a young club, something John Thompson III’s not often dealt with, certainly not to this degree. His 16-15 squad from ’08-09 was the only one comparable to this, and not even then, really, as the 2012-13 team has 10 freshmen/sophomores. That’s really young. Young teams are unpredictable, irritating and often inconsistent. Georgetown has shown a bit of all that — just look to the 37-36 final at home against Tennessee from last Friday as proof — but this team can definitely play defense.

That’s what I’m taking away from a game that was as hard to watch with the punishment privilege of actually seeing it in person.

“This is a fragile business,” Thompson said. “It’s hard to plan for what your team is going to look like next year and the year after next.”

Thompson III is still figuring out who, aside from future first-rounder Otto Porter, will be reliable on offense. But defensively, the Hoyas have held their past two opponents to a total — total — of 77 points. Bad basketball is bad basketball, but any time you can hold an SEC and a Big 12 team to 77 points in back-to-back games, it’s more than noteworthy.

“We are, much like [Texas], a work in progress,” Thompson said. “I think we’re going to be much better than we are right now, but with each passing day, not just me, the team, the group is feeling a lot more confident. As a coach, you want to get to the point where you don’t have to worry about it or think about it.”

The Hoyas in fact got their third victory over a major-conference team this season (UCLA being the third). It’s the last test for the Hoyas for a month — almost literally. Georgetown’s next real opponent, and road game, isn’t until 2013, when they open the Big East slate at Marquette on Jan. 5.

Georgetown’s also the youngest team in the most recent AP Top 25. No. 2 and 3 are Kansas and Michigan State, respectively. If there’s reason for real hope right now, it’s that the team has yet to click on one end of the floor while working in lock-step on the other.

“That game against Tennessee was an anomaly,” Thompson said. “That’s not who we are and haven’t been who we are. I don’t think anyone in our locker room or staff or on our team came out thinking we were having trouble or can’t score.”

“I think that’s what makes everything: we can get a lot better,” junior Nate Lubick said. “We don’t really pay attention to those rankings much.”

Is Georgetown the Big East’s best team? No. Can it be? I don’t think so. But there are a lot of coaches who wouldn’t have a 6-1 record after losing so much talent from a year ago. Thompson is a quiet guy, and he’s not one to drape emotion all over his sleeve, but he was flashing a few smiles after effectively shutting down another opponent. I think he’s even a little surprised at how well the jell has come on defense.

“I think we have an honest group of guys in that they know we can improve and have a lot of room for it,” Thompson said.

With above-average defense, teams cover up mistakes and overcome youth. Through that lens, Georgetown is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, surprise of the first full month of the season.

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