USU basketball: Aggies struggle to adjust to Georgetown's tactics
Washington • Utah State coach Stew Morrill shook his head after the game, still a little miffed by the stat sheet.
"If you had told me they were only going to make a couple threes, I would've thought we would've been right there with them," Morrill said. "We didn't handle the pressure well at all."
In many ways, the Aggies executed their game plan. No. 16 Georgetown entered Saturday's game as one of the top 3-point-shooting teams in the nation, so Utah State took away the 3-point opportunities. Austin Freeman came in to the game as one of the Big East's best scorers, and Utah State held him to nine points.
But despite a strong perimeter effort that contained a team that averaged 11 3-point field goals per game, the Aggies couldn't adjust when Georgetown changed tactics.
After shooting only 40 percent from the field in the first half, Georgetown penetrated the perimeter for back-door layups and relatively easy put-backs to go 13-of-18 shooting inside the 3-point line in the second half.
"I thought we did a good job of throwing it in, getting to the paint, getting their bigs in foul trouble which was a key part of the game," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "In the second half, a lot of the penetration we were looking for was there."
Utah State's frontline simply could not do anything inside as the game went on. It had a lot to do with the team's starting forwards missing time with foul trouble: Tai Wesley played only 20 minutes and Brady Jardine played 26. Much of the extra time went to Nate Bendall, who logged a rugged 26 minutes with seven points and four rebounds.
The Aggies suffered from some tight calls by the officiating crew. But the team acknowledged it struggled to adapt after it became clear even touch fouls would get a whistle.
"We thought this being the Big East, the refs might let us play a little more," said Wesley, who fouled out with 10:15 remaining in the game. "It was just hard for us to adjust."
Utah State also couldn't do much when Georgetown put on a full-court press in the second half, keying a 13-0 run that put the Hoyas in control for good. A number of bad passes put the ball into Georgetown's hands and confounded the Aggies, who up to that point had kept the game close and even led for a while.
"We just couldn't punch back in the second half," Tyler Newbold said. "It was good to play a ranked team, but we need to get better. We want to get to the tournament, but we can't make those kinds of mistakes."