In the name of brevity, my pre-Christmas wish list for the Hoyas did not include all items I hoped Santa would drop off at the Hilltop. Left on the cutting room floor was mention for extended use of the team's extended defensive pressure.
Whether part game situation, part team evolution or perhaps recent epiphany via a red suit wearing bearded man, Georgetown has indeed kept the pressure on beyond the opening minutes in consecutive wins over Florida International and DePaul. The opportunity for a three-peat comes on Saturday as Georgetown (9-3, 1-0) faces longtime conference foe St. John's (9-4, 0-1).
The results beyond putting another mark in the win column include both opponents committing 18 turnovers. Jabril Trawick and the rest of the Hoyas held the Blue Demons to 32.7 percent from the field in their Big East opener.
"It slows the offenses down," Trawick said at McDonough Arena on Friday. "A lot of teams like to get into transition or it takes time off the shot clock. Then we really get back into whatever type of defense we want to play, man or zone. It makes the other team take a shot they don't usually want to take because there isn't as much time from us pressing up on them."
Through the opening 10 games coach John Thompson III deployed his defenders across half court, whether in 1-2-2 or 2-1-2 concepts. However, he typically did so only for the opening minutes.
He didn't call off the attack against Florida International. The Hoyas held FIU without a field goal for over 10 minutes in the first half and opened the game with a 30-4 run.
"When the clock gets to a certain mark do we call it off, no," Thompson said following a recent practice. "I thought it bothered them the whole time. A lot of times you pressure, you pressure, you pressure, they figure out how to attack it. That didn't necessarily happen the other day. Sometimes we stay in too long then have to get out of it...before they get a rhythm on how they're going to attack it."
The Hoyas went in and out of pressure looks during the first half against DePaul. Trailing 23-15 and needing a spark, Thompson called for the 1-2-2 look. By halftime, Georgetown led 29-25 and led for good. Swingman Aaron Bowen keyed the late energy, finishing with three steals.
"We were flat the whole game," Thompson said following Georgetown's eighth win in nine games. "We started off in (the 1-2-2) and it wasn’t effective, and we came back to it and it got our juices flowing a little bit. It was key, we went from down eight or nine ... and we went up four and our press had a lot to do with that."
Turning St. John's won't be easy. Led by the backcourt pairing of top scorer D'Angelo Harrison and freshman Rysheed Jordan, the Red Storm commit only 10 turnovers per game. Their 14.8 turnover rate ranks 17th in the country according to KenPom.
Then again, applying pressure isn't just about turnovers. As the last two games have shown, it's not just for the opening moments either.
"Keeps teams off balance," Bowen said of the pressure defense approach. "That's probably one thing we'll stick with."