“I can take anybody off the dribble,” the senior point guard said. “Simple as that.”
Wright said it with a shrug of the shoulders, as if it were as obvious as the sun rising on New Year’s Day.
But if that’s the case, why was he so passive in the first half against the weakest team in the Big East? Wright scored all of his 17 points in the second half of the No. 9 Hoyas’ 86-75 victory Saturday, a game that was surprisingly still in doubt until the final few minutes.
It turns out Wright was overreacting from his film study of Georgetown’s loss to Notre Dame in the Big East opener three days earlier.
“It was evident we weren’t making the extra pass. We weren’t playing as we usually play, and I wanted to go out and emphasize getting the ball out to people and just making things happen with passing the ball,” Wright said. “I guess in a way I was being passive. Passed up a couple of shots. Just feeling out the game.”
That’s not necessarily what John Thompson III wants to see. It’s worth noting the Georgetown coach didn’t cringe at Wright’s “take anybody off the dribble” boasting. Thompson dropped his head and chuckled—then made it a point to step to the microphone and agree.
“For us to be successful, he has to be aggressive,” Thompson said. “At halftime, his coach said to him, ‘OK, buddy, let’s just be more aggressive.’ And aggressive doesn’t necessarily mean shooting. He was right with what he said— he can get by anybody—so him getting into the lane creates problems for other teams, whether it’s him scoring, him getting fouled or him getting (teammates) wide open shots.”
Wright finished 5 for 12 from the field, 7 for 10 from the free throw line and had seven assists. Austin Freeman and Jason Clark added 21 points apiece for the Hoyas (12-2, 1-1), who never trailed but had an 11-point led cut to one with 14 minutes remaining before a pair of 8-0 runs put the game out of reach.
Freshman Cleveland Melvin scored a season-high 29 points, and Tony Freeland added 24 for the Blue Demons (6-8, 0-2), who have lost 25 straight road games, 15 straight games against Big East opponents and 10 straight against Georgetown.
The shooting-challenged Blue Demons made only two baskets outside the paint in the first half and hit their first 3-pointer with 7 minutes left in the game, but coach Oliver Purnell’s team stayed competitive with hustle plays—12 steals and a 39-36 rebounding edge, only the third time this season DePaul has outrebounded an opponent.
“We don’t have that much room for error; that’s the way we have to play,” Purnell said. “We have to come up with hustle stats. We have to come up with those rebounds on the floor. We should have come up with even more of them. But we’re starting to understand that, and that’s a good sign when you come on the road and outrebound a really good team like Georgetown.”
Georgetown was playing on Jan. 1 for the first time since 1943, and DePaul for the first time since at least 1945. The 1 p.m. holiday start—with no band, no cheerleaders and only a handful of students in the usually noisy student section—did nothing to alter the expected final outcome. The big surprise was that the deeper, more talented Hoyas actually let the Blue Demons stay in the game as long as they did.
“We were flat. It felt like we were in quicksand, particularly in the first half,” Thompson said. “Chris got going in the second half and, as usual, when Chris gets going, we usually get going.”
While Wright can brag about his moves to the basket, one thing that’s deserted him recently is his outside shooting touch. All five of his baskets were layups, and that’s coming off of a 1 for 9 shooting performance against Notre Dame. Wright is 2 for 15 from 3-point range in his last six games.
“Missing shots,” Wright said. “It happens. Just got to keep playing and moving forward.”
Thompson interrupted, offering what sounded like a New Year’s wish.
“It’s out of his system now,” Thompson said. “It’s done.”