There are few players in college basketball who have the size to match up with Georgetown’s 6-foot-10, 350-pound center Josh Smith.
Indiana has several stretches every game where a 6-foot-7 forward is forced to play center — a clear mismatch in favor of Smith when he’s on the floor — but the Hoosiers had a scouting report that identified the key to stopping the Hoyas’ big man.
Force him right.
Force him to the right block or to his right shoulder and you have a chance at stopping him, Crean said.
“You just can’t let him get to his strengths,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “He’s very left-shouldered centered with what he does to get to his right hand. If you let him get to his left shoulder and turn the left side of his body, because of his right hand, he’s pretty much a one-handed player, but getting to that left shoulder he’s unbelievably hard to guard.”
Indiana held Smith in check early in the game, but ultimately he was able to work the left block and take advantage of an undersized Hoosier lineup en route to a 91-87 victory in overtime.
Smith spent more time on the bench than on the court in the first half after the Hoosiers drew three fouls against him in the game’s opening 13 minutes.
“After the first half I knew that I could play better,” he said. “I knew that I could go out, help my team out and just try to show my hands as much as I could and just show the refs that I’m moving my feet, just playing defense.”
It was a different story in the second half, although not right away. Georgetown coach John Thompson III started the half with Smith on the bench.
“That decision was made knowing we were going to need him down the stretch,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said.
After a two-point, one-rebound performance before intermission, Smith scored 12 points and had five rebounds in 16 second-half minutes.
When Indiana played him straight up with one defender, Smith simply overpowered the Hoosiers in the paint. Thompson III said one player alone can’t guard Smith and Georgetown is at its best when it can capitalize on those matchups.
“I believe no matter who is guarding me one-on-one that I can score on them,” Smith said. “That’s not me being selfish, that’s me believing in my team and them putting me in the right position.”
Indiana had marginal success at stopping him when utilizing double and triple teams, but it wasn’t sustainable.
“I think when we doubled correctly we turned him over some,” Crean said.
However, for a player of his stature and mismatch potential, Smith is an unselfish passer. After scoring on back-to-back possessions early in the second half, Smith faced a triple team from Indiana along the baseline. He kicked the ball out to teammate Aaron Bowen, who made a catch-and-shoot three-pointer from the right wing.
“Plays like that get the crowd into it and that’s why I really love the offense,” Smith said. “I love passing as much as I love dunking and scoring.”
While D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera’s 24 points after halftime gave the Hoyas the offensive punch they needed to cut into Indiana’s double-digit lead, Smith allowed Georgetown to play inside-out. And the Hoosiers had no answer for him in the second half. Once he buckled down defensively and began defending with his feet instead of his hands, there wasn’t much Indiana could do against him.
“He has a huge impact,” Thompson III said. “People have to pay attention to Josh.”
“He can’t be stopped down there except when he stops himself.”