Men's Basketball

Georgetown pours on points, pressure and expectations in undefeated early-season run

Georgetown College men’s basketball coach Chris Briggs in action during timeout against Kentucky Christian in Davis-Reid Alumni Gym at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky., Saturday, December 12, 2015.
Georgetown College men’s basketball coach Chris Briggs in action during timeout against Kentucky Christian in Davis-Reid Alumni Gym at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky., Saturday, December 12, 2015. Herald-Leader

Georgetown College Coach Chris Briggs sounded almost apologetic after his team’s victory Saturday over Kentucky Christian.

The Tigers’ press was getting broken. Their three-pointers weren’t falling at the usual clip. Fouls shots went astray. And the Tigers’ misses meant the Knights could calmly set up their own offense.

Senior forward Deondre McWhorter bristled at being called for a touch foul on a jump shot and earned a technical for his frustrations in the first half. In the second half, Briggs got a technical himself for his vociferous objection to a non-call on a fast break that sent freshman Troy Steward sprawling to the court and the Georgetown fans jumping to their feet.

Final score: Georgetown 98, Kentucky Christian 75.

It seems odd to be disappointed after administering such a thumping, but at Georgetown, expectations are a bit higher than at some other stops in the NAIA.

“We should have (cracked 100),” Briggs said jokingly after the game. “We missed a ton of free throws. And missed some chip shots we normally make. But we’ve been in finals (exams). The guys have had an individual (practice) here and there and a little short 45-minute practice where we didn’t even have everybody because of finals. So, we played like a team that really hasn’t done much the last few days but get in the library and do papers and bibliographies.”

Cracking 100 points is something the No. 2 Tigers have been doing with amazing regularity this season — nine times on their way to a 13-0 record at the holiday break.

It’s the best start under Briggs, who has a national title at Georgetown on his résumé (2012-2013). It also will likely have the Tigers topping the next NAIA Division I coaches’ poll. With No. 1 Pikeville losing to Cumberlands last week, the preseason No. 6 Tigers will almost assuredly be No. 1 when play resumes on Jan. 3 against Ohio-Chillicothe.

“Georgetown has had a whole lot of good teams. … Obviously that’s special,” Briggs said of the streak. “But there’s more than that. We’ve got a lot of conference games left. We’ve got a lot of season left.”

The fifth-year coach doesn’t put a lot of stock in December accolades.

“The one that matters is in March. That’s the one we need to concentrate on,” he said. “It’s good publicity, a good honor and a good accomplishment, but there is much more to it than that.”

The Tigers returned five players, three of them seniors, from the squad that got knocked out in the first round of the NAIA tournament last season. They are led by McWhorter’s imposing play in the post and the slashing and shooting of fellow seniors Tony Kimbro and Noah Cottrill.

Georgetown has had a whole lot of good teams. … Obviously, (the streak is) special. But there’s more than that. We’ve got a lot of conference games left. We’ve got a lot of season left.

Georgetown Coach Chris Briggs

Briggs has surrounded that core with a wealth of newcomers who have seen significant playing time in the Tigers’ fast-paced, pressing attack.

“I think we’ve got a good, viable minute plan,” said 6-foot-6 freshman guard Jordan Green, a Henry Clay product who transferred to Georgetown this season from Western Kentucky without losing any of his eligibility. “The starters get their time, we get our time, and we do exactly what we’ve got to do.”

On Saturday, Green got his second start of the season. At the 12-minute mark of the first half, Briggs subbed the whole lineup out for five fresh players. They went 6-for-10 from the field in that stretch and kept up the Tigers’ relentless pace. Steward and fellow Fleming County product Darion Burns scored eight points each off the bench.

“Since I’ve been here — it’s the first time in three years that we can go from one (player) down to however many guys we’ve got,” said Cottrill, a 6-3 guard who started his career at West Virginia. “We’re very deep. We’re a very close team on and off the court. It’s going to be an exciting year, I think.”

Another one of those newcomers is former Scott County star Trent Gilbert, a 5-11 shooting guard who led the Cardinals to the Sweet Sixteen finals in 2014 and accepted a preferred walk-on spot with Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals last year.

Gilbert is off the KFC Yum Center pine and in the starting lineup for the Tigers this season as a sophomore. And it’s good to be home.

“Getting to be close to my family and friends and really close to my house, I really like that. It helps me out,” Gilbert said. “And this team — I feel we’ve got a chance to be something special. We’ve got the pieces to be really dangerous.”

The central threat is McWhorter. The 6-8, 250-pound senior forward out of Moore High School in Louisville scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in just under 26 minutes Saturday. He averages more than 19 points and almost nine rebounds in just under 24 minutes per game.

“If they want to double him, he comes up and sets a ball screen” Cottrill said of McWhorter. “He draws so much attention because of how good he is in the post that it helps a lot of us. When he’s going, we’re going. He’s a great player.”

No one could have predicted a 13-0 start that included a 92-91 gut-check win over then-No. 18 Campbellsville on Nov. 21. But the Tigers knew they would be good early in the season.

“After the first two games, I was like ‘yeah, we’ve got a good team.’” said freshman forward Chris Coffey from Seneca in Louisville. “With Big Dre in the post and TK (Kimbro) and Trent, all our shooters? Yeah, we’ve got a good squad.”

It gets harder from here. The run to March includes two games each against ranked teams Lindsey Wilson and Pikeville. Along with that, the Tigers will try to keep building team chemistry and pouring in points.

“We ain’t really worried about the stats at the end of the day,” Kimbro said. “We’re just trying to get the ring and move to the next level. Be remembered. Make history. That’s all we’re really trying to do.”

Jared Peck: 859-231-1333. @ItSaysHere.

Next game

Ohio-Chillicothe at Georgetown

2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 3

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