Highlanders Toppled Handily by Hoyas’ Full Complement, 76-49

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The game ball belongs to this young man, Aaron Bowen.  

Some context:  Fresh off of Wednesday night’s hard fought 5-point loss to the #10 Kansas Jayhawks, Hoya fans wondered what they would see when the Hoyas hosted Radford University of the loaded Big South Conference.  (Can you name any team in the Big South? Coastal Carolina sits atop the conference standings today.)  The Highlanders of Radford, used to being ignored due to its more prominent neighbor, Virginia Tech of the ACC, took it to the Hokies and handed them a 68-66 loss last week in Blacksburg.  That was its first win over an ACC team in 25 contests.  Perhaps the Highlanders had delusions of surprising the Hoyas on a sleepy Saturday at Verizon Center, but it was not to be thanks to this sensational athlete and 6’6″ fifth year senior forward from Jacksonville, Florida, and his motivated teammates.  Aaron Bowen had a career high 16 points on 8 for 9 shooting, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks, all of which cannot be expected from just any “reserve” player.  What Bowen also brings are the intangibles, the energy, great “D” that largely goes unrecorded and unreported, and today, a 360 degree dunk that awakened the much too small crowd at Verizon Center.  NB (That is, Nota bene):  Bowen played 3 minutes in the Kansas game.

A Team Player in a Team Game:  Coach JTII had the luxury of playing his full complement of athletes today after it became clear by the middle of the first half that the Hoyas were too strong, tall and talented for the Highlanders to mount a challenge.  Forty-two (42) bench points tells the story as Bowen, freshman Paul White (12), sophomore Reggie Cameron (5) and freshman Isaac Copeland (4) all contributed.  White was 4 for 7 from the field, 2 for 3 from 3 point range, and 2 for 2 from the free throw line.  White is a pure shooter whom I know will excite Hoya fans in games (and hopefully seasons) to come.  Cameron and Copeland too found their shooting touch in 12 minutes each.  Freshman true point guard Tre Campbell played a solid 16 minutes, gaining important experience before that grueling Big East schedule begins at Xavier on New Year’s Eve.  Campbell showed his efficient ball handling skills against a Radford press and had 4 steals, an assist  and a bucket.  While the game ball goes to Bowen (also known at Verizon as “Aaron Brown”), the entire game goes to the Hoya “Reserves”, this season meaning likely starters on many top D I teams.

Owning the Boards: The Hoyas out-rebounded Radford, 39-24, and seniors, center Josh Smith (13 minutes, 6 points) and forward Mikael Hopkins (21 minutes, 5 points), led the team with 6 and 5, respectively.  Guards Jabril Trawick, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (DSR) each had 4 boards.  Hopkins added 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks and is playing with greater intensity this season that serves this young and talented Hoya team well.

DSR and Jabril Finding a Groove:  Perhaps as important as this victory and righting the course before upcoming games against Conference USA Charlotte at home on 12/20 and against the Indiana Hoosiers at Madison Square Garden on 12/27, is to have our upperclass guards and floor leaders in the right mindset.  Coming off of his poorest shooting night in memory, DSR again struggled from the floor, shooting 1 for 9 from the field and 1-5 from the three point land yet perfect from the line (6 of 6).  While understandable against the larger and more talented Jayhawks, it seems from this observer that DSR is overthinking, shooting “tight” and missing the mark.  Were I to advise DSR, I’d say “Relax.  See all of this talent around you, you don’t have to carry the scoring burden this season.  When you shoot, be instinctive.”  DSR finished with 8 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals.  Dishing the ball when you aren’t hot is also good advice.

As to Jabril, fans were worried when he hobbled off the floor at the end of the Kansas game.  Philly Tough bounced back with a fine performance today, 8 points on perfect shooting including 2 for 2 from 3, and 7 assists.  To succeed in the conference, this team will rely on these two seasoned guards and leaders.  L.J. Peak was again a starter today and in 21 minutes was 2 for 8 from the field and 0 for 3 from the 3 line.  Of the three freshman, if I were Coach (I can play this game), I would start White.  However, with three talented freshman forwards in White, Peak and Copeland, that it an enviable decision to have to make.

Fundamentals:  The Hoyas had only 13 turnovers and shot 75% from the charity stripe.  I think when they are not studying for finals or writing final papers, they are working on free throws and fundamentals.  Nineteen assists means they are sharing the ball.  That is what a good team does.

I’m happy for Radford that they shocked their crosstown rival in Blacksburg last week.  However, their run ended before it started.  They were no match for the Hoyas swarming defense and triple towers of Hopkins, Smith and Bradley Hayes (yes, a solid 10 minutes from Hayes!).

Aaron Bowen, enjoy your evening.  Your fans are looking for many more highlights from you this season!

 

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Battling Hard, Unable to Finish, the Hoyas Fall to #10 Kansas, 75-70

It’s time now to ask the ultimate question:  while the Hoyas can play with some of the best teams in the country, can they win? With the exception of beating then nationally ranked #18 Florida (now unranked) in the first round of Battle4Atlantis, Georgetown has now dropped three games to Wisconsin (then ranked #2), unranked Butler (now ranked #15) in the Bahamas and to the Jayhawks at home.

While the showdown before 15,000 fans in the Phone Booth was all the excitement Hoya fans have been waiting for, the Hoyas fell just short of upsetting Kansas, a team with a great deal of talent and on a roll since getting crushed at home by Kentucky, 72-40, in November.

Now, let’t turn to specifics:

What a Difference a Year Makes:  Mighty Josh Smith showed up for this game, unlike his disappearing act in Lawrence, Kansas last season when he scored 5 points and fouled out in just 19 minutes of play and the Hoyas were disposed of easily by the Jayhawks, 86-64.  Josh again showed us why he is a key if not the key to the Hoyas’ success this season, scoring 20 on 8 for 13 shooting, 4 for 6 from the line, grabbing 5  boards, 2 steals and 2 blocked shots.   However, Josh, as the team, still has much to work on.  He turned over the ball 5 times, one critical towards the end of the game when Hoyas’ hopes were alive.  If the Hoyas are going to win close ones against top teams, they can’t afford these lapses.

Uncharacteristically Cold:  DSR, at times the Hoyas sharpest shooter, may have been bothered by the size and defense of Kansas, and suffered his poorest shooting of the year, going 3 for 15 with 0 3-pointers.  What do you do when your best shooter is so cold?  You should go to other proven shooters who are not. At this point in the season when we know what Paul White can do, do we want to see him passing the ball to DSR when he, White, has a wide open 3? When your best shooter goes 3 of 15 from the field and 0 for 5 from 3 point range with 3 turnovers, it won’t be easy to win.  I wanted to see more of those shots coming from freshman White, Peak, and Copeland.

Similarly, senior Jabril Trawick, while playing 3/4 of the game, contributed little.  Trawick too could not get his game going against Kansas and ended the game with 2 points, 6 rebounds and 3 turnovers.  To add insult to injury Trawick left the game after banging his knee with Kansas star and hero off the bench, guard Brannen Greene, who finished the game with 19 points on nearly flawless shooting, 5 for 6 from the field, 5 for 5 from 3s and 4 for 4 from the line.  Hoyas are hoping for a quick recovery for Jabril.

Bring on The Freshman!  If it wasn’t clear before this game, it is now clear that the present and future lies in the hands of 3 freshman, LJ Peak, Paul White and Isaac Copeland.  Distribute some of the 17 DSR missed shots to these 3 freshman and I guarantee–yes, guarantee–a victory.   LJ Peak had suffered through a few “off” outings, expected as a frosh, and returned with a fury last night, contributing 18 points in 35 minutes of 6-12 field goal shooting and 3 for 5 from 3-point land with 3 steals.  Paul White, off the bench, played only 23 minutes, and scored 10 points on 3 for 6 from the field and 2 for 4 from the 3 point line.  Isaac Copeland wasn’t as hot but contributed 6 points in limited minutes, and went 4 for 4 at the free throw line.  (“‘Cause they’re free”, Otto Porter).  With those strong shooting percentages and now, when freshmen butterflies are gone, it’s time to distribute the ball more to Peak and White if the Hoyas are to prevail over the ranked Big East teams, St. John’s, Villanova and Butler, as well as the unranked conference teams that have been playing well, including Seton Hall, Providence and Creighton.  Wait, isn’t that the entire conference? :-)

Unsung Hero:  Mikael Hopkins likely won’t get the ink but his toughness and rebounds kept the Hoyas in the game.  While he scored only 4 points, Mikael had 9 critical boards, 4 assists and 4 blocks. If he could put in his shots (1 for 5 from field goal range), then Mikael could be downright lethal.

Where Was Bowen?  Why did he play only 3 minutes?  He is our greatest athlete and the team could have used him in this battle. Tre Campbell, our freshman and only true point guard, played only one minute.  Tre needs more time as well.

Turnovers:  The Hoyas continue to be plagued by turnovers, and the majority are not committed by the freshmen.  The Hoyas had 16 yet were bested by Kansas in that category as well (17).  :-)  Free throw shooting for the Hoya team was a respectable 73%, while Kansas got to the line more (25 of 32) and shot 78%.

Political Statement:  The Hoya team wore the soon to be ubiquitous “I Can’t Breathe” tee shirts (first introduced by the Chicago Bulls’ guard Derrick Rose) before the Kansas game during warmups and through the National Anthem to express a political statement related to the recent death of Eric Garner in New York at the hands of the police where no indictment followed.  No matter where you stand on the issue, I applaud the team for expressing their First Amendment rights on a big stage before the game.  Unlike certain law students, they are making a political statement and taking their exams on time.

To reformulate the Ultimate Question with a “suggested” answer:  are we comfortable–is Coach comfortable–with relying on our freshmen to show the path to victory, against upcoming Redford, Charlotte, Indiana and against the Big Beast powerhouses this season?  If our young pup, 18-month mascot Jack can skate across the Verizon floor, then I think we can and should and the sky is the limit!

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Hoyas Climbing Ladder, Rung by Rung, Before Showdown With Jayhawks

The latest AP Top 25 AP and Coaches Rankings were released today and it’s official:  if the Hoyas beat Kansas, they will solidly break into the Top 25.  It isn’t the be all and end all in early December, but it is no doubt a goal for Coach JT3 and his team to beat Kansas.  A national ranking will follow.

In the AP Top 25 ranking, Georgetown appears to be in the unnumbered 28th spot, just behind the Spartans of Michigan State and the Fighting Illini of where else, Illinois.  There are currently 2 2-loss teams in the Top 25, Oklahoma at 16 and San Diego State at 18.

Scratching Your Head Too?  The Coaches’ ranking leads one to scratch his or her head.  The Hoyas are in the unnumbered 30th spot, behind the Michigan Wolverines, who lost at home to that basketball powerhouse NJIT, the only independent D I school in the nation (not by choice).  Notre Dame, the Johnnies of the Big East and Arkansas are ranked slightly ahead of Georgetown.

Hoya fans are awaiting Wednesday night when they will fill the Phone Booth to the rafters and cheer their team onto victory!  Not for a ranking necessarily, but just because it must be done.  Hoya Saxa Baby!

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#17 Michigan Shocked by N.J.I.T.

You know that basketball powerhouse from Newark, New Jersey, N.J.I.T.?  New Jersey Institute of Technology is largely a commuter school educating future engineers, scientists and others, and is the only independent program in Division I.  NJIT is never found in the NCAA March Madness tournament bracket or even “on the bubble” at the end of the season.  And no, NJIT is not voluntarily independent for reasons similar to the storied Notre Dame Irish in football (pride and greed?).

Shocker.  Coach Jim Engles and his team traveled to Ann Arbor with a 2-5 record likely hoping to depart with a respectable loss and shocked themselves with a win.  Coach Engles himself admitted post-game that at the start of the season “I sort of penciled this one in as an ‘L.’ I have to readjust my whole process here, as to, ‘We just beat Michigan. I don’t know, maybe we should be in the Top 25.'”

Hero.  Sophomore leading scorer Damon Lynn (18.6 points per game) made a 3-pointer for the Highlanders with less than three minutes to go and finished with 20 points to help NJIT pull the upset over the Wolverines 72-70 on Sunday.

This Upset Means?  With no conference and automatic bid, NJIT would likely have to win out the season and then some for consideration of an at large bid to the NCAA tournament and that is unlikely unless they can shock again at Villanova and ranked D I powers.

Perhaps NJIT may now find a conference to hold them?

For the Wolverines, Caris LeVert had a career-high 32 points on Saturday, but it wasn’tt enough to defeat the upstart from Newark, NJ.  The Highlanders made 11 of 17 3 pointers and got 17 points each from Willis Winfield and Ky Howard.

Storming the Court, Away from Home.  After LeVert’s last-second prayer missed wide — and the Highlanders’ bench poured onto the court in celebration in front of the shocked fans of the Maize and Blue.

 

 

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Freshmen Shine as Hoyas Manhandle Towson, 78-46, in BB&T Classic

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Where have you gone, Jerrelle Benimon?

The former Hoya recruit turned Towson Tigers star Benimon graduated, and Towson, 7-1 before this game, was no match for now 5-2 Georgetown today.  The Hoyas took control from the outset, with upperclassmen and freshmen playing significant roles in this blowout.  Never in doubt, the Hoyas led by 23 points, 40-17, at the half on an Aaron Bowen 3 pointer at the buzzer and took their biggest lead of the game, 68-33, on a 3 pointer from sophomore Reggie Cameron with 7:11 left in the game.  With the Jayhawks of Kansas up next at Verizon for the Hoyas on Wednesday evening, this is a tuneup that the faithful fans wanted to see.  And as it seemed, only the faithful, press corps and obsessive bloggers were present to bear witness.

Fewer Turnovers, Making Free Throws (“Because they’re free”, Otto Porter). First, the Towson Tigers are no Florida, Wisconsin and/or Butler, all teams the Hoyas faced last week in the Battle4Atlantis.   Still, it seems the Hoyas as a team have been working on all of the problems that plagued them in the Bahamas, from turnovers to missed free throws and overall mediocre shooting percentage.  While there is room for improvement in the turnovers column, today the Hoyas had 12 and for long stretches played very clean and smart ball.  In fact, it was the upperclassmen who committed the majority of Hoya turnovers today (7 total among Smith, Hopkins and Trawick). The Hoyas are heading in the right direction.

Getting to the Line and Converting.  Clearly this team has been working on their shooting, especially free throws.  78.6% at the line, 11 for 14, with Josh Smith and DSR contributing a perfect 10 of 10 combined.  Has someone been reading my blog?  :-)  Against Kansas, Indiana and the Big East schedule to follow, it will help the Hoyas to get to the line at least this much and more and to stay at this percentage.  Those free throws are going to count in the tough Big East, arguably the best or one of the best conferences in the nation.  Who sounded the death knell for the Big East?  Think again.

Hot Shooting. Currently ranked 18th in the nation in field goal percentage, today the Hoyas hit 55% of their field goals and were just short of that, 50% (11 of 22) from 3-point range.  Threes were raining as Tre(y)’s were playing.  Well, neither Tre/Trey hit a 3 today, but that will come.  super frosh Paul White made up for their misses, going a hot 3 for 4 from 3-point land with a total of 11 points.  He plays with the confidence and maturity of a sophomore or junior.  DSR and Aaron Bowen (yes, Bowen!) were a perfect 2 for 2 and freshman Isaac Copeland 2 for 5 (10 points total).  The Hoyas held Towson to 40% shooting, and the Tigers’ leading scorers, Four McGlynn (#4 as well) and John Davis, had 10 points each.

Leadership.  DSR and Trawick steered the ship, both having stellar outings on limited minutes as the team both shared the ball and the minutes very well.  They  demonstrated nearly flawless guard play and had 16 and 11 points, respectively.  Josh Smith showed his improvement and importance to the team with 12 points, 7 boards and 2 steals.  Hopkins was less of a factor in this game but had a nice tip in off a missed shot, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in 18 minutes.  The team had 18 assists to Towson’s 4.

Upperclass leadership and freshmen talent started to mesh more seamlessly as Coach JT3 tried different combinations and there were little to no glitches.  Even freshman guard Tre Campbell saw 17 minutes today, and while scoreless,  Tre is showing improvement in ball handling and grabbed 3 boards.  Freshman LJ Peak drove to the hoop in a play worthy of the highlights reel.

Legacy.  Both Trey Mourning and Riyan Williams got minutes today.  Looking forward to more from the freshman F and junior G.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk?  The Hoyas will face their first true test at home Wednesday night against #11 Kansas at 7 p.m.  I believe we will see, and this team deserves to have, a packed house and supportive Sixth Man in the Phone Booth.  Students were largely a “no show” today and if there is ever a good time and reason for a study break during Finals, this game will be.  Storied program, perennial power in the Big 12, the Rock Chalk Jayhawk are indeed beatable and yet have lost only once to Kentucky, a 72-40 beating at home on November 18th.

About Jerrelle Benimon, while I always liked him, he wouldn’t have made a difference today.

 

 

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Farewell to Atlantis: Hoyas Fall to Butler, 64-58 and Brief Recap

In the 3rd place game, a respectable place to be in this field of perennial college hoops powerhouses, this Georgetown team qua team played below its potential today and handed the third place game to its “new” Big East rival, Butler.  New in the sense that this rivalry is now only four games old and the Hoyas won all of the previous meetings, including last season’s home and away games.  Should the Big East become the lean and mean college hoops powerhouse fans expect, there should be many years of rivalry ahead.  This loss should be remembered as a lesson on basketball fundamentals and if unheeded, poor outcomes should be expected:

1.  Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers:  The trend continued and Butler capitalized.  14 turnovers to Butler’s 10, and the Butler Bulldogs too advantage of each by scoring points off of Hoya mistakes.

2.  Free throws ARE important:  No team is going to shoot 50% from the line in the tough Big East and expect to win a lot of games.  That is harsh but true.  Georgetown got to the line 19 times, and made 10.  Butler shot 75% from the line. A key difference.  If I’m Coach, the team is going to the gym at 6am and will shoot free throws for an hour.

3.  Major mental lapses: At a key juncture in the second half when the Hoyas were staging a comeback, they allowed Butler to take the ball out of bounds on Hoya scores and run a virtual uncontested layup drill at the other end.  In essence, Hoyas score 4 points that they fought for and fell asleep as Butler countered with 4 points of their own.  How games are lost.

Granted, this was a grueling tournament with tough consecutive games against Florida (W), Wisconsin (close L), and Butler (L).  Still, Butler was in a similar position having beaten UNC, lost to Oklahoma then faced Georgetown.  No excuses.  However, we cannot disregard the bright spots in that Isaac Copeland got his D I sea legs in Atlantis and we expect much from him this season.  Paul White is coming on strong as well.  LJ Peak will likely regain his composure, facing the first real competition of the season in the Bahamas, and DSR recovered nicely after his all out performances against Florida and Wisconsin although was 0-4 from 3 point range after his 5 for 6 against Wisconsin.  Josh Smith too showed leadership but went 1 for 5 from the line, unacceptable for a guard and a big.  Copeland and White were hot, with 16 and 13 points respectively, and carried the Hoyas in scoring today.  For a critical portion of the game it seemed like the “White and Copeland Show”, something Hoya fans would like to see, as well as one in the win column.

This loss was not due to superior talent or play of Butler but to the Hoyas beating themselves.  I’m sure Coach JT3 will have something to say about this, and the Hoyas will return to winning ways soon enough.  In less than 2 weeks they can make a huge statement when they host Kansas at the Verizon Center.  Between now and then, they need to regain focus and practice, yes practice (wink to AI), especially at the line.

Safe travels home, Team!

 

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Hoyas Battle in Atlantis and Fall Short, 68-65, to #2 Wisconsin

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Nothing to be ashamed of.  A gutsy effort.  A performance by DSR that was worthy of all of the pre-season accolades (Wooden nominee, Cousy nominee, Big East Player of the Year, etc.).  29 points, great leadership and 5 of 6 from three-point range, missing only the last shot that would have tied the game in regulation.

At one point in the second half the Hoyas appeared to be on the road to an upset in Atlantis.  The Hoyas building a lead in the high single digits, the Badgers woke up at just the right time.  The Hoyas shut down much heralded 7-footer Frank Kaminsky and held him to a season low 6 points.  However, starters F Sam Dekker (17 points) and F Nigel Hayes (15), and Wisconsin’s bench G Bronson Koenig and F Duje Dukan provided all of the firepower needed to will their team to victory.  The Wisconsin team denied the Hoyas a chance at the championship game.

While the Hoyas yesterday showed that they can play with the best teams in the country, and should earn a solid Top 20 ranking with a win over Butler today (more below), this is Why the Hoyas Fell Short:

1.  Turnover Prone: While the turnover differential in the game was only 1 (15 Hoyas to 14 Badgers), for consecutive games the Hoyas showed a vulnerability that is not surprising with two to four freshman playing significant minutes.  This is something to work on sooner rather than later, and we hope that the team can shake this tendency.

2.  Failure to Get to the Line:  The Hoyas fouled early and often and the free throw differential was significant, as the Badgers were 20 of 27 (74%) from the line and the Hoyas took only 13 free throws and hit 9 or 69% of them.  The Hoyas must improve in this category as the season unfolds, both in frequency of getting to the line and free throw percentage.

3.  Inexperience:  I predict that the Hoyas will improve as the freshmen gain experience and I would like to see a rematch of this game in March.  The Badgers returned several players from its 2014 Final Four team and that was likely the difference yesterday.  DSR can carry a team, and will, but he will need help from his teammates.  Yesterday he had the most help from Josh Smith, with 10 points on solid shooting in 25 minutes, and Aaron Bowen off the bench with a spark and 8 points.  LJ Peak had an off day but Paul White had another solid freshman performance with 7 points.  I am bullish on both players and think White’s stock may be undervalued as I see him being extremely valuable to this team and its chances to meet or exceed expectations this season.

4.  Coaching:  Have to give a nod to a great coach, Bo Ryan.  He took this team to the Final Four last year, losing by one point to Kentucky in the national semifinal.  This is a game that comes down to both experience and coaching and while JT3 has a great team to work with, one cannot discount the importance of coaching, especially in a high profile early season game.  I, for one, will be rooting for the Badgers to win the title.

Finally, let the Big East season unofficially begin today as the Hoyas meet the Butler Bulldogs in the battle for 3rd place in Atlantis. A day for redemption after taking down Florida and coming close to conquering #2 in the country.

Pictured:  Jack and JJ with Butler Bulldogs in a friendlier, more diplomatic moment as the dogs meet on Georgetown’s campus in Gaston Hall, where many world and national leaders have convened and spoken throughout history.

 

 

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Georgetown Hoyas Nip #18 Florida Gators in OT, 66-65

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This Gator who resides in warm waters and swamps of the southeast and elsewhere can conquer many creatures, but last night fell short in conquering the Hoya, a mythical creature having origins on the Hilltop of Northwest Washington, D.C., with great powers, both active and dormant.  For Hoya fans hungry for an early season signature win, we claimed the victory, clawing and growling, just enough to shake off the dangerous jaws of the Gator.

First, I start with a caveat.  This blogger provides analysis based upon my view of the game from The Tombs, and thus I give thanks to the staff of the great college pub who tuned into AXS TV [what?!] to allow the faithful fans present on Thanksgiving Eve to cheer on their Hoyas at 9:30pm.  And it was well worth it!

The outcome of this context was always in doubt and provided the excitement of a late season, dare I say late March game, where #heartattackhoyas reentered the lexicon for at least one night.  The largest lead of either team was the Hoyas 8-point lead (30-22) near the end of the first half.  On this night, JT3 and his team had an opportunity, and grabbed it with the strong jaws of a bulldog, to tell the basketball world that they may be a force to be reckoned with in 2014-15.  And they have yet another chance today to wrestle with the #2 Badgers of Wisconsin.  A burrowing weasel doesn’t sound nearly as menacing as a gator, but the Hoyas will have to play a much stronger and less turnover-prone game to win this semifinal of the Battle4Atlantis to reach the championship game.

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty of last night’s game.  First, the Gifts of the Season:

I.  LJ Peak and Paul White:  As predicted in a previous entry, these #SuperFrosh have the ability to propel the Hoyas to the next level, immediately as it seems.  Both players had fine games last night and while most fans have been focused on Peak, each player spent 35 of 40 minutes on the floor, and White showed a complete game, scoring 10, with 5 rebounds and 3 steals.  Both appear very comfortable on a big stage, and while the entire team needs to cut down on turnovers to tame the Badgers, Peak had 4 t/o’s of the Hoyas total 19 to the Gators 16.  It was exciting and fast, but not always pretty.

II.  DSR Accepts the Burden:  Worried against the cupcakes that D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (hereafter “DSR”) was weighted down by the pre-season accolades, against the Gators DSR eased our concerns and became the leader this team needs, down to coolly nailing the final jumper with 3.4 seconds remaining in OT.  17 points on 50% shooting, what he still needs to find is his 3 point range (0 for 5 last night).  In fact, the entire Hoya team struggled from 3, shooting 23% for the game.  That does tell us how we are likely NOT to win games this season.

III.  Hopkins and Trawick Stay the Course:  The #LeadershipCore of this Team, Mikael, Jabril and DSR, showed up last night.  Hopkins had a well rounded 8 points, 6 boards and 4 blocks, and Jabril contributed 10 points, 6 boards and 2 assists, while fouling out in regulation and committing 4 turnovers.  It will take better games from each of these players today to tame the badgers.  Bowen and Campbell rounded out the players with significant minutes (18 and 13 minutes, respectively), and except for Campbell’s 4 rebounds, rather unremarkable performances.

The Concern of the Season:

IV.  Where Was Josh Smith?  My fear was realized last night, and while I hope it’s a one-game hiccup, it is that Josh will not have his way with nationally ranked and stronger teams as he had with the likes of St. Francis and Corpus Christi.  Eight points, 4 boards,  4 turnovers and 4 fouls in a disappointing 17 minutes of play.  For Smith to make a difference on this Hoya team, he will have to step up his game against true bigs or he will soon lose his minutes to younger and more mobile players.

In less than two hours the Hoyas can make another wave in the Bahamas against the perennial March contender Wisconsin.  Do the Hoyas want gravy with their turkey and defer the pumpkin pie until after Sunday’s final?

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Hoyas OutMan Colonials: Savoring The Last Cupcake

If I were Coach JTIII on the way home to the Hilltop this afternoon after the Hoyas 80-66 never-in-doubt win over the Robert Morris Colonials, I would have said, “Hey Bus Driver, let’s stop at Georgetown Cupcakes.”  Then I’d turn to the Team:  “Men, enjoy this treat.  No more cupcakes this season!”

With a contest looming in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving against current #8/7 Florida Gators in the Battle4Atlantis (http://www.atlantisbahamas.com/events/battle-4-atlantis), the early season relative feasting is over.  On 11-26, the Hoyas have a date with the Gators and face prior national champions and perennial Top 10-25 competition including Wisconsin, North Carolina, UCLA, and Butler.  At this point, few analysts are giving our Hoyas little chance of winning the title, but those analysts haven’t seen:

I.  The Growth of Josh Smith:  Today Josh Smith seemed to fully embrace the role Hoya fans have been awaiting–22 points, 11 rebounds and a sweet albeit imperfect touch at the foul line.  I, for one, have been skeptical to date, but if Josh continues this solid play against heftier opponents, the Hoyas could extend this season far longer into the spring than we have seen since 2007.

II.  Three (or Four) Super Frosh:  I cannot remember when three Hoya freshman have seen so much time, today 70 minutes total among freshman starter LJ Peak, and Paul White, Tre Campbell and Issac Copeland, all seeing significant minutes off the bench.  In fact, the Hoyas’ bench points today were a respectable 22 to add to Smith’s own 22.  Peak and White appear to me to be the two players who will make the greatest impact in the early season, although Campbell looks comfortable on the court and I believe the prize recruit Copeland will also shine in time.

III.  Upperclass Leadership:  Today junior D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (DSR), asking early and often for the ball, seemed to find his stroke just in time for the Battle4Atlantis.  It cannot be easy to live up to the expectations heaped upon him before the season even began:  Pre-Season Big East Player of the Year and prestigious All America lists.  For some, that’s a burden.  Today, DSR finished with 12 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds and while he is struggling from long-distance, today particularly he showed that he can be counted on for much needed leadership.  Senior Mikael Hopkins owned the boards with teammate Smith (10 for Hopkins today), and add Mikael’s 4 blocks and 6 points in 20 minutes, and DSR, Mikael and Jabril are the players I consider our leadership core, which Josh may join with further consistent play.

IV.  Ball Movement:  Today the team moved the ball against the RMU zone better than they have this season, and at one point it was so crisp and fast I couldn’t even find the ball!  (It resembled that SCS Hoya Shuffle game that Verizon Center fans dislike because no one ever wins). Today the Colonials experienced that same frustration as Hoya shooters were left wide open for shots, even if they didn’t always make them.  The shots will fall.

So, better “D” and all of the above make it possible that the Hoyas’ performance in Atlantis may surprise. Prominentplay will blog throughout the tourney, and will enjoy the sun and the surf only in my dreams.

No more cupcakes!

 

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Hoyas Upend the Islanders, 78-62

When I arrived at the Verizon Center tonight, I thought that there must have been an error on the scoreboard when the opponent read:  Islanders.  No, not at all, the team from Texas A&M Corpus Christi indeed reside on an island.  For at least one half the team believed they might make headlines like the unknown team FGCU did against the Hoyas a couple of years ago.  The Islanders–as the school’s website states, “Picture yourself in a tropical environment where top-notch academics and cutting-edge research are blended into a robust lifestyle. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is the only University in the nation located on its own island.”

For the first half, the Islanders reminded me of that Florida Gulf Coast team–small but pesky and with some talented outside shooters.  The Hoyas fell behind and spent the entire first half clawing their way back to a 34-34 tie at the half.  And nothing looked easy.  I wish I had been a fly on the wall in the Hoyas’ locker room at halftime, because Georgetown played with greater purpose, energy and teamwork in the second half to pull this one out, to the delight of the approximately 5000 fans at Verizon and anyone who could find Fox Sports 2 in their cable package.  Either students assumed this one would be a bore, were being diligent or cut out for Thanksgiving a week early as even the lower bowl of the arena was sparsely populated.

Takeaways:

I.  JTIII Looks for a Winning Combination:  Much of this game appeared to be a coach searching for five players who click. That goal was elusive, and may be for several games.  At times even though the Hoyas have several returning upperclassmen, it appeared that no combination worked well together or had the chemistry needed to power the Hoyas past a smaller and less talented team. However, some things worked to result in victory.

II.  Josh Smith Turned it Up a Notch:  With 20 points and 12 rebounds in 26 minutes, Josh appeared to respond to the criticism of his play against St. Francis of Brooklyn.  In what has always been expected of him since arriving at the Hilltop but seldom seen, he dominated the boards and easily tipped in points and so tonight, it was senior Smith and not freshman Peak leading the way.  Freshman LJ Peak played well again and showed why he will be an important of this team.  With ten points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds, while his shooting percentage trailed tonight, the Hoyas will continue to rely on Peak’s natural  ability to get to the hoop and score.  He is exciting to watch!

III.  Trawick and DSR Solid:  DSR seems to be finding his groove in the early going and Trawick continues to do many good things without big numbers (both had 7 points tonight, while Trawick had 5 rebbies and 4 assists).  I believe that they will be the core of this team, but they are missing ….

IV.  Markel Starks, We Miss You!:  What I have learned from the first two games is that there is a gaping hole at point guard, one that won’t be easily filled by DSR, Jabril or freshman Tre Campbell.  It will be worked out because it must, and tonight I missed Markel’s control of the court.

V.  Mikael Steadies the Ship:  Hopkins continued to demonstrate senior leadership qualities and had a solid outing with 12 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks.  I believe he can be even stronger and will need to step up, as will Josh and others, soon against the Florida’s and KU’s of the hoops world.

VI.  Tonight’s Secret Ingredient:  Aaron Bowen, AB, Sparkplug, Difference Maker.  As I tweeted early on, Get Bowen In.  For 15 minutes as the Hoyas struggled, fifth year senior Aaron Bowen sat on the bench and I wondered, “Why?”  Smith had 20 points, but Bowen brought the energy, enthusiasm, athleticism and punch that every winning team needs.  If Coach doesn’t see Bowen in the starting rotation, he should be the Hoyas’ Sixth Man and play the role that Pat Ewing Jr. played for the Final Four Team last decade.  Bowen’s stat line in 18 minutes: 13 points on 5 for 7 shooting, 3 for 4 at the foul line, 5 steals, 2 assists and 2 rebounds.  I don’t think you can afford to leave that type of production on the bench.

There is a long way to go but there is promise.  Get Bowen in earlier, keep Smith motivated and wait until DSR has that 30 point breakout game that we know will come soon.  With help from Campbell, Copeland and White and hopefully more time for Hayes and Mourning, the season is early.  Very Early.

Check out the highlight reel!  https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=839296896121336&set=vb.130171857033847&type=2&theater

 

 

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