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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Georgetown Hoyas take on St. Francis (NY) to kick off 2014-15 Campaign

This season Prominent Play will be devoted to my greatest passions, Georgetown Basketball and other Hoya sports, and the college football post-season.  Today’s article will focus on the Hoyas meeting with the Terriers at Verizon Center this past Saturday, November 15th.

The first game, regardless of the opponent, is always a great opportunity to assess the talent on the team, from the starters to the current bench players.  While the Terriers of St. Francis may be favored to win their NEC Conference, let’s face it, we weren’t playing the likes of Kansas (soon, at home), Duke or Kentucky.  However, real talent rises to the top and those who struggle show their challenges immediately.

Rising to the Top:  LJ Peak seems to be all that everyone has written home about.  He had the kind of start that brings back memories of those of Greg Monroe and others who said “Star” upon first glance.  At the same time, Peak’s star would not have risen without the backbone of talent that this year’s team will need to rely on, including our dynamic and tough guards, Devauntes Smith-Rivera aka DSR and Jabril Trawick, who will be very important to this season’s success.

An Inauspicious Start:  Joshua Smith is the kind of player every Hoya fan is rooting for.  He has taken his lumps, has his issues but as Hoya fans, we hang in and cheer him on.  However even Coach JTIII acknowledged that this was a disappointing start.  It’s my early season opinion that this team, unlike last year’s team, cannot and should not rely on its success at the hands or size of J. Smith.  Rather, we should continue to expect growth and improvement from big men Hopkins and Hayes, who I hope gets more minutes early and often.  Mikael can have a break out season and that is what this Hoya team needs from him.

Final Ruminations on the Season Opener:  I am glad that JTIII was able to get so many of his players out on the court.  Tre Campbell for one impressed me and showed that he may in fact develop into a Markel Starks-type reliable point guard as the season progresses.  Paul White, another promising freshman, looked strong, and Aaron Bowen, my personal favorite because of his athletic superiority, needs to stop taking 3s and do everything else he does well, including skying near the basket to tip in, dunk or block shots.  Copeland and Cameron should be contributors as well and I have a feeling one or both will get hot in 3 point land when we need them.  David Allen should get out there as John Caprio did and contribute to this team.  I like this team.

Favorite Moment:  Any Hoya faithful could not have missed that special moment between the offspring of two legendary Hoyas in the final minute.  Trey Mourning missed a shot, which Riyan Williams grabbed under the basket and put in for 2.  Let’s hope both Mourning and Williams see more time and let their genes shine … remember Pat Ewing Jr., the best Sixth Man in recent Hoya history?

Short of being able to provide input to the coaching staff, I will continue to write about my beloved Hoyas on these pages.  I would love to have you follow me and comment in good taste.

Laura

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The Importance of a Mascot: Farewell JJ

Today I went on a Social Media roller coaster ride.  First, the blogger Casual Hoya reported that Georgetown’s beloved mascots were gone and not returning.  That is, the dogs Jack the Bulldog, the senior retired regal mascot who has been a stalwart at basketball games and other sporting events over the past decade, and beautiful puppy turning into young adult, Jack Junior aka JJ, who was in the process of assuming Jack Senior’s official mascot duties.  Then I read The Hoya’s account, Georgetown’s oldest on campus weekly newspaper, which appeared to confirm this story and the fact that all were surprised at this sudden development.

 

My first feeling was sadness and a pit in my stomach.  For transparency, I’m a double Hoya and a dog lover, so that accounts for part of it, and the fact that I was able to spend some time getting to know JJ, and Jack, this past year.  However, I think the “pit in the stomach” feeling runs deeper and goes to the importance of a mascot to a school, to a longstanding and rich tradition at a University that thrives on tradition.  I know I’m not the only one because within minutes of learning about this development, there were posts and tweets by fans, students and alumni everywhere, in shock and disbelief, thinking this must be a cruel joke but no.

 

Then the Official Statement from the University was released, confirming this sudden and unusual development.  My first thought was for the health of the dogs, both Jack and JJ.  The official statement maintains that after 15 months on campus it has been determined by experts that JJ will do better in a “home environment”.  Jack will remain on campus and that the bulldog tradition is important to the University.  Clearly, if that is true, we want JJ to do well in the best environment. However, given my good fortune of spending some time with JJ this past year, he seemed like a very well adjusted and happy pup and very much at home on campus. In fact, I can think of few homes that could beat JJ’s now former home.

 

What does this all say to me?  Never underestimate the importance of a live mascot to a University.  He or she becomes like a family member to all in the community–faculty, staff, students, alumni, fans.  I can only hope that JJ goes to a place that is truly better for him because the alternative is too hard to bear for this alum and fan.

 

Who fires a Puppy anyway?

 

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What’s on Tap this Summer?

Stones at Verizon

Rolling Stones at Verizon Center

After the NBA and NHL seasons ended, what did you start to tune into? With so many sports to choose from and a summer filled with: MLB, MLS, international soccer/futbol tournaments, WNBA, NBA summer league and college leagues and pre-season NFL football, golf, tennis, etc. etc., the offerings are almost overwhelming. I’m interested in what you choose to follow and how you follow it. Do you go to the park or venue and take a friend or family? Do you follow on TV and avoid the costs of travel, parking, food and tickets? Is there anything exciting happening in your town, whether in the U.S. or abroad–is there a new team in town, a new player in town, something exciting going on? A new stadium or potential stadium such as the proposed new MLS stadium here in DC? What do you see as the future of MLS is the States as the Barclay’s Premier League will hit the airwaves here in a big way beginning in August? Sometimes I wonder if the offerings, even in the major metropolitan areas, are too much to draw loyal fans to fill stadiums and venues, given the costs of tickets and a night out. Clearly it’s a lot nicer when those tickets are comped/complimentary from employers or corporations. In addition to all of the great sporting events, there are great concerts coming through the country in venues large and small. As much as I am a great sports fan, I also love music and performances, and that competes with the great sporting events. I wonder if some of you also grapple with these many choices.

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Bobby V hits the road …

I love this photo.  You just get fired and what do you do–you take a bike ride through Boston.  How incredibly healthy an attitude.  Gotta respect him for this reaction.  

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Believe it or not, all of you non-Washingtonians, Teddy (Roosevelt) winning the President’s Race (an event at every Nats game) is almost–yes, almost–as exciting as heading to the playoffs. Since the Nationals (the former Montreal Expos franchise) came to D.C., fans have has a rough go of it but gradually the ownership built a winning team. In the meantime, and through the losing seasons, the team’s marketing department has entertained us with the Presidents’ Race. Let me tell you, it is much more exciting than any presidential debate. And Teddy never won–until the Nationals won its last home game of this season against the Phillies, 5-1. It almost–yes, almost–became a news story as big as the fact that WINNING baseball is back in D.C. and D.C. is heading to the post-season for the first time since 1933!!

Teddy Wins the Race!

Teddy Wins the Race!

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