Georgetown Hoyas Sweep Season Series against Marquette, in Milwaukee, 95-85 in OT

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The benefits of a deep and talented bench were never more in display than yesterday.

Nothing that happened in yesterday’s game at Marquette was quite as expected.  Starters LJ Peak and Jabril Trawick combined for a total of 15 minutes.  The Georgetown Hoyas scored a total of 95 points in 45 minutes.  The Hoyas shot 88% from the free throw line, on 28 for 32  shooting.  The team had little trouble scoring, from the free throw line, the arc (43%) and field goal range (50%).  Any commentator who continues to refer to the Georgetown offense as the “Princeton Offense” should be fired because they don’t know Jack.  The Georgetown Hoyas are so packed with talent this season, upperclass and freshmen, that students, alumni and the entire Hoya fan base could get very used to the unexpected.

At the same time, the “unexpected” is beginning to become the expected high standard of play that the Hoyas have exhibited in recent games.  From Josh Smith’s monster performance where all Steve “Wojo” Wojciechowski and his Golden Eagle squad could do to stop him was to knock him to the ground.  And Josh got right back up and sank his free throws.  To DSR continuing to run the offense and score, which every guard knows is a difficult task–yesterday, DSR scored 19 points on 5 of 10 field goals, 5 of 8 from the arc and 4 of 5 free throws, 2 critical in the final 39 seconds of OT to put the Hoyas up 91-85. Senior Mikael Hopkins, who missed all 6 free throws in the loss at Providence, is now shooting like DSR from the line, dropping 11 of 12 for a total of 13 points, 5 rebounds and a block.

Enter the Freshmen.  While the team lost LJ Peak to what we all hope is a minor injury for the game, Isaac Copeland emerged again with a 17-point performance on the heels of his game winning 3-pointer against Butler and 17 points in the rout over Villanova.  Paul White fouled out yesterday after contributing 3 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists, but Tre Campbell filled in, asserting his role on the team, playing his best minutes of the season both in handling the ball as point guard and as scorer, scoring the knock out blow 3-pointer to extend the Hoyas lead to 4 in OT, from which Marquette never recovered.  Campbell finished with 14 points on solid shooting under pressure (4-7 FG, 2-4 arc, 4-4 FT) with 4 rebounds in 28 minutes.

ProminentPlayers of the Game (Smith, Hopkins and Copeland):  Sharing the ProminentPlay Game Ball this season.  This is becoming more difficult as the season progresses and new leaders emerge.  At Marquette, the Prominent Players of the Game are seniors Josh Smith and Mikael Hopkins, and freshman Isaac Copeland.  While again this was a total team effort with six players scoring in double figures, without Josh, the target down low, the Big Man laying in “easy” points in the paint (not so easy when three players are hanging on him but he makes it look easy), the Hoyas would not have gotten the good looks outside.  Josh finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds on 6 for 8 shooting and 6 for 7 from the line, 2 assists 2 steals.  Mikael shares in this award for his stellar performance overall and at the line (11 for 12), which should be lauded and was every bit necessary to secure the W.  Isaac Copeland again stepped up when three Hoyas when down, comrades Trawick, Peak and Aaron Bowen, all of whom Hoya fans hope will be back in action for Xavier Tuesday night in a revenge matchup.  Copeland is contributing as a veteran mid-season on the road in the Big East and should be recognized for another great performance.

ProminentPlay of The Game:  Tre Campbell’s cool 3 pointer in OT to extend the Hoyas lead to 89-85 in OT.  Campbell is another freshman who stepped in yesterday to fill a void and lead his team to victory on the road.  Valuable minutes in hostile territory for freshmen Campbell and Copeland, and as some suggest and I agree, this Hoya team will go as far as its freshmen take them.  All signs to date suggest that these freshmen are dreaming big.

Lesson to Matt Carlino:  Marquette senior guard Matt Carlino made a HUGE mistake that may have ultimately cost his team any chance in OT.  Carlino, who finished with 26 points (5 from the arc) along with teammate, freshman sensation Duane Wilson, celebrated too early when he knocked down a jumper with 0.9 on the clock in regulation.  Prematurely celebrating a victory because he thought he had knocked down a three, the referees reviewed the footage to confirm that Carlino’s foot was on the line, thus ending regulation in a tie rather than a win.  If the Hoyas didn’t need any additional motivation to beat the Golden Eagles, Carlino handed it to him with his gloating.

Final Observations:

1.  Injuries:  Aaron Bowen played a fine 23 minutes with 11 points on 5 for 8 shooting, 2 assists and a steal until he was felled by an ankle injury in the second half.  Bowen again proved his worth to this team and may he get well soon as well as Peak and Trawick.  The Hoyas may be deep, but they won’t continue this streak without their full complement of players.  The bench is there for a reason, and we can’t see it depleted.

2.  “Big Men” Soar:  Neither Smith nor Hopkins were plagued by fouls yesterday, a major improvement from prior games when both big men were prone to get into early foul trouble, which ultimately hurt the team.  Only Paul White fouled out yesterday after only 20 minutes of play.

3.  #SuperFrosh Mature, a Game at a Time:  While Peak left the game with injury and White fouled out, Copeland continued to shine and Campbell was the latest of the freshman to step in at a critical time.  Everyone needs to be prepared to play on this Hoya team, and to date, it seems that they are.

4.  Next Up:  A Top 25 ranking and revenge against the the Xavier Musketeers at the Phone Booth.  While some may disagree where the Hoyas deserve to be in the national rankings after the last few victories, a Top 20 ranking is where they deserve to be.  However, others argue it doesn’t really matter where they are now but where they are at the end of the season.  Still, a Top 20 ranking (#18-19, 20) will show the Hoyas and Coach JTIII respect and it is well deserved, especially with their current 13 RPI ranking and 4 SOS in the nation.

The Georgetown Hoyas (14-5, 6-2 with sole possession of first place in conference) look to avenge an ugly loss on New Year’s Eve at Xavier and continue their winning streak at home on Tuesday evening.  After this latest run, we expect the Phone Booth to be packed with Hoya fans enjoying this late January run.

Marquette is now 10-9 overall and 2-5 in the Big East.  Perhaps after this loss, Wojo may take some solace today if his former coach and mentor Coach K is able to prevail over Big East’s St. John’s to secure his 1000th coaching win (Army, Duke).

1/25/15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hoyas Face (Another) Critical Road Test vs. Marquette Golden Eagles 1/24/15 2:30pm Fox Sports One

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“You make a grown man cry … ”  (Rolling Stones, Start Me Up)

In less than two hours from this post, the Hoyas will square up against a team that they barely beat at Verizon Center in their latest string of victories.  On January 6th, the Hoyas, playing well under their potential, prevailed in a forgettable (except for the W) 65-59 victory over the Wojo-coached (as in Duke lineage) Marquette Golden Eagles.

Since that game, the potential of the Upperclass Leadership (Trawick, DSR, Smith, Hopkins and Bowens) combined with the Coming of Age Super Frosh (Copeland, Peak, White et al) have led the Hoyas to, after a 60-57 OT (winnable) loss at Providence, three consecutive wins: the first a 78-72 win on  on the road over the “No Longer the Doormat” of the Big East DePaul Blue Demons (who have since beaten #24 Seton Hall in Newark, NJ);  the exciting final second 61-59 victory over Butler at home due to some late minute heroics of Copeland’s sharpshooting and DSR’s block; and of course, that Instant Classic, Big East “50 total fouls” Brawl and dominant win over Villanova at the Phone Booth on Monday.  The game that left Jay Wright shocked and searching for answers from the opening minutes until well after the final buzzer sounded.

So, The Question is:  Which Hoya Team will Show Up at Marquette Today?  The Team that struggled mightily on the road against Xavier on New Year’s Eve and performed poorly at Providence, or the more complete Hoya team that fans have seen against DePaul and Villanova?

I predict that if the Hoyas stay cool, focused and within themselves, continuing to move and share the ball well, hit the boards, play ferocious defense and forget they are in enemy territory, they will win a critical road game today in the Big East.  But isn’t every road game critical from this point forward?  Close but a 71-66 5-point victory.

With a 3-way tie at the top of conference standings this morning each at 5-2 (Providence, Georgetown and DePaul) and a solid national ranking on the line after the Villanova blowout, the Hoyas should be motivated to demonstrate that Monday night was no fluke.

NB:  Aaron Bowen played only 5 minutes tonight in DC, not enough time to do much of anything.  Will he see more time today?

We shall know The Answer/s soon.  

 

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Hoyas Dominate Longtime Big East Foe Villanova for Impressive Statement Win, 78-58

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1985.

That was decades ago, and none of the current Hoya players were even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes.  However, I guarantee you that when you say “Villanova”, the overwhelming majority of Hoya fans 30 years and older still feel that dagger in the heart when the National Championship that belonged to the Hoyas was stripped from them because of an act of divine providence bestowed on Rollie, Pinkney, Jensen, McClain et al on April 1, 1985.  (Yes, April Fool’s Day, sports historians)

Fast forward to 2013, when the Big East was reconstituted due to business a/k/a financial purposes (greed?) and some predicted the Conference’s demise and irrelevance.  Not so fast, Charlie. Last night at the Verizon Center the Georgetown Hoyas and Villanova Wildcats engaged in a Big East Brawl of the Highest Order and the Hoyas showed the college hoops world that not only is the Big East still relevant and exciting, but that the Georgetown Hoyas may be in the midst of a 21st Century Renaissance.  The Hoyas started red hot at both ends of the court and played their best first half and complete game of the season, smothered the Villanova offense (averaging before the game 76 points), led by as many as 26 points in the first half and dominated the entire game except for a portion of the second half when Villanova attempted a comeback, coming as close as 12 points with 8 minutes 2 seconds remaining.  The Hoyas then countered with six consecutive points to shut down the Cats’ hopes and freshman sensation Copeland capped that run with a jumper and added a pair of free throws moments later to extend the lead to 70-53.

The Hoyas made a strong statement about both the conference and the state of Georgetown basketball.  From its upperclass leadership to the freshmen coming of age quickly, for one night in Washington, D.C., Jay Wright and his team were humbled and have to regroup after reaching #4 in the national rankings just hours before tipoff.  Villanova’s only loss of the season before last night’s bout (and rout) was a 66-61 OT loss at Seton Hall on January 3rd and the Wildcats had rolled over most of its opponents but had not played the tough pre-conference schedule of the Hoyas (Florida, Wisconsin, Kansas, Indiana).

And a Bout it Was.  With a total of  Fifty One (51)  fouls committed in the game, this was quintessential Big East Basketball not for the faint of heart where Georgetown senior leader Jabril Trawick received what appeared to be a knockout blow with a Wildcat player’s backward fist to the eye (no foul called) ,and returned to the game to continue to lead his team to its 2014-15 season Signature Win to date.  In one memorable night and instant classic, the Hoyas dismantled the Nova Aura and claimed sole possession of first place in the Big East, 13-5 overall, and 5-2 in conference.  The Wildcats are now 17-2 and 4-2.

ProminentPlay Game Ball.  It is impossible to name a ProminentPlayer of this game because this was a team effort that showcased both the Hoya upperclassmen and the Super Freshmen, including forward Copeland, whose stock is steadily rising and last night he proved why he was the Hoyas’ highest ranked 2014 recruit.  On a big stage, with the college hoops world watching (on Fox Sports One :-)), the Hoyas-Nova battle upstaged the Duke-Big East Dropout Pitt on rival network ESPN.  What would you rather see, Coach K’s march to a milestone victory or a Big East Brawl?  (No need to answer, understood)

Copeland and junior guard DSR led the Hoyas in scoring, with 17 points each, but that tells only a fraction of the story.  Copeland’s 17 was a career high, and it came on the heels of his late game heroics, a three-pointer with 5.4 seconds to play to beat Butler.

Senior guard and captain Trawick again played with a determination always a notch above the rest.  Steely, tough and overcoming a blow to the head/eye, Trawick finished with 10 points and four steals, two boards and two blocks and spearheaded a Hoya defense that forced 17 Villanova turnovers leading to 24 Hoya points.  The generally prolific Wildcat scoring machine was limited to 27%  (6-for-22) in the first half and never could fully recover.

Also worthy of mention:  Josh Smith’s 9 point, 8 rebound performance in 24 minutes;  Mikael Hopkins’ continued critical defensive contributions;  freshman LJ Peak’s 8 points and confident drives to the hoop.  DSR did not have his best shooting game from field goal range but hit a couple of critical three-pointers and went an all-important 9 for 10 from the line.  Aaron Bowen added spark, 5 points and 3 boards, but needs to stop fouling guys who are taking three point shots, especially those who can make their free throws.

Freshman Paul White, quieter than classmate Copeland last night but no less effective, finished with 9 points in 17 minutes on near perfect shooting.  The only Wildcats who finished in double figures were dangerous  junior guard Ryan Arcidiacano, who scored most of those points (4 for 6 from the arc) when the game was out of reach and reseve guard Josh Hart (1o points).

ProminentPlay of the Game:  Again, too many to name but I will elevate Copeland’s one-handed dunk off Mikael Hopkins’s missed layup, and Trawick’s monster block of  Hart after he returned to the game post-injury.

So, in deference to the fact that every Hoya player contributed to this victory, including Riyan Williams and David Allen in the final minute, the ProminentPlay Game Ball goes to … drumroll … the Georgetown University Men’s Basketball Coaching Staff!  With continued rumblings among some Hoya faithful about alleged shortcomings of Coach JTIII’s coaching ability, there is NO DOUBT that JTIII and his staff fully prepared their entire team for this game AND when the going was rough in the second half, coached the team from some worrisome minutes to a 20-point victory.  For those reasons, JTIII and Staff earn the ProminentPlay Game Ball.

Understatement of the Night:  “They didn’t have their best night.” (JTIII, about the Villanova squad).  Paraphrased more accurately, Georgetown had its best night in years.

Youthful Wisdom:  “They always say defense translates to offense, so obviously we kept them from scoring baskets, and we got open shots on our end … That’s how it worked out.” (Sir Isaac Copeland)

Hoyas Shooting Percentage:  Prior to the game I tweeted that to win, the Hoyas needed to shoot at least 55% from field goal range, 35% from the arc and 75% from the free throw line. Final percentages were 51%, 50% and 72%.  This was in stark contrast to Nova’s 34%, 30% and 71.9%.  My prediction didn’t account for the Hoyas’ swarming defense that left the Wildcats wishing they had stayed in Philadelphia.

1985.  No, young scholars born in and after 1990, that isn’t a typo–I’m not referencing George Orwell’s classic political and science fiction novel.  I’m talking, not about “practice”, but about National Championships and One That Got Away.  Georgetown alumni, students and fans are generally a serious crowd.  At a Jesuit school whose motto includes “Women and Men in Service to Others”, occasionally Hoya fans need to let loose and serve themselves.  Students, if fortunate, spend only 4 years in college, and these students have not witnessed a Signature Win of the magnitude of a 2007 NCAA victory over UNC on the Road to the Final Four, an outright Big East tournament victory (last one 2007, Jeff Green MVP) or the 2006 victory of an unranked Hoyas team over #1, 17-0 Duke Blue Devils.  I would cut the students some slack for last night’s Court Storming.  This is release for following a program that has disappointed in the post-season in recent years.  A complete victory like the one last night provides hope that yes, Virginia, we may be witnessing and participating in a 21st Century Hoya Hoops Renaissance.

Next Up for the Hoyas:  At Marquette on Saturday in Milwaukee for the season sweep, and two of the next three on the road.  Now and forever a target, the Hoyas, Coach and Team, needs to translate its success to where it has stumbled most often, on the road.

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Georgetown Hoyas Avenge Early Season Loss to Butler With Late Game Heroics, 61-59

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-Butler vs Georgetown

This time the Butler couldn’t do it.

Before nearly 15,000 fans in a “Gray Out” Saturday afternoon showdown at Verizon Center aka The Phone Booth, the Hoyas came out of the gates cold and fell behind early. Eventually it was the cool freshman with icewater in his veins, Isaac Copeland, who hit the final go ahead shot, a 3-pointer with 5.4 seconds left in the game to put this one in the win column and see the Hoyas advance to second in the Big East standings behind Villanova, currently #5 in the nation and 4-1 in conference.  Next up for the Hoyas:  the Villanova Wildcats on Monday night in a 9pm game.

The Hoyas prevailed in spite of a career high 28 points from Butler Bulldog’s junior forward Roosevelt Jones, whom the Hoyas could not stop for much of the game.  Jones had his way with the Hoyas all day, scoring mostly in the paint without much opposition.  The Hoyas countered that by playing team team ball, with limited turnovers, and making 75% of their free throws. Georgetown gutted out this victory with some late game heroics from several players, including senior guard Jabril Trawick, who played this game as if his life depended on it and at one critical point grabbed a steal and called a time out while on the floor to secure control of the ball;  freshman forward Copeland, who scored 10 critical points on high percentage shooting;  junior guard DSR, making the defensive play of the game, when he blocked Roosevelt Jones’ last second drive that could have tied the game.  DSR also led the team with 14 points.  Last but not least, credit the Entire Hoya Team for hitting free throws when they counted.  In the loss to Butler in Atlantis, the Hoyas shot 50% from the free throw line, committed 15 turnovers and could not make the big plays when they counted.  Two months makes a difference for a young Hoya team, and also credit the home environment and support as well.  It seems that Hoya fans may be growing a bit more passionate as they see the talent and potential on this team, and the players seem to feed off the energy, cheers for the Hoyas and noise to rattle their opponents.  Georgetown is now 12-5 overall and 4-2 in the Big East and Butler, 13-6 and 3-3.

Game Observations and Awards:

1.  Butler Vulnerabilities:  The Butler sharpshooting guard Kellen Dunham started hot, with 13 points in the first half, but the Hoya defense stifled him in the second half and he finished with 13.  That left the game on the shoulders of Jones, who nearly singlehandedly pulled this one off for Butler.  On Saturday the balanced team play and scoring of the Hoyas trumped Jones’ heroics. Coach JTIII and staff must have a better plan to stop Jones before their conference rematch in Indianapolis.

2.  Hoya Improvement:  While the initial minutes led fans to believe they were witness to a Xavier- or Providence game-like effort, as the Hoyas could not hit a short jumper or drop any easy points in the paint for a long stretch, the team eventually pulled it together, played strong D, made the plays that counted and showed improvement from the game in Atlantis.  Specifically, at the free throw line (75% Saturday vs 50% in Atlantis), in turnovers (9 on Saturday, 15 in Atlantis), and in mental focus (e.g., Jabril’s steal, Mikael’s emphatic block of a Jones shot, DSR’s block and Copeland nailing the critical J), the Hoyas showed what a difference two months can make in a team’s growth.

3.  Limited Minutes for Paul White:  One of the Hoyas’ better shooters, freshman forward White was on the floor in the first half but saw limited minutes in the second, perhaps because the combination of Copeland and Bowen was working better on both ends of the floor.  Still, a bit of a mystery because White had a strong game against Butler in the Bahamas (16 points).

4.  ProminentPlay Game Ball Goes to:  Isaac Copeland and Jabril Trawick (Shared).  Each in his own way willed the team to victory, Copeland by his timely points and good judgment, and Trawick, for continuing to be quietly monstrous in his role as leader on this team, creating plays where there are done, driving to the hoop for points or fouls turning into points, determined defense and unselfish play.  Trawick scored six straight points to hand Georgetown  a 37-36 lead and Copeland followed with the Hoyas’ next seven to make it 44-38 with 12:38 left.  Jones’ layup gave Butler its final lead with 12 seconds left until Copeland immediately followed with his game winning 3-pointer. Trawick finished with 10 points.

5.  ProminentPlay Single Play of the Game:  DSR’s block of Jones’s last minute shot.

6.  Question:  Does some of the Josh Smith substitution in and out of the game disrupt the Hoyas’ offensive flow?  I’m concerned about this because although Smith is stronger on offense, I think too much substitution can upset a team’s rhythm and flow.  Smith had 10 points on Saturday.

This was a great victory and exciting game and while the Hoyas should try to avoid early double digit deficits as the one today–they cannot afford that against Villa-No-Fun–kudos to the Hoyas for the #2 ranking in the Big East today.  However, the conference season is young and there is much more work to be done, starting on Monday with ‘Nova.  The Hoyas have already flirted with upsets of Wisconsin and Kansas, and have taken down once ranked Florida and a rising Hoosier team.  IF the Hoyas bring out their “A Game” in what promises to be a packed if not sold out Phone Booth on Monday night, they have every reason to believe they can beat Well Dressed Wright, slick Arcidiacano et al.  

The Answer lies within:  Leadership, Confidence, Passion.

Postscript:  Jack the Bulldog and Butler Blue III have developed a nice friendship over the past couple of seasons, but all bets are that Jack had the better time at Bulldog Tavern on campus Saturday night!  

 

 

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Hoyas: It’s the Butler, Again

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The Hoyas are coming off of one of their most complete games, a road win at DePaul on Tuesday night, and now have the opportunity to avenge their loss to Big East foe, Butler, in late November’s Battle4Atlantis.  In that game, the Big East conference foes faced each other only because at the time each team signed onto Atlantis, they were not conference foes.  So it was an unusual matchup in that talent-packed holiday tournament.

While Jack the Bulldog and Butler Blue III have been all chummy in the past few days, cruising around campus and about town, drinking beer at Georgetown’s Bulldog Tavern and catching up on their respective studies, these Dawgs will be all business when they get on the court at the Phone Booth Saturday afternoon.  For at least 40 minutes, all Drools will be Suspended and they will Bare their Teeth and Growl as they play for a serious prize: one team will be 4-2 in early conference play and climb the standings while the other will fall to 3-3.

The Hoyas have improved considerably since the 64-58 loss to Butler in the Bahamas, where the teams played for the third place consolation game in a crowded field of ranked teams, many of whom will likely be playing well into March and some perhaps beyond.  The Hoyas, young and sloppy, virtually handed the game to Butler. Up until that contest, the Hoyas had won all of the previous meetings (4) between the teams, including last season’s home and away games. The Hoyas will look to start a new winning streak against the Bulldogs tomorrow.

Butler has surprised this season, currently 13-5 overall and 3-2 in league play.  After struggling last season, few expected Butler, with its second new (interim) coach in two seasons after Brad Stevens bailed to the Celtics, to be vying for one of the top spots in the Big East.  However, they have the talent to accomplish that, and the Hoyas will have to stop the likes of leading scorer and 3-point specialist junior guard Kellen Dunham, junior forward Roosevelt Jones and experienced senior guard Alex Barlow.

The Hoyas’ Problems in Atlantis vs Butler:

1. Turnovers: The Hoyas committed 14 turnovers to Butler’s 10, and Butler capitalized by scoring points off of Hoya mistakes.

2. Free throws:  The Hoyas shot 50% from the line while Butler shot 75%.  The Hoyas have learned since then that games are won and lost there, at the line.

3. Major mental lapses: As we have seen in subsequent games (especially Providence, most recently), when the Hoyas are off, they commit sloppy errors, don’t handle the ball well, and have poor judgment and time management.  In the Bahamas, 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 virtual uncontested layup drills for 4 points.

While the Battle4Atlantis was a grueling tournament where the Hoyas played tough consecutive games against Florida (W), Wisconsin (close L), and Butler (L), that was no excuse. Butler was in a similar position having beaten UNC, lost to Oklahoma then faced Georgetown in the same time frame. Yet good things happened in that tournament that have carried over into the season, including strong play from freshmen “Sir Isaac” (my nickname) Copeland, Paul White and LJ Peak. Copeland and White scored 16 and 13 points respectively, against Butler, and should see a lot of action tomorrow.  With the upperclassmen carrying their load, continued focus and what appears to be a developing team chemistry, the Hoyas should have this–by 7 points–and beers should be on Butler Blue III at the Bulldog Tavern on Saturday night!

 

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In a Team Effort Led By D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (DSR), The Hoyas Battle DePaul for a 78-72 Critical Road Win

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This is a game Hoya fans have been waiting for.  It was not perfect by any measure but was what each Big East game has come to be.  A battle, relentless, bodies strewn on the court chasing loose balls.  Several fouls against the Hoyas left uncalled.  The Hoyas and their Coach JTIII and staff have to be proud about what they accomplished in enemy territory to what a team needs to do on the road in the Big East–get the W.  The much improved Hoyas played as a unit with passion, confidence and leadership, starting with the junior, DSR, who has demonstrated that he has much more to prove as a Hoya and endeavors to lead his team to greater success this season, one game at a time.

DSR led all scorers on Tuesday night with 25 points, including some timely and effective free throw shooting at the end of the game (6 of 8 in the final minute), when DePaul’s only chance was to foul the Hoyas and hope their ineptitude at the line in the Providence contest would carry over to Chicago.  DSR is finding his game as the 2 to 1 guard and relocating his touch, going 6 for 14 from the field, 3 for 6 from the arc and 10 for 13 from the line.

No chance of a repeat Providence performance last night as the Hoyas were red hot at the line, shooting a team 81.3%.  The Hoyas finished 50% from the field and 40% from the 3-point line, that and good D will get you some wins in the Big East.  Even Mikael Hopkins, who missed 6 of 6 at the line in Providence, hit a critical 5 of 6  before he fouled out, showing a beautiful stroke that should lead him through the rest of the season.  :-)  To say the game was won at the line (as some suggest Providence was lost at the line) is a fair statement.

There were many factors that distinguished this game from prior contests this season:

1.  Strong Team Play and Decisiveness:  Whether in the fast-paced, high percentage shooting first half or in the second half when the Hoyas were forced to battle back after slipping behind, this game should be noted for strong leadership, a team effort and good decision-making and handling of the rock (only 9 turnovers).  Unusual for the Hoyas, the team surged in the second half to come from behind, lead by solid team play, strong D, steals and conversions, as well as a stellar team performance at the free throw line. There was little to none of that hesitation and lost look by players of ‘what to do with the ball’ that marred the ugly loss at Providence and other games where the Hoyas either couldn’t hold on or rally for the lead despite the talent on the floor. Against DePaul the Hoya contingent of talent, current and future, was on full display and working well together.

2.  Solid Upperclass Leadership:  Along with DSR, senior Jabril Trawick led the Hoyas to its 11th win of the season, now 3-2 on the Big East with that first critical road win on its resume.  Trawick had 11 points and scored all of those points in the first half, and the   Hoyas led at the halftime break, 44-39.  Senior Josh Smith contributed 8 points, 4 boards, 3 assists and 3 blocks, all in 24 minutes, on high percentage shooting. Senior “Tailor Made for Highlight Reel AB” Aaron Bowen, again played a pivotal and effective game in only 13 minutes, coming off the bench to add 6 points on 3 for 4 shooting with 3 rebounds and a spectacular winding move to the hoop.  Hopkins excelled at the line, going 5 for 6, finishing with 7 points, 2 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block in 26 minutes.

3.  Free Throws, Free Throws, Free Throws (“Because They’re Free”):  One of the most inconsistent aspects of the Hoyas game has been from the free throw line.  For one night in Chicago the Hoyas fixed that problem and converted on 26 of 32 from the line.  At 81.3%, still likely not as good as their final academic exam scores.

4.  Bring On the Freshmen!:  What makes this Hoya team so exciting and sets them apart from recent teams is this crop of freshmen who all can and do offer something special to this team.  While the Hoyas were playing in Paul White’s hometown, near his Whitney Young High School and family supporters, tonight’s ProminentPlay Freshman Performance Award goes to Isaac, that is “Sir Issac” Copeland.  All frosh contributed, from LJ Peak, who finished with 8 points on solid shooting, 3 rebounds, a block and a steal, to Tre Cambell, draining a 3 when it counted, to White.  Last night fans witnesses the true promise of Sir Isaac and flashes of why he was the most highly regarded freshman recruit among this special group.  Eight points on 2 for 3 from the field, 1 for 2 from 3, and 3 for 3 from the line, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks in 20 minutes as a reserve.  We haven’t even seen the likes of Mr. Trey “I love leaves and the change of seasons” Mourning and whether that occurs this season or next, we are looking forward to seeing more from Trey with a “y”.  With these freshmen, we can be surprised any night depending on which first year Hoya steps up.  Sir Isaac caught our eye last night!

5.  DePaul No Longer a Doormat?:  The Hoyas accomplished all of this against a worthy opponent.  DePaul is a talented team, once the doormat or in the bottom 4 of the former massive Big East, who may or may not stumble after this loss.  DePaul was led by junior forward Myke Henry, who could not miss early on and finished with 17 points.  Talented sophomore guard Billy Garrett Jr. had 16 points and was virtually flawless at the line and two other Blue Demon playes finished in double figures–Jamee Crockett with 12, and Aaron Simpson with 11.  After Georgetown took a 5-point lead to the break, the Blue Demons used a 14-5 second-half run to fuel a 49-47 lead.  With 12 lead changes and 12 ties, the Hoyas finally grabbed the momentum with some aggressive play, steals and conversions and after making seven straight free throws and a DSR layup and jumper, led 70-60 with 3:42 left. The rest of the game was a battle between the Blue Demon outside shooting and Hoya fight, might and free throws, with the Hoyas not allowing this one to slip from their grasp despite DePaul getting as close as 4 in the final few minutes.

This is a great game and confidence builder to lead into the Hoyas’ weekend homestand, facing Butler (currently 4th in the Big East standings ahead of the Hoyas) at 5pm on Saturday 1/17 and then hosting #5 in the land Villanova on Monday, January 19th, 9pm at the Phone Booth.  If the Hoyas are ready to dig in and make a move in the conference and among the nation’s powerhouses, this would be an opportune time, at home, with a Gray Out on Saturday followed by a contest against its currently most detested opponent in the Big East, Villanova, on Monday night.  When the Big East bid adieu to ‘Cuse and Notre Dame, that left ‘Nova as the rival that Hoya fans should love to hate and to unseat on the top of the Big East standings.

Hoya Saxa!

 

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Hoyas Look to Right Ship Travel in Chi-Town against DePaul Blue Demons on Tuesday Night, 1-13-15

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It’s way too early to panic.  But a win on the road would be welcomed for the Road-Challenged Georgetown Hoyas, who, like many Big East teams, are finding it extremely difficult to get a win on the road in this conference.  The way the Hoyas have been playing, both on the road and at home, they will have to step up their game considerably tonight to put this one away.

The Hoyas, 10-5, 2-2 in the Big East, lost a clunker to Xavier on New Year’s Eve, then dropped yet another road game at Providence, in a classic matchup between two Big East founding teams.  In a game that most commentators viewed as winnable, the Hoyas couldn’t find their shot or even attack the Friars’ zone to get many good looks.  To add insult to injury, they flunked their est at the critical foul line, shooting 11 for 20.  Mikael Hopkins was responsible for 6 of those misses, going 0 for 6 at the stripe.

It won’t be good enough in these league for post-season hopes to lose all away games, even if counting on winning all home games, which is tough to do when you have the likes of Villanova #8 visiting next week.  The Hoyas are going to have to find ways to win on the road and the coaches are going to have to find the right combination of players to both score and defend, and that has been part of the problem, though not the entire problem, this season.  The team had not yet found a consistent rhythm, nor has a leader emerged to take over when the game is on the line.  The team looked downright lost in Providence and clock management was poor when the team needed points.

DePaul, on the other hand, has been the perennial doormat of the Big East in recent seasons.  While 9-8 overall, the team is 3-1 in conference this season, having beaten Marquette and Xavier at home and Creighton on the road before falling to league leader Villanova 81-64.  Before dropping six consecutive games in December, DePaul soundly beat PAC12 Stanford by 15 points.

The Hoyas need to approach every game in this conference with urgency, including tonight’s, if they have goals beyond the conference season.

 

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Hoyas Struggle on Road, Losing Winnable Game at Providence in OT, 60-57

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It was as Ugly as Ugly gets in the Big East. Bricks flying in all directions, missed layups, missed free throws, 15 Georgetown turnovers (to Providence’s 8) and 42 total fouls (23 Hoyas, 19 Friars).  However, there is not one single statistic that can explain how the Hoyas let this one slip away on the road on Saturday afternoon.  With victories on the road in very short supply in the Big East, the Hoyas can’t afford to leave winnable games on the table if their goal is a happier ending at the end of the season, whatever that goal–a winning season in the Big East or something better.

Some might like to point to Mikael Hopkins’ 4 consecutive free throws at the end of the game (and 0 for 6 for the game) as a reason for the loss.  The Hoyas overall 55% free throw percentage.  Or Hopkins’ two goaltending calls to lead to 4 points for the Friars. But Mikael cannot be singled out to blame.  Neither can DSR for a last second shot clock 3-pointer heaved from Mars.  Nor can Paul White for fumbling the ball after receiving a pass from DSR in what could have been a last second winning 3-point shot in OT when he didn’t have a prayer to get the shot off with a few seconds left as he was well covered by the D.  We also can point to a worthy opponent, the Providence Friars, but my eyes tell me that the Hoya team has the greater talent, with perhaps the exception of forward LaDontae Henton, whom Fox Sports 1 informs us “hates to lose”.

The Game:  In a nutshell, this was a nip and tuck, sloppy contest from start to finish.  The Hoyas started the game with a missed free throw (DSR), two turnovers and soon were down 9-3.  In typical Hoya fashion, the team fought back yet ended the first half with their lowest point total of the season, behind 23-21 at the half, and with Georgetown Big Men Smith and Hopkins in foul trouble, again.

Fortunately, the Providence Friars were equally as flat. There wasn’t much improvement in the second half, with the exception of Hoyas getting the majority of their points from Smith, another double double, 14 points and 12 rebounds in 21 minutes, amounting to less than half of this OT game;  DSR had 15 points and Paul White, who came off the bench early in the first half and started the second half, finished with 11.  Some have to imagine what the Hoyas could be if their Big Man could play 30 minutes or more.

Georgetown Production (or lack thereof):  The Hoyas were led by Smith and DSR offensively, but this was no offensive juggernaut.  The other 3 Georgetown starters, Hopkins, Trawick and Peak, struggled offensively, and while Peak continues to show promise, what the Hoyas need are points.  Enter Paul White, perhaps the most pure, natural shooter on the Hoya squad.  The most positive development of the day was the overall play of White, who did many good things, including hitting a critical jumper coming into overtime to give Georgetown a 52-50 lead and finished the game with 11 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists (and 4 turnovers).

Freshman Isaac Copeland grabbed 4 boards in 10 minutes of play and little else, Tre Campbell saw 10 minutes and hit one timely three, and Aaron Bowen played 11 largely unnoticeable minutes, mainly because the team never really got him into the flow.  Georgetown finished with a total of 8 assists, and that won’t generate much scoring on any day.  Even Bradley Hayes saw minutes today (7), scoring 2 and managing 2 fouls in such brief time on court to fill in for the foul plagued Smith and Hopkins.  The Hoyas finished the game with a 37% field goal, 23% 3-point and 55% free throw percentage, 11 of 20.  That won’t get you many wins in any conference, much less the one with the highest team RPI in the nation.  Why the Hoyas were in the game is that Providence was even less accurate in the first 2 categories (32 and 20%, respectively) yet hit 70% of their free throws.

The Friars’ Effort:  The Friars were led by potential Big East player of the year candidate LaDontae Henton, who scored 19 points, and guard Kris Dunn, who scored eight of his 14 in overtime to lead the Friars to victory.  Dunn also had nine assists and three steals for the Friars, who are now 3-1 in the Big East and 13-4 overall. The Hoyas are now 10-5 and 2-2 in the Big East.

Let’s Start with the Problem:  The Problem for the Hoyas against Providence, and so far this season, is deeper–a failure of strategy, and/or execution, when the game is on the line, or at that critical juncture when the play leads to a win–or a loss.  What name to give that Problem, a lack of leadership, confidence, passion, is still percolating in my keyboard.  I lean towards something that is a combination of all of the above.

A.  Leadership:  Who Wants the Ball and Who Can Be Effective?  To use a famous quote from the Law, like pornography, everyone knows Leadership when they see it.  (Justice Potter Stewart)  It’s unmistakeable, it’s either there or not and today for long stretches, the Hoyas again looked lost and leaderless and fans were/are waiting for someone to step up.  Hence, when I saw the flashes of brilliance from freshman Paul White, attacking the zone effectively, looks like a current and future leader of this team.  No one knows any team that has experienced success without that fearless leader.  Let’s start with the Hoyas, past and present.  Patrick Ewing.  Sleepy Floyd. Reggie Williams. Alonzo Mourning.  Fast forward:  Jeff Green.  Jonathan Wallace.  Greg Monroe.  Otto Porter.  Whether it starts with the five coaches and is instilled or whether it is instinctive, it is currently lacking.

B.  Confidence:  “I Have the Ball and Can Get the Job Done”  An essential element of leadership is the desire and confidence to get the job done.  At times today with the Hoyas’ inability to crack the Friars’ zone, they were stymied and stalled and appeared lost and without confidence to lead the team to victory.  Taught, natural or a combination, fans are waiting for that player to say “I’m The One”, “Give Me the Ball” and those exhibiting this quality today more than others were White and Smith.

C.  Passion:  “I Love this Game, My Team, My Coach, My School and Fans, and I Want, Even Need, to Win, or Hate to Lose”  More than anything I think the Hoyas are in need of a heavy does of passion.  Where that comes from, the top, team chemistry, a parent, a mentor or peer, Hoya fans who have been following through the decades, and remember the ’80s and ’90s, and even 2007 and moments since then, are awaiting the passion of cheering from the bench, a coach or coaches who inspire and are dissatisfied with the outcome such as today’s.  Alumni and fans play a key role too.  No doubt all of these players want to win, but who will ignite the passion?  Players such as Trawick and Bowen have been the closest to showing the passion, but the sparks aren’t igniting the team.

It doesn’t get easier from here for the Hoyas.  Next stop Chicago, a 9pm game at DePaul on Tuesday night 1/13.  DePaul finally lost its first game in the Big East, 81-64 today at Villanova.  The DePaul contest is followed by two home games:  the first against  Butler, who beat the Hoyas in the Battle4Atlantis consolation round, and the next to league leading and #8 in the nation ‘Nova Wildcats.

The questions remain?

A.  Who is the leader or leaders for this Hoya team?

B.  Where is the confidence?

C.  Do you have the passion?

Hoya fans eagerly await the answers to these questions and more.

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Welcome Akoy Agau to the Hoyas: What to Expect?

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Reports started circulating earlier this week that 6’8″ power forward Akoy Agau, a Top 100 Recruit in the Class of 2013, would be transferring from Louisville to Georgetown.  Unable to crack into the lineup of Louisville Big Men, Agau chose Georgetown over at least Marquette and Nebraska, hoping to  gain some playing time for the Hoyas after they lose experienced bigs Josh Smith and Mikael Hopkins after this season.

Akoy was once a Georgetown recruiting target and yet chose Coach Pitino and Louisville over the Hoyas–then.  Hoya fans can forgive that mistake, and perhaps it wasn’t such a mistake for Agau.  Who knows whether he would have cracked into the Georgetown lineup these past two seasons, although last season would have been more likely than this season, as the Hoyas are much deeper.

Agau has seen little playing time for the Cardinals, and averaged just 0.9 points and 1.1 rebounds last season, and has seen a total of 11 minutes in three games this season.

Because of the time of transfer, Agau is expected to be eligible to play after the first semester next season, and will have at least two seasons left to play for the Hoyas.  He will also meet new competition next season on the Hilltop as four-star post players Jessie Govan and Marcus Derrickson will join the team at that time.

For now, we’ll say Welcome to Akoy Agau and wish him the best in his new home in the tough Big East.

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Georgetown Hoyas Escape with 65-59 Victory over Pesky Marquette Squad, on Shoulders of Josh Smith and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera

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Hoya fans cannot deny these truisms:

1.  There will not be an easy game in the Big East. 

2.  Josh Smith is very important to this team.

Tonight’s ProminentPlay Game Ball goes to senior center Josh Smith, who was sorely missed when he was not on the floor tonight, and who played huge down the stretch, including knocking down critical free throws (4 for 4, perfect from the line) when his team needed them most.  Smith’s double double (12 points, 10 boards) led Georgetown to its second conference win, against the Marquette Golden Eagles.  Smith’s layup with a 4:03 to play in the game ended a 15-minute spell without a Hoya field goal.  For some Hoya Hoops History, last time first year Marquette coach Steve “Wojo” Wojciechowski’s team played the Hoyas in D.C., he was the Duke assistant coach on January 30, 2010, when the 7th ranked Hoyas beat the 8th ranked Blue Devils, 89-77 before the Commander in Chief and a full house (20,000).  Prior to that, notably on January 21, 2006, the unranked Hoyas rocked the college basketball world and Verizon Center by shocking the 17-0 #1 ranked Blue Devils 87-84 despite a 41-point performance by JJ Redick. Perhaps someday Wojo’s fortunes will change;  Hoya fans hope not.

Wojo’s losing streak against the Hoyas continues in Washington, D.C.  Marquette’s attack was led by senior guard Steve Carlino and sophomore center Luke Fischer, but in the end the Hoyas managed to hold onto its slim lead and sink free throws despite some late game attempted heroics by Carlino, who went coast to coast for 2 uncontested layups in the final minutes.  Carlino finished with 16 points but was cold from beyond the arc (2 for 8). Fischer battled foul trouble, was 6 for 6 from the field and finished with 13 points for the Golden Eagles (9-6, 1-2).

There are two ways to look at the Hoyas offense tonight:  balanced scoring or ineffective. The steadying force tonight was Smith in a poor shooting effort but hotly contested matchup.  In a game when it was never clear where the Hoyas would find their points and at times, especially in the second half, where the offense nearly shut down, it was the Hoya center who took the game into his strong hands and put the team on his back.

ProminentPlay of the Game:  While Josh gets the Game Ball, DSR earns the ProminentPlay (that is, “single play” award).  (As blogger, I will add awards as I see fit through the season).   Leading 42-31 early in the second half, Hoya fans thought for a few seconds that this might be more of a “relaxing” game.  Not a chance.  In the subsequent 15-minute stretch Georgetown scored only one field goal and allowed Marquette back into the game until they cut the lead to one.  Hoya junior guard and Big East Preseason Player of the Year D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (DSR) made the shot that stopped the slide and nailed a short jumper with 1:10 to go in the game.  DSR then made 5 of 6 free throws in the final 30 seconds as the Hoyas escaped with the win.  DSR finished with 15 points on 4-for-10 field goal shooting, and 2 for 7 from 3-point range. Senior guard Jabril Trawick added 13 points with 8 of his points coming from the free throw line (8 for 9).  In a solid game aside from a poor shot or two, Mikael Hopkins added 8 points but what was most spectacular were his 4 blocked shots.  I could watch Hopkins swat shots all day, it’s a thing of beauty.

Puzzling:  Aaron Bowen played only 5 minutes tonight, not enough time to do much of anything.  

The 10-4 Hoyas now have their first winning streak in conference play, having won two at home (Creighton and Marquette) after losing at Xavier in the Big East season opener. The Real Test now comes as the Hoyas hit the road again, facing Providence then DePaul.  Experience is critical in this league, and while the Hoyas will continue to need solid efforts from its freshmen contingent, the SuperFrosh were not a factor in Tuesday night’s victory.  LJ Peak finished with 12 points on decent shooting and hit two critical free throws as the Hoyas showed that the 6am free throw practices are starting to pay off.  (Honestly, I don’t know at what hour they are practicing free throws but they made them when it counted).  In some games freshmen exhibit the “promise to come” and on other nights they exhibit their chronological age, and tonight represented the latter, “the freshman are human” nights.  However, turnovers and poor judgment were not solely limited to just freshmen (Peak had 4, Smith, SR and Hopkins had 2 each).

You Gotta Make Free Throws ‘Cause They’re Free (Otto Porter Wisdom):  Georgetown made 21 of 24 free throws in the second half, to overcome a subpar field goal and 3 point shooting effort (in the second half, 30% from field; 0 for 6 from the arc).  Context of Wisdom:  After Georgetown beat Rutgers 64-51 on March 2, 2013 and Otto attempted 15 free throws, he stated, “When you can get to the hole and get fouled and shoot free throws — they’re free… You want to shoot free throws.” Overall tonight the Hoyas shot 40% from the field, 22% from the 3-point line and 82% from the charity stripe. 

Turnover Conversion Rate and Rebounding Edge:  Each team had 15 turnovers, as the Hoyas continue to struggle in this category;  however, the Hoyas converted the Golden Eagle errors into 19 points as compared with Marquette’s 10.  The Hoyas also had the rebounding edge with 32 boards (of which Smith had 10) to Marquette’s 26.

Why was Trey Mourning Not in Uniform Tonight?  Social media was lighting up and Hoya fans were all atwitter about Trey’s not suiting up for tonight’s game.  I knew it had nothing to do with academic ineligibility.  Others suggested it might be a “redshirt” situation.  However, the official word is that he sat out after developing concussion-like symptoms. Get well soon, Trey.

Final Award of the Night:  The Sixth Man Award:  The Sixth Man needs to be recognized on a night when the temperatures in DC were falling into the teens, sidewalks were icy and many secondary roads in the area are treacherous, in that DC sort of way when 2 inches of snow is troublesome.  On such a night, the first two levels of the arena was filled nicely with fans and students (who are returning from break this week) and the Sixth Man used its strong voice in the final critical minutes to cheer on the Hoyas and rattle the opposition.  Nice work, Sixth Man!

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