After struggling to produce offensively for several games, sophomore forward Isaac Copeland broke out for a career-high 23 points against St. John’s (7-18, 0-12 Big East) on Monday, helping the Georgetown men’s basketball team (14-11, 7-5 Big East) break a three-game losing skid. Perhaps more importantly, Copeland’s resurgence came during a game where senior guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and sophomore guard L.J. Peak also had at least 20 points, marking the first time a trio of Hoyas had accomplished such a feat in nearly six years.
The Hoyas, expected to perform much better this season than their current record suggests, were also expected to feature Peak and Copeland as the team’s offensive stars alongside Smith-Rivera. After failing to fulfill those roles for most of the season, Peak and Copeland seemed to finally figure it out in Monday night’s 92-67 win against the Red Storm.
“He’s been all over the place, which I’ve said all along he has the ability to do,” Head Coach John Thompson III said of Copeland’s play. “He’s been really locked in and focused on pursuing rebounds, he’s getting deflections, he’s coming up with loose balls, his defense has been pretty good and all of a sudden now the points come, so I just think he’s been playing a complete game.”
Copeland also attacked the rim much more frequently than in his previous games, using his athleticism to score around the rim in addition to grabbing rebounds and dishing out assists.
“I can’t just be a one-dimensional player. If you’re out there just trying to worry about your shot you give empty minutes when you’re not hitting your shot,” Copeland said of his complete performance. “I try to bring intensity on both ends of the court, because I’m too tall, too athletic and too mobile to just be out there shooting jump shots all day.”
Peak’s game has continually revolved around getting to the rim, but even after over a year of playing starter-level minutes, opposing teams have not figured out how to stop Peak from getting where he wants to go. The sophomore guard has an incredibly quick first step, routinely blowing by defenders. In the past, he has recklessly gone up for layups or thrown up wild shots. However, in the past few games Peak has made use of his body control and jump stopped, which helps to stabilize his momentum.
Moreover, Peak has found a consistent three-point shot and improved his form. At the start of this season, he was not squaring up to the basket and was he pushing his shot, rather than using his legs. Particularly against St. John’s, it was noticeable that Peak has made significant changes — changes that have resulted in shooting 7-of-14 from deep.
Smith-Rivera, Georgetown’s sixth all-time leading scorer, has always been able to put up points. While the senior guard routinely and continually takes the most shots on the team, he has been hitting them at an increased rate recently.
When Copeland and Peak are firing on all cylinders, the game becomes much easier for Smith-Rivera, who routinely sees defenses collapsing on him to prevent him from scoring. Opposing teams’ defenses must stay on the two other perimeter threats to prevent open threes, allowing Smith-Rivera to operate both from mid-range and off screens with greater freedom and space.
It is no surprise, then, that a freer Smith-Rivera is a greater and more efficient scorer. While performances like that on Monday night are unlikely to be replicated, they do point to just what this team is capable of given the right circumstances. With a tough set of games ahead for the team — starting this Saturday at Providence (18-7, 6-6 Big East) — the right circumstances are needed more than ever.
Paolo Santamaria is a sophomore in the College.
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