Since Big East media day in October, Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III and his fellow league coaches have dutifully preached that in this conference, with nine teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 and a handful of others capable of winning on any given night, there is no such thing as a night off.

During Georgetown’s treacherous three-game stretch to open Big East play – at then-No.2 Connecticut, home against then-No. 3 Pittsburgh, and at No. 13 Notre Dame – there was no mistaking any of those games for a midseason breather.

Now, however, as the Hoyas (11-3, 1-2 Big East) prepare to face off against unranked Providence (11-4, 3-0), is when Georgetown will be reminded that even the teams proclaimed to inhabit the so-called lower tier of the league can pose a serious threat.

“We’re playing a team that is 3-0,” Thompson said Thursday evening. “They are at the top of the Big East. So many people get caught up in the rankings and the numbers, but our league is so brutal.”

Indeed, after first-year Head Coach Keno Davis’ team was selected by league coaches to finish 10th in the conference and despite a few puzzling losses early in the year, the Friars have started league play with three consecutive victories.

While those wins have come against some of the Big East’s other supposed bottom feeders, one was by 21 points over St. John’s, which went on to beat the Irish, another came against a talented Cincinnati squad, and the third came over DePaul (8-8, 0-3), which boasts the league’s third-leading scorer, sophomore forward Dar Tucker, and third-leading rebounder, sophomore center Mac Koshwal.

Like the Hoyas, the Friars are a balanced squad. Seven players average between 8.7 and 13.9 points per game. Leading the way is Weyinmi Efejuku, a senior guard/forward. Efejuku has been accurate from all points, hitting at 51.1 percent overall from the field, including 39.2 percent from three-point range, and 84.9 percent at the line. He adds 3.8 rebounds, nearly two assists and more than one steal per game. He has scored 18 in each of Providence’s last two games.

Fleet-of-foot and 6-foot-5, Efejuku may present a matchup problem for the smaller Georgetown guards.

“He’s someone that hurt us last year,” Thompson said, “He’s a terrific offensive player . He was extremely comfortable against us last year. He can hurt you in many different ways.”

While Efejuku leads the team in scoring, it is senior point-forward Geoff McDermott who is the centerpiece of the Providence attack. McDermott can do a little bit of everything, scoring 8.8 points per game, grabbing a team-high 8.3 rebounds a night, and dishing out nearly three assists per contest.

Though he has struggled at times this season to put the ball in the basket – he’s 41.9 percent from the field – McDermott is a player who can influence the outcome in other ways.

Reminded that some have likened McDermott to Jeff Green, Thompson said those comparisons are not unfounded.

“I agree with that,” he said. “Geoff McDermott is someone who would have been great for us. He can see, he can pass – and while doing that, he has an understanding of how to score and when to score. He is one of my favorite players in the Big East. . He is so multitalented, he is a terrific passer and the things he sees, most people don’t see.”

Providence’s second-leading scorer has yet to start a game this season. In just 22 minutes a night, 6-foot-5 sophomore swingman Marshon Brooks has averaged 12.6 points. He is one of four Friars to have attempted more than 50 three-point shots, making 35.8 percent of them.

Indeed, much of the Providence attack is predicated upon the long ball. Senior guard Jeff Xavier leads the team in three-point tries, with 85, but has made just 27 percent of them.

In each of the Friars’ four losses, the team has shot below 25 percent from deep – with percentages below 20 percent in three of them. By contrast, in the team’s three-straight victories to open league play, it has knocked down 40 percent of threes. In the most recent win, at the Bearcats’ home court on Wednesday night, the Friars shot 12-of-24 from beyond the arc, led by Xavier and junior guard Sharaud Curry, who both made 3-of-5.

eanwhile, senior forwards Jonathan Kale, 6-foot-8, and Randall Hanke, 6-foot-11, offer Providence an interior presence. Kale, a starter, contributed 10.4 points and 5.3 rebounds, while Hanke adds 8.7 points and 4.5 boards in 16.9 minutes off the bench.

While Providence comes in riding a confidence-boosting win streak, Georgetown enters on its first two-game slide in as many years. The first of those Hoyas’ losses, at home last Saturday to now-No. 1 Pittsburgh, came in large part because of Georgetown’s utter inability to rebound the basketball. Statistically, Providence is not an especially strong rebounding team, ranking 10th in the league in rebounding margin. It is unlikely that the Hoyas will lose this game for that reason alone.

Against Notre Dame, Georgetown enjoyed a slim advantage on the glass (37-34). The Hoyas can thank freshman center Greg Monroe, who captured 11 boards, seven of them offensive, en route to his first career double-double.

onroe’s classmate Henry Sims, a 6-foot-10 forward, saw extended minutes (14) against the Irish with junior guard DaJuan Summers in foul trouble. Sims was credited with just two rebounds, but one will not soon be forgotten. Midway through the first-half, Sims came flying across court to slam home an errant Chris Wright layup. The play checked in at No. 3 in SportsCenter’s top 10 plays.

Sims appeared more comfortable than he had been earlier in the season, and showed a tenacity and intensity crashing the boards that is sorely needed on a squad which ranks 14th in the league in rebounding margin.

“That happens with freshmen,” Thompson said. “You’re going to see ups and downs. But Henry gave us some positive minutes.”

The second of the back-to-back defeats came mostly because Georgetown simply could not buy a bucket. The Hoyas shot 41.7 percent from the field (22 percent from three) and 59.1 percent at the line. First, the law of averages would suggest that Georgetown and its many polished shooters are unlikely to shoot so poorly again. But what’s more, Providence ranks next-to-last in field goal percentage defense. The Hoyas should have ample opportunities to regain their touch and confidence shooting the basketball.

Still, Thompson is taking nothing for granted.

“They have a veteran team,” he said. “They have a new coach and a new system but they have a veteran team of very good players . They are experienced and they have a new system but they have a matchup zone and they throw a lot of things like that are not normal at you.”

Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. at the Verizon Center.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.