Men’s Basketball | Former Big East Rivals Face Off

FILE PHOTO: MICHELLE XU/THE HOYA Senior guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 20 points in Georgetown’s win over Xavier on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: MICHELLE XU/THE HOYA
Senior guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 20 points in Georgetown’s win over Xavier on Tuesday.

A change in flight time to avoid the incoming Washington, D.C., blizzard will send the Georgetown men’s basketball team (12-7, 5-2 Big East) to Hartford, Conn. earlier than expected. After a decisive 81-72 victory against No. 5 Xavier (16-2, 4-2 Big East), Georgetown will square off against former Big East rival Connecticut (13-5, 4-2 AAC) Saturday.

Georgetown looks to continue its efficient offensive performance after dominating Xavier on Tuesday evening. Guard Tre Campbell broke out of a shooting slump in the win, hitting 5-of-7 three-pointers en route to a career high of 21 points.

However, the Hoyas’ success from beyond the three-point line — ranking first in the Big East in percentage of three pointers made — may slow down. Through six games in the American Athletic Conference, the Huskies have held their opponents to just 31.7-percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Moreover, Connecticut is one of the best teams in its conference at taking care of the ball, averaging a turnover rate of just 15.9 percent. Meanwhile, Georgetown is the worst team in the Big East at forcing turnovers — its 16.5 percent ranks it last in the conference.

Conventional basketball wisdom suggests that more turnovers lead to fast break opportunities, a concept that the Hoyas have struggled with this season; even in their win against the Musketeers, Georgetown forced just five turnovers and had only nine points in transition.

Head Coach John Thompson III, however, focuses more on how the team made plays that, while not statistically quantifiable, are crucial for winning games down the stretch.

“Let’s just make sure we’re not turning the ball over. When it’s necessary to make the plays we need — someone I thought was terrific was [sophomore guard L.J. Peak],” Thompson said. “He made plays when we needed plays to be made to make sure we won that game. … L.J. Peak made the plays, the winning plays that don’t show up in the box score that allowed us to win that game that we haven’t been making consistently enough in those other close games.”

However, those winning plays do show up in more detailed metrics. Peak, along with the rest of the team, hustled back on the defensive end after a turnover and did not allow the Musketeers to capitalize in transition, holding them scoreless off of steals. In addition, Georgetown was efficient with its blocked shots, allowing Xavier to secure only three offensive rebounds off of seven blocks.

Looking forward to the matchup against the Huskies, the Hoyas will need to shut down star sophomore guard/forward Daniel Hamilton, one of the most versatile players in college hoops. Not only does Hamilton lead the AAC in assists per game, but he also is one of the conference’s leading rebounders at 8.7 per game. He also scores just over 12 points per game.

“I don’t know if you can take him out of the game,” Thompson said of the sophomore. “You just have to try and slow him down, and slow him down by slowing everyone else down.”

The matchup against UConn will be Georgetown’s first game against its old Big East foe since the 2012-2013 season, when the teams faced off in a double-overtime contest that saw current senior guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and current Washington Wizard forward Otto Porter hit two huge shots. Smith-Rivera nailed a three to draw the Hoyas within one point, and Porter hit a jumper to win the game.

The teams have changed quite a bit since then, but the glamor of the old Big East still remains, even though this is a non-conference matchup. Furthermore, both teams are looking to add to their tournament resumes; a win over UConn will likely help Georgetown come Selection Sunday in March. After dropping its marquee non-conference games against No. 7 Maryland (17-2, 6-1 Big 10) and No. 20 Duke (14-5, 3-3 Atlantic Coast), Georgetown is desperate for a win against a big name.

The Huskies, on the other hand, have faltered early in conference play, dropping games to the Temple Owls (10-7, 4-2 AAC) and the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (12-6, 4-2 AAC). With a conference that is generally considered weak outside of No. 8 Southern Methodist (18-0, 7-0 AAC), UConn will take this one last chance to bolster its tournament resume to make up for a conference wherein most losses are not looked upon kindly by the Selection Committee.

Connecticut ranks No. 27 in the KenPom rankings, compared to No. 47 for Georgetown.

Tipoff is set for 12 p.m., and the game will be televised on CBS.

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