With five games remaining in Big East regular season play, the Georgetown men’s basketball team’s upcoming contest against the No. 20 Creighton Bluejays has the potential to alter its NCAA Tournament path.
Eight long days after the Hoyas’ (14-12, 5-8 Big East) 18-point demolition of the Marquette Golden Eagles (15-10, 6-7 Big East), the Blue and Gray look to complete the season sweep against the Bluejays (21-5 8-5 Big East) in Omaha, Neb., and a chance to build upon their NCAA Tournament resume.
“They are a ranked team right now. They have a tough environment. Going up there and trying to get a win, that’d be a great thing for the resume,” sophomore center Jessie Govan said.
After a rough start to Big East play, the Hoyas have greatly improved over their last six games, winning four while dropping one in overtime and another at No. 2 Villanova (26-2, 13-2 Big East). The Hoyas began their recent success with a 20-point blowout against Creighton. The Bluejays — which have only scored below 70 points once all year — shot 1-for-18 behind the arc, finishing with 51 points at the Verizon Center on Jan. 25.
Having lost senior point guard and potential all-American Maurice Watson Jr. to an ACL injury in mid-January, the Hoyas caught Creighton at a vulnerable time. Even with the loss of Watson, Creighton still ranks second and 10th in NCAA from the field at 52.4 percent and from 3-point land at 41 percent. The Bluejays’ struggle last go-round against the Hoyas seemed to be an anomaly for one of the most prolific offenses in the country.
“They have adjusted a lot quite honestly,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said. “They have so many weapons that it’s easy to adjust.”
Junior guard and leading scorer Marcus Foster anchors Creighton’s offense, averaging 17.8 points per game alongside freshman center Justin Patton’s 13.6 points per game. Despite the Bluejays’ offensive struggles last meeting, Patton dominated the Hoyas, shooting 9-of-13 from the floor. The lean 7-footer has displayed his versatility on both ends of the floor and can cause problems for Georgetown come Sunday.
“Some people have him as a lottery pick, and they’re right,” Thompson said. “I don’t think there’s anything you can do to fluster him, and they know that. He can make an outside shot, he can score inside, and he’s fast. He’s really, really good.”
Since Watson’s injury, Creighton has looked to create more opportunities on the offensive glass. The Bluejays rank ninth in the Big East in rebounding margin at minus 4.2, compared to Georgetown’s plus 1.5. In a hostile environment, securing rebounds on both ends of the floor should be a key focus for the Hoyas, which outrebounded Marquette 39-28 on Saturday.
The Hoyas lean on their dynamic backcourt tandem of transfer and graduate student guard Rodney Pryor, who ranks second in the Big East with 18.3 points per game, and junior guard L.J. Peak, whose 16.6 points per game ranks ninth in the conference.
To steal a game in Omaha, however, Georgetown’s frontcourt must make the difference. Sophomore center Jessie Govan has been instrumental the past six games. Govan, who averaged 5 points per game in his first seven Big East games, has averaged 18 points per game in the Hoyas’ last four wins.
“Our coach and my teammates told me to attack. They want me to score because they know I open up so many things on the offense. They told me to be aggressive early and I’ve been trying to do that the last couple of games and it’s been working out for us,” Govan said.
His ability to operate in the post and stretch the floor — 5-of-10 on three pointers over the streak — is necessary to create space and neutralize Patton. On the season, the Hoyas are 10-1 when Peak, Pryor and Govan all score in double figures.
“There were too many stretches early on where one would play well and one wouldn’t. When they both play well together, we’re pretty good,” said Thompson of Peak and Pryor. “When you get L.J. and Rodney plus Jessie or Marcus, I don’t think we’ve lost too many games when we get three guys who play well.”
Junior forward Akoy Agau’s presence on the defensive end of the court could be essential, primarily in defending Patton. With senior center Bradley Hayes set to play limited minutes, Agau’s combination of quickness, length and energy must be used effectively to slow down Patton. With an increase in playing time over the last two weeks, Agau hurled in double-digit rebounds in two of his last three games.
Earlier in the season, sophomore forward Marcus Derrickson provided depth scoring for the Hoyas. However, after scoring 74 points in the first five Big East games, Derrickson averages six points per game in his last five.
“We know we have to play with a sense of urgency because we really want to win and do some things postseason,” Derrickson said.
Tip-off is set for 3:30 p.m. ET at CenturyLink Center Omaha, and the game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
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