Men’s Basketball | GU Aims to Hold On to Third Place in Big East

FILE PHOTO: ISABEL BINAMIRA/THE HOYA  Senior guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera was second in points with 18 in Georgetown’s previous 73-69 loss to Providence on Jan. 30.

FILE PHOTO: ISABEL BINAMIRA/THE HOYA
Senior guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera was second in points with 18 in Georgetown’s previous 73-69 loss to Providence on Jan. 30.

With the regular season winding down and the Georgetown men’s basketball team’s (14-11, 7-5 Big East) NCAA Tournament hopes gradually fading away with it, each game remaining on its schedule has become more important. Next up for the Hoyas is a trip to Providence, R.I. to face the Providence Friars (18-7, 6-6 Big East), a team that has been struggling ever since coming into Verizon Center two weeks ago and defeating Georgetown by a score of 73-69.

Since that game, the Friars have lost three straight games to DePaul (8-16, 2-10 Big East), No. 1 Villanova (21-3, 11-1 Big East) and Marquette (16-9, 5-7 Big East). As a result, the Friars have gone from ranking No. 10 in the nation to No. 20, behind other Big East teams such as Villanova and No. 5 Xavier (21-3, 9-3 Big East).

Georgetown, coming off a thoroughly dominant 92-67 performance at home against St. John’s (7-18, 0-12 Big East) on Monday, has a chance to bring Providence’s conference record to below .500 with a win at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center this Saturday. With its own conference record at 7-5, Georgetown sits in a three-way tie for third place with Seton Hall (17-7, 7-5 Big East) and Creighton (16-9, 7-5 Big East). The Hoyas must win on Saturday to keep pace in the race behind Villanova and Xavier to hold onto third place in the regular season standings — especially with Providence just one game behind Hoyas in the conference standings at 6-6.

“It’s a good league with a lot of good teams. There’s not much difference one through 10, to be honest. There’s a lot of important games to be played. … We’re at the point now where every game is important,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said.

Providence will return home in desperate need of a win to snap its three-game losing skid, with its most recent loss against Marquette on the road in double overtime by a score of 69-61. A career-high 42 points and a solid 12 rebounds from sophomore forward Ben Bentil was not enough for the Friars to defeat their hosts. Bentil, who scored 26 in the Friars’ first matchup with Georgetown this season, was fouled shooting a three-pointer in the first overtime period and hit all three free throws to bring Providence within two points with 43 seconds to go. Sophomore forward Jalen Lindsey hit two more free throws to even the score and bring it to a second overtime. The Golden Eagles took over in the second overtime period however, and built up a seven-point lead with time winding down, which proved to be too much for the Friars to overcome.

The Hoyas, meanwhile, come in on a high note after crushing the Red Storm on Monday night. While the result came against a clearly weaker opponent, Georgetown showed the type of play that had many in the beginning of the season projecting it to be second in the Big East this year, with senior guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, sophomore guard L.J. Peak and sophomore forward Isaac Copeland all scoring at least 20 points. Smith-Rivera, who had a game-high 24 points, moved into sixth place on Georgetown’s all-time scoring list, surpassing former guard David Wingate.

Copeland, who had been mired in a deep scoring slump since January, has showed signs of getting back on track over the last few games. Against St. John’s, the athletic forward scored 23 points, a season-high for him, and also had eight rebounds and three assists.

“Not much,” Copeland said when asked if anything has changed. “Just being more aggressive on both ends and letting my game naturally flow.”

FILE PHOTO: ISABEL BINAMIRA/THE HOYA Sophomore guard L.J. Peak scored 20 points in Georgetown’s 92-67 win over St. John’s on Monday night. He averages 11.4 points per game.

FILE PHOTO: ISABEL BINAMIRA/THE HOYA
Sophomore guard L.J. Peak scored 20 points in Georgetown’s 92-67 win over St. John’s on Monday night. He averages 11.4 points per game.

In Georgetown’s last two losses, Copeland had 18 points and 11 points, respectively. It is an encouraging sign for Georgetown to see the scoring ability that Copeland displayed as a freshman, as the team must find another source of scoring to depend on after Smith-Rivera and Peak if it is going to make a late run to improve its tournament resume.

For the Hoyas to come out with the win Saturday, they must stop Bentil and junior guard Kris Dunn. With the exception of sophomore forward Rodney Bullock, Bentil and Dunn are the main sources of offense for Georgetown, and that was the case in the two teams’ first matchup of the season, when Bentil and Dunn each scored 26 points.

“There’s not much you can do with those two guys right now, you just have to make sure you’re executing,” Thompson said. “We have to be strong with the ball. We can’t have careless mistakes, which we did in that game.”

Ball security was an issue for Georgetown in its first game against Providence, as the team committed 17 total turnovers, which Providence converted into 18 points.

“If we continue to play together, [and] if we continue to share the game, we’ll be fine,” Smith-Rivera said.

It’s time for Georgetown to put it all together for the stretch run of the season, and it all starts Saturday at Providence.

The game tips off at 12 p.m. Saturday and will be broadcast on Fox Sports.

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