After a poor late-game performance doomed the Georgetown men’s basketball team (12-8, 5-2 Big East) in its last nonconference game of the season against the University of Connecticut (14-5, 4-2 AAC) in a 68-62 loss, the Hoyas must now turn the page and prepare for their matchup on Tuesday at home against the Creighton Bluejays (14-6, 5-2 Big East). Creighton defeated Georgetown earlier in the season with a score of 79-66. The game will help resolve the jumble in the Big East standings for second place, where Providence (17-3, 5-2 Big East), Creighton, Georgetown and Xavier (17-2, 5-2 Big East) are all tied with 5-2 conference records, behind No. 6 Villanova (17-3, 7-1), which sits atop the conference at 7-1 against Big East opponents.
After losing a close game at home to Providence with a score of 50-48 on Jan. 12, Creighton went on to defeat DePaul (7-12, 1-6 Big East) and then-No. 18 Butler (13-6, 2-6 Big East) in its next two games. In the Butler game, junior guard Maurice Watson Jr., a transfer from Boston University who scored a career-high 27 points against the Hoyas in the first matchup of the season, scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half to lift his team to victory. That win matched Creighton’s win total from last season and allowed it to keep pace with the other teams at the upper half of the conference standings.
Junior guard Isaiah Zierden followed up a 31-point eruption against DePaul with a 13-point performance versus Butler, while senior center Geoffrey Groselle chipped in with 10 points and eight rebounds.
The two-headed monster of Watson Jr. and Zierden will be important for the Hoyas to contain on Tuesday night if they hope to avenge their loss to the Bluejays earlier in the season. Watson Jr. is averaging 14 points, three rebounds and 6.5 assists per game, while Zierden averages 12.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Zierden is also the team’s sharpshooter, shooting 41 percent from three-point range on the season.
In Georgetown and Creighton’s matchup on Jan. 5 in Omaha, Creighton’s defense led the way and secured the win for the Bluejays, closing out the game on a 26-10 run to snap a four-game losing streak against Georgetown. Georgetown scored on just two of 13 possessions at the end of the game before it scored a layup in the closing seconds. Watson Jr. scored 27 points and tied a season-high with seven rebounds, while senior guard James Milliken came off the bench and scored 10 points.
Georgetown struggled against Creighton’s defense to generate productive offensive possessions;
Head Coach John Thompson III believes this led to some unsuccessful forced plays.
“You have to give them credit,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said of Creighton’s defense after the teams’ first matchup. “From our offensive end and their defensive end, they really guarded. … We have to get past when an offensive poor possession leads to a defensive poor possession.”
The Hoyas had taken the lead early in the second half, but then allowed the Bluejays to jump back out in front thanks to a 10-0 run that was highlighted by a Zach Hanson alley-oop to give Creighton a 63-56 lead with eight minutes to go. Georgetown trimmed the lead to eight with three minutes left, but Creighton went 7-of-8 from the free-throw line at the end of the game to secure the win. Georgetown’s freshman center Jessie Govan scored a career-high 17 points in that game and will need to make a similar impact Tuesday to counter Creighton’s offense.
For the Hoyas to emerge with a win, they will need to improve their offense from their first performance against the Bluejays. Georgetown committed 15 turnovers in the game, compared to Creighton’s nine turnovers, and were outscored 25-10 in points off turnovers.
Georgetown was just 3-of-11 from three-point range in the second half and only made three out of seven free-throw attempts. The Hoyas will need to be more aggressive in driving to the paint and drawing contact and that starts with senior guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who scored 17 points in the first game.
Another player who will have to step up is sophomore forward Isaac Copeland, who has been in a scoring slump for a large stretch of the season. Against Creighton on Jan. 5, Copeland scored just one point in 32 minutes and was 0-of-3 from the field. In Georgetown’s last game against UConn, Copeland continued his poor stretch of play, scoring just two points on 1-of-5 shooting while grabbing just three rebounds. Copeland saw a collective 14 minutes of action, a large reduction in playing time for a player who was highly touted as a potential breakout star in the Big East coming into this season.
If Georgetown wants to maintain its hopes of garnering a spot in the NCAA Tournament, it will need to start winning games against the lower-tier teams in the Big East and getting a home win against a tough Creighton team after dropping to Connecticut will be a step in the right direction toward a post-season appearance.
Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., and the game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
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