JULIA HENNRIKUS/THE HOYA Senior center Joshua Smith scored 10 points in the Hoyas’ loss to Xavier on Tuesday night. Smith is averaging 12.5 points per game this season.
Senior center Joshua Smith scored 10 points in the Hoyas’ loss to Xavier on Tuesday night. Smith is averaging 12.5 points per game this season.

It is apparently a week of seconds for the No. 21 Georgetown men’s basketball team. On Monday, the Hoyas made their second appearance of the year in the national polls. On Wednesday, the team lost to Xavier for the second time this season.

Now, Georgetown (14-6, 6-3 Big East) will hope to continue the repetition theme and notch its second victory of the year over Creighton (10-12, 1-8 Big East) when it travels to Omaha on Saturday to face the last-place Bluejays.

The first meeting between the two teams resulted in a 76-61 win for the Hoyas on Jan. 3 in Washington. Creighton stayed within striking distance for the first 20 minutes, but Georgetown pulled away in the second half, led in large part by the play of a freshmen trio consisting of guard Tre Campbell and forwards L.J. Peak and Paul White, who combined for 37 points.

Much has changed for both teams in the four weeks since that game. Creighton is finally feeling the full effects of losing last year’s national player of the year, forward Doug McDermott, along with several other key contributors. Although it tallied impressive early season wins against Nebraska and No. 18 Oklahoma, Creighton has lost seven of the eight games it has played since they last saw the Hoyas. A 77-74 win over St. John’s on Wednesday snapped the Bluejays’ 10-game losing streak.

To add insult to injury, Creighton announced last week that sophomore guard and second leading scorer Isaiah Zierden had suffered a season-ending knee injury. Over 45 percent of all shots the Bluejays take are three-pointers — the 12th highest rate in the country — and Zierden, who had made 39.6 percent of his attempts behind the arc, was a crucial piece in the team’s offense.

“We’re losing our best shooter,” Creighton Head Coach Greg McDermott said after the news broke. “Someone is going to have to step up and fill that role as the guy that can knock down shots.”

The identity of that replacement is uncertain. Senior guard and leading scorer Austin Chatman would seem to be a likely candidate, but Chatman, who averages 11 points per game, shoots only 26.9 percent from behind the arc and is 2-for-10 on such attempts since Zierden went down.

Another possibility is freshman forward Toby Hegner. The 6-foot-9 Wisconsin native averages 8.4 points per game and tallied a career-high 21 points on 5-of-6 shooting from three in Creighton’s Wednesday night win. Hegner has been inconsistent throughout the season but has proven to be an effective shooter, making 38.6 percent of his three-point attempts.
Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III knows that slowing down Creighton’s drive and kick offense will be crucial.

“They have guys that can penetrate and guys that can put the ball in the basket,” Thompson said. “We have to stop both.”
For Georgetown, the emergence of freshman forward Isaac Copeland has arguably been the team’s largest development since it last saw Creighton. Copeland, the only Hoya freshman to play in that game and not score double-digit points, has averaged 11.4 points and 26.6 minutes per game over the past five contests and received his first career start against Xavier.

That game did not go as planned, however, for both Copeland and the Hoyas. Copeland played with little of his recent flair and generated only five points, two rebounds and one block in 26 minutes while committing two turnovers and three personal fouls.

Georgetown as a whole did not do fare much better, making only 4-of-16 field goals in the first half while turning the ball over 12 times and grabbing zero offensive rebounds.

Despite the team’s lackluster performance against Xavier, Thompson did not see the loss as major cause for concern.
“We don’t have to go back to the drawing board, we just have to be better,” Thompson said. “We have to be significantly better on Saturday than we were on Tuesday night.”

Georgetown will hope for more success in Saturday’s game than last season’s matchup in Nebraska, when the Hoyas were trounced 76-63. Creighton’s roster may look considerably different this year, but the Omaha crowd will likely not. Last year’s game drew a then-record 18,859 to CenturyLink Center, which has a listed capacity of 18,300. Even though this season has been a down one for the Bluejays, they are still averaging attendances of around 17,000 during Big East play and a Saturday afternoon matchup against a ranked Georgetown team should be a hot ticket for the Creighton faithful.

Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.

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