JULIA HENNRIKUS/THE HOYA Freshman forward Isaac Copeland scored a career-high 17 points Monday.
JULIA HENNRIKUS/THE HOYA
Freshman forward Isaac Copeland scored a career-high 17 points Monday.
When the final buzzer sounded after Georgetown’s 78-58 upset over No. 4 Villanova on Monday night, the Georgetown student section rushed onto Verizon Center’s floor. Media outlets across the country debated whether or not the court storming was justified, but it was clear that the Georgetown faithful intended to bask in the afterglow of an important win against a top-ranked rival.

Head Coach John Thompson III did not share their sentiment, however.

“We have to quickly forget and gain confidence, learn from, grow from tonight’s game and play just as well when we go on the road on Saturday,” Thompson said at his postgame press conference, only minutes after the final students had departed from the floor.

Thompson’s words may have sounded like typical coach-speak, but they carried extra weight considering Saturday’s opponent, Marquette (10-8, 2-4 Big East), has won its last five home games played against Georgetown (13-5, 5-2 Big East). In fact, most of the seniors on this year’s Hoya roster were in ninth grade in 2008 when a Georgetown team last won in Milwaukee.

Luckily for the Hoyas, the Jan. 6 meeting between the two teams will be more relevant to Saturday’s outcome than any of the games played when center Roy Hibbert (COL ’08) anchored the Georgetown defense. Georgetown, led by a double-double from senior center Joshua Smith, won its home game against Marquette 65-59, but the victory came with limited style points.

Most notably, the Golden Eagles baffled the Hoyas in the second half with a variety of aggressive zone defenses, cutting what had been an 11-point Georgetown lead to only one in the game’s final minutes. The Hoyas went without a field goal for nearly 12 minutes during that half and would have likely lost if it were not for their ability to draw fouls and convert free throws during the drought. This time around, Georgetown will try to make both ball and player movement a focal point of its offense.

“The first time we played them, we were very stagnant,” Thompson said. “We have to get a lot more motion… We have to do quick reversals, get the zone moving and then attack.”

Freshman forward Isaac Copeland and his impressive midrange game could prove helpful in doing just that. Copeland, along with senior guard and co-captain Jabril Trawick, played an unusually large role in Georgetown’s two victories last weekend. Copeland drilled the game winning three-pointer against Butler on Saturday with only 5.4 seconds remaining, and he contributed a career high 17 points and six rebounds against Villanova on Monday. It seems that the game is finally slowing down for the freshman, whom many considered to be a five-star recruit out of high school.

Copeland insists that he has experienced no revelation.

“Nothing’s really changed, I’ve just been playing my game,” he said. “More things are opening up for me. I can see more scoring opportunities, and my teammates cutting. So it’s working out for me.”

Monday’s win over Villanova seemed to be a potential turning point for Georgetown in many ways. After showing flashes of brilliance earlier in the season, the Hoyas put together a sustained and balanced attack coupled with a relentless defensive effort and, as a result, notched their first marquee victory of the year.

However, if the Hoyas — who now find themselves tied for first place with DePaul (11-9, 5-2 Big East) and Providence (15-5, 5-2 Big East) in the Big East — wish to contend for a conference title, they will need to win games on the road. That has proven difficult this year not only for Georgetown, which is 1-2 on the road, but also for the Big East as a whole, where the home team has won over 70 percent of conference games played this season. If the Hoyas were to win on Saturday, it would be their first true road win against a team other than DePaul in over a year. If they fail to do so, it will not be due to a lack of confidence.

“I feel like we’re the best team in the country,” freshman forward L.J. Peak said when asked if he believes the Hoyas are the team to beat in the Big East. “If we come in and play like we’re supposed to play, we can beat anybody.”

That sentiment will be put to the test Saturday. Marquette may reside toward the bottom of the Big East standings, but the Golden Eagles have yet to lose a conference game by more than six points. Throw in the Hoyas’ recent struggles in Milwaukee, and Saturday’s game seems likely to come down to the wire. Tipoff is at 2:30 p.m. and will be broadcasted on Fox Sports 1.

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