Following a close 75-71 loss to the No. 3 Maryland Terrapins (2-0), the Georgetown men’s basketball team (0-2) will travel to Madison Square Garden in New York City for the 2K Classic tournament Friday and Sunday. In Friday’s matchup, the Hoyas will face off against last year’s national runner-up, the Wisconsin Badgers (2-1). On Sunday, Georgetown will then play either Duke (2-1) or Virginia Commonwealth (2-0), depending on Friday’s results.
Though the Badgers lost their two star players from last season — center Frank Kaminsky and forward Sam Dekker — to the NBA, they return a dynamic forward and NBA prospect in junior forward Nigel Hayes. Hayes averaged 12.4 points per game last year on 50 percent shooting from the field, including 40 percent from the three-point line. This year, he has taken on an increased scoring load and is one of the team’s leaders alongside junior guard Bronson Koenig.
Wisconsin will look to exploit Georgetown’s porous three-point defense, which ranks 261st in the nation, according to KenPom.com. The Hoyas have struggled with defending open three-point in their last two games, allowing opponents to shoot for 39 percent overall from behind the arc. Georgetown particularly struggled to defend the three-pointer in the closing minutes of its first two contests, allowing its opponents to shoot 8-of-14 from three in the last five minutes of the second half and overtime.
“We can get what we want on offense,” sophomore forward Isaac Copeland said. “On defense we have to figure out how to stop people and basically finish the game.”
The Hoyas will look to take advantage of the Badgers’ defensive gaps, as they have allowed opponents to shoot nearly 45 percent from deep, ranking them 292nd in Division I.
“They really protect the paint, so you have to be able to take shots and you have to be able to make shots,” Head Coach John Thompson III said.
Senior guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, sophomore guard Tre Campbell and freshman forward Marcus Derrickson have shot a combined 11-of-27 from three-point range, a rate of 41 percent. Wisconsin Head Coach Bo Ryan and his pace-and-space offense rank in the top 10 in offensive efficiency at roughly 114 points per 100 possessions. Despite its fast-paced offense, Wisconsin — like Georgetown — suffered a surprising nonconference loss to Western Illinois (3-0).
The Badgers pose a dual scoring threat with both Hayes and Koenig, who is averaging 19 points per game. Against Radford (2-1) and Maryland, the Hoyas fell victim to a star scorer each game, with Highlanders senior guard Rashun Davis notching 28 points and the game-winning three-pointer, and Terrapins sophomore guard Melo Trimble putting up 24 points, including a pair of game-sealing free throws.
This time, the Hoyas’ perimeter defense must contend with two elite wings. Koenig is shooting 45 percent from deep on the season to go along with five rebounds and three assists per game.
“He can do everything,” Smith-Rivera said.
More importantly, Koenig and the rest of the Wisconsin guards rarely turn the ball over, boasting one of the 10 lowest turnover percentages in the country. Georgetown has relied on its ball pressure in the past to force turnovers, but the Badgers are unlikely to play into Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III’s defensive schemes by turning the ball over. Sophomore guard L.J. Peak and freshman guard/forward Kaleb Johnson, two of Georgetown’s top wing defenders, will have to play a hard-nosed defense and avoid trying to force the issue against the turnover-conscious Wisconsin offense.
In a larger sense, the Wisconsin game offers yet another test for the Hoyas in what has been a grueling start to the season, as the Hoyas will play three of their first four games against NCAA tournament teams from last year.
“I don’t think this group is going to lose confidence in each other,” Thompson said. “We just have to get better.”
From the players’ perspective, a chance to play two games on the game’s biggest stage at the Garden is an exciting prospect, especially against such prestigious programs.
“Coach gave us that schedule because he believed that we can hang around with those teams and deal with those teams,” sophomore forward Paul White said. “We’re all excited and we’re all looking forward to it.”
White, who has missed the first two games of the season, remains questionable for Friday’s game. Campbell, who is sidelined with an undisclosed illness, will not travel with the team.
Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. on Fox Sports 1 and ESPN2.
Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.