MEN'S BASKETBALL | GU Looks to Continue Resurgence
Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 13, 2014 23:02
The last time Georgetown (15-9, 6-6 Big East) traveled to Madison Square Garden it broke a five-game losing streak in dramatic fashion, closing the door on No. 7 Michigan State in a 64-60 win. The Hoyas are hoping for a similar result when they take on St. John’s (15-9, 5-6 Big East) in New York on Sunday at 7 p.m.
After struggling through one of the worst slumps of Head Coach John Thompson III’s time at Georgetown, the Hoyas have turned it around to win four straight games in what has morphed into of a revenge tour of sorts — a second attempt at Big East opponents that gave Georgetown trouble the first time around.
After Michigan State, Georgetown upped DePaul — a team that gave the Hoyas a scare in the teams’ first meeting — by a double-digit margin, and then it beat Butler for the second time — which took only 40 minutes. Most recently, Georgetown knocked off Providence, a team that beat the Hoyas by 18 points in January.
Georgetown’s recent wins have not been flashy. Instead, Thompson’s formula for success has been fairly straightforward: shoot more free throws than the opponent, don’t give the ball away and take high-percentage shots.
“The way this team is built, we can’t turn the ball over,” Thompson said after the win against Providence. “We have to get to the foul line and limit their second shots.”
Providence Head Coach Ed Cooley had a similar take after the game, noting that it takes time to adjust after losing players, such as junior center Joshua Smith, who is suspended for the remainder of the season for academic reasons. Junior guard Jabril Trawick, who was sidelined for the better part of a month with a broken jaw, returned and has also helped with depth and scoring.
“They are more synchronized and have better team chemistry,” Cooley said of Georgetown.
The game this Sunday with St. John’s will be yet another rematch. In the first meeting, the Hoyas had little trouble with the Red Storm and even the 77-60 final score does not truly reflect Georgetown’s dominance in the game. The Hoyas, however, are not guaranteed the same outcome Sunday. St. John’s is not the same team Georgetown beat.
Since St. John’s five-game losing streak ended with a win over Dartmouth, the Red Storm have won six of their last seven games, with their only loss coming in a 63-60 defeat on the road against then-No. 20 Creighton. The Red Storm got the Bluejays back however, edging No. 12 Creighton 70-65 at Madison Square Garden last Sunday.
Unlike Georgetown, St. John’s relies on transition buckets and quick shots for scoring. The consistent play of junior guard D’Angelo Harrison, who is averaging almost 23 points and six rebounds in the last three games, has been key to St. John’s recent turnaround. Alongside Harrison is sophomore forward Jakarr Sampson and freshman guard Rysheed Jordon, both of whom are scoring threats that Georgetown needs to be aware of. Meanwhile on the defensive end, sophomore center Chris Obekpa is one of the best shot-blockers in the country.
For Georgetown, the play of senior guard Markel Starks and sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera — who broke out of his recent shooting slump with a 22-point performance against Providence — has carried the team. Smith-Rivera in particular has found ways to impact the game even when his shot wasn’t falling.
“DSR shouldn’t be defined by scoring points,” Thompson said. “We need him to rebound and make passes, and then he’ll find a way to get baskets. And he did a good job of that [against Providence].”
The return of Trawick has been critical in giving the Hoyas another scoring threat and ballhandler to provide depth to an overworked backcourt. Down low, senior forward Nate Lubick and junior forward Mikael Hopkins have upped their intensity as of late in terms of controlling the glass.
“When Mikael and I aren’t rebounding, we’re not going to win games,” Lubick said. “We knew we needed to change that.”
The Hoyas’ attention to detail has spurred their turnaround and has forced their way back into the conversation for the NCAA tournament. Georgetown needs to maintain this trend if it wants to continue its winning streak. Sunday’s game against a streaking St. John’s team should provide a good test and indicate what the team is capable of achieving.