MEN'S BASKETBALL | Hoyas Look to End Skid at Creighton
Published: Friday, January 24, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 24, 2014 01:01
Once again, Georgetown (11-7, 3-4 Big East) has little time to shake off an embarrassing meltdown in order to prepare for another quality opponent, Creighton (16-3, 6-1 Big East).
Having lost four of their last five games, including the last three, the Hoyas will be in desperate need of a win against the Bluejays on Saturday night. Georgetown’s current skid began a little over two weeks ago at Providence after Head Coach John Thompson III announced that junior center Joshua Smith was tending to an academic issue. The Hoyas lost to the Friars by 18 points but bounced back to beat Butler in overtime just three days later.
Since then, though, Georgetown has been in a frustrating free fall, marked by a lot of up-and-down play, which resulted in losses. Junior guard Jabril Trawick broke his jaw and is out indefinitely, and the Hoyas have blown second-half leads of 17, 10 and seven points in their last three contests to Xavier, Seton Hall and Marquette. While each result has been closer than the last, Georgetown has failed to find a win.
Without Smith, Georgetown is left with only two true scoring threats on the team: senior guard Markel Starks and sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. Against Marquette, the backcourt tandem combined for 52 of the team’s 72 points on 17-of-35 shooting.
The backcourt earned high praise from Marquette Head Coach Buzz Williams: “Both [Starks and Smith-Rivera] are first-team all-conference players.”
Unfortunately, the rest of the team has not stepped up to help the backcourt duo. Against Marquette, the rest of the team combined for only 20 points on 6-of-26 shooting — which includes senior forward Moses Ayegba’s 3-of-3 performance. The starting frontcourt — senior Nate Lubick, junior Mikael Hopkins, and freshman Reggie Cameron — managed a total of 12 points on 3-of-17 shooting. Hopkins, to be fair, has produced more of late, which showed in his 11 rebounds and five blocks against Marquette.
For Georgetown, the formula for success is straightforward, although difficult.
“We’re not making winning plays at the end [of games],” Thompson said. “Once again, we’re giving up threes at key times.”
Creighton will be sure to take advantage of any cracks in Georgetown’s three-point defense. The Bluejays come into the game fresh off their most impressive win of the season — a 96-68 drubbing at No. 4 Villanova — in which they hit a Big East record 21 three-pointers. Senior forward Ethan Wragge led the team with nine made threes.
In addition to the Bluejays prolific three-point shooting, The Hoyas will have their hands full with two-time consensus first team All-American Doug McDermott. The senior forward currently averages 25 points and seven rebounds per game. McDermott’s ability to score forces defenses to focus on him and often opens up perimeter looks for his teammates. The Bluejays utilized this strategy in their win against Villanova.
Creighton’s season, though, has not been perfect. Last Saturday, the Bluejays dropped an 81-68 defeat to Providence on the road. Creighton struggled from behind the arc in that game, hitting beyond four of their 19 three-pointers. The Friars demonstrated it is possible to slow down the Bluejays’ group of shooters; the Hoyas must do the same if they hope to pull off the upset on Saturday in Omaha.
At this point, each game is an opportunity for Georgetown to right the ship. But with every missed opportunity, the following game becomes more critical for the Hoyas if they hope to remain in the NCAA tournament discussion for long. In Thompson’s nine previous years, only twice have the Hoyas failed to qualify for the national tournament.
Still, with the next three games against highly regarded opponents, the Hoyas will have plenty of chances to turn it around. “We are seven games into an 18 game season,” Thompson said, speaking of the Big East conference schedule. “There is a lot of season to be played. Are we in a funk right now? Absolutely.”
While Thompson recognizes his team’s poor play, he is committed to looking at the bigger picture for Georgetown.
“This team, this program, wasn’t built to feel sorry for ourselves,” he said. “We’ve got to fight.”