WADEKAR | GU's Resilience Displayed in Victory
Published: Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 01:01
Without their largest player, the Hoyas put on a thrilling show for a former Georgetown big man against Butler (10-6, 0-4 Big East) on Saturday night.
Georgetown (11-4, 3-1 Big East), despite facing a remarkable amount of attrition, gutted out a 70-67 overtime victory in front of current Indiana Pacer and former Georgetown Hoya, Roy Hibbert. While Hibbert’s presence on the sideline was appreciated, Head Coach John Thompson III surely was wishing by the end of the game that his former All-American could lace up some sneakers and throw on a jersey.
For the second straight game, Georgetown travelled without junior center Joshua Smith, who remains in apparent academic limbo. Then came word a few hours before tip-off that junior guard Jabril Trawick had suffered a broken jaw and would be out indefinitely. Suddenly, bouncing back from an uninspired, 18-point defeat at Providence (11-5, 1-2 Big East) seemed like a much more daunting task .
Nevertheless, the Hoyas jumped out to an early 11-4 lead as the offense clicked early on. The team had some impressive passes, and open shots were hit by sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and freshman forward Reggie Cameron, who made the first start of his career in lieu of the injured Trawick.
But with the starters in foul trouble, Thompson was forced to turn to his depleted bench. Senior guard John Caprio saw his first meaningful minutes of the year, as he joined senior guard Markel Starks and Smith-Rivera backcourt.
Smith-Rivera led the Hoyas in scoring and finished with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Starks struggled for much of the night but came through when it counted the most, hitting a three-pointer with 16 seconds remaining in the second half that tied the game and ultimately forced overtime.
Smith-Rivera has been the lone bright spot for a Hoya offense that has stumbled of late. The sophomore has taken over a bulk of the scoring load ever since his 31-point performance against St. John’s on Jan. 4, and it seems Georgetown will rely on him more than ever with the statuses on Smith and Trawick now in doubt.
Foul trouble continued to be a problem for the team, as the three remaining big men — Lubick, junior forward Mikael Hopkins and senior center Moses Ayegba — all fouled out.
In overtime, Thompson, missing so many regular rotation players, turned to the highly unusual lineup of Smith-Rivera, Starks, Cameron, Caprio and junior guard Aaron Bowen.
Perhaps most notable about Thompson’s lineup decision was that, despite the desperate situation, he turned to Caprio before considering sophomore Stephen Domingo — a wing who has failed to live up to his reputation as a sharpshooter.
While a scrappy victory against a Butler team that has yet to win a Big East conference game hardly inspires confidence in Georgetown’s future, there were a few positives. The Hoyas turned the ball over only 11 times, and Starks once again proved himself to be capable of hitting a big shot down the stretch.
In some ways, the game was a confirmation of what we have known. Ayegba, Lubick and Hopkins each brings positives in their game, but none of the big men — Smith included — has enough of a complete game to compete with the nation’s best posts. The backcourt is a bright spot for the Hoyas, but will be forced to adjust to the absence of Trawick. Georgetown’s reliance on its guards is evident: Only Utah has a higher differential in three-point shooting percentage between their wins and their losses in the country.
Still, this was an important win for a depleted squad. The team needed to show some life after the embarrassing Providence loss in which they were outplayed and outworked for a full 40 minutes. Additionally, the ability to gut out an overtime win in a hostile environment like Hinkle Fieldhouse is an important skill for any team, and on Saturday, the Hoyas demonstrated that they have it.
Georgetown will have a few days off to prepare for a Wednesday night tilt at Xavier. Apart from a three-game losing streak in the middle of non-conference play, Xavier (13-4, 3-1 Big East) has played exceptionally well thus far this season. Sophomore guard Semaj Christon, who is considered by many to be the most NBA-ready player in the conference, leads the Musketeers, and the Hoyas will need to be mentally sharp to pull out a victory on the road. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
Ashwin Wadekar is a senior in the College.