That was decades ago, and none of the current Hoya players were even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes. However, I guarantee you that when you say “Villanova”, the overwhelming majority of Hoya fans 30 years and older still feel that dagger in the heart when the National Championship that belonged to the Hoyas was stripped from them because of an act of divine providence bestowed on Rollie, Pinkney, Jensen, McClain et al on April 1, 1985. (Yes, April Fool’s Day, sports historians)
Fast forward to 2013, when the Big East was reconstituted due to business a/k/a financial purposes (greed?) and some predicted the Conference’s demise and irrelevance. Not so fast, Charlie. Last night at the Verizon Center the Georgetown Hoyas and Villanova Wildcats engaged in a Big East Brawl of the Highest Order and the Hoyas showed the college hoops world that not only is the Big East still relevant and exciting, but that the Georgetown Hoyas may be in the midst of a 21st Century Renaissance. The Hoyas started red hot at both ends of the court and played their best first half and complete game of the season, smothered the Villanova offense (averaging before the game 76 points), led by as many as 26 points in the first half and dominated the entire game except for a portion of the second half when Villanova attempted a comeback, coming as close as 12 points with 8 minutes 2 seconds remaining. The Hoyas then countered with six consecutive points to shut down the Cats’ hopes and freshman sensation Copeland capped that run with a jumper and added a pair of free throws moments later to extend the lead to 70-53.
The Hoyas made a strong statement about both the conference and the state of Georgetown basketball. From its upperclass leadership to the freshmen coming of age quickly, for one night in Washington, D.C., Jay Wright and his team were humbled and have to regroup after reaching #4 in the national rankings just hours before tipoff. Villanova’s only loss of the season before last night’s bout (and rout) was a 66-61 OT loss at Seton Hall on January 3rd and the Wildcats had rolled over most of its opponents but had not played the tough pre-conference schedule of the Hoyas (Florida, Wisconsin, Kansas, Indiana).
And a Bout it Was. With a total of Fifty One (51) fouls committed in the game, this was quintessential Big East Basketball not for the faint of heart where Georgetown senior leader Jabril Trawick received what appeared to be a knockout blow with a Wildcat player’s backward fist to the eye (no foul called) ,and returned to the game to continue to lead his team to its 2014-15 season Signature Win to date. In one memorable night and instant classic, the Hoyas dismantled the Nova Aura and claimed sole possession of first place in the Big East, 13-5 overall, and 5-2 in conference. The Wildcats are now 17-2 and 4-2.
ProminentPlay Game Ball. It is impossible to name a ProminentPlayer of this game because this was a team effort that showcased both the Hoya upperclassmen and the Super Freshmen, including forward Copeland, whose stock is steadily rising and last night he proved why he was the Hoyas’ highest ranked 2014 recruit. On a big stage, with the college hoops world watching (on Fox Sports One :-)), the Hoyas-Nova battle upstaged the Duke-Big East Dropout Pitt on rival network ESPN. What would you rather see, Coach K’s march to a milestone victory or a Big East Brawl? (No need to answer, understood)
Copeland and junior guard DSR led the Hoyas in scoring, with 17 points each, but that tells only a fraction of the story. Copeland’s 17 was a career high, and it came on the heels of his late game heroics, a three-pointer with 5.4 seconds to play to beat Butler.
Senior guard and captain Trawick again played with a determination always a notch above the rest. Steely, tough and overcoming a blow to the head/eye, Trawick finished with 10 points and four steals, two boards and two blocks and spearheaded a Hoya defense that forced 17 Villanova turnovers leading to 24 Hoya points. The generally prolific Wildcat scoring machine was limited to 27% (6-for-22) in the first half and never could fully recover.
Also worthy of mention: Josh Smith’s 9 point, 8 rebound performance in 24 minutes; Mikael Hopkins’ continued critical defensive contributions; freshman LJ Peak’s 8 points and confident drives to the hoop. DSR did not have his best shooting game from field goal range but hit a couple of critical three-pointers and went an all-important 9 for 10 from the line. Aaron Bowen added spark, 5 points and 3 boards, but needs to stop fouling guys who are taking three point shots, especially those who can make their free throws.
Freshman Paul White, quieter than classmate Copeland last night but no less effective, finished with 9 points in 17 minutes on near perfect shooting. The only Wildcats who finished in double figures were dangerous junior guard Ryan Arcidiacano, who scored most of those points (4 for 6 from the arc) when the game was out of reach and reseve guard Josh Hart (1o points).
ProminentPlay of the Game: Again, too many to name but I will elevate Copeland’s one-handed dunk off Mikael Hopkins’s missed layup, and Trawick’s monster block of Hart after he returned to the game post-injury.
So, in deference to the fact that every Hoya player contributed to this victory, including Riyan Williams and David Allen in the final minute, the ProminentPlay Game Ball goes to … drumroll … the Georgetown University Men’s Basketball Coaching Staff! With continued rumblings among some Hoya faithful about alleged shortcomings of Coach JTIII’s coaching ability, there is NO DOUBT that JTIII and his staff fully prepared their entire team for this game AND when the going was rough in the second half, coached the team from some worrisome minutes to a 20-point victory. For those reasons, JTIII and Staff earn the ProminentPlay Game Ball.
Understatement of the Night: “They didn’t have their best night.” (JTIII, about the Villanova squad). Paraphrased more accurately, Georgetown had its best night in years.
Youthful Wisdom: “They always say defense translates to offense, so obviously we kept them from scoring baskets, and we got open shots on our end … That’s how it worked out.” (Sir Isaac Copeland)
Hoyas Shooting Percentage: Prior to the game I tweeted that to win, the Hoyas needed to shoot at least 55% from field goal range, 35% from the arc and 75% from the free throw line. Final percentages were 51%, 50% and 72%. This was in stark contrast to Nova’s 34%, 30% and 71.9%. My prediction didn’t account for the Hoyas’ swarming defense that left the Wildcats wishing they had stayed in Philadelphia.
1985. No, young scholars born in and after 1990, that isn’t a typo–I’m not referencing George Orwell’s classic political and science fiction novel. I’m talking, not about “practice”, but about National Championships and One That Got Away. Georgetown alumni, students and fans are generally a serious crowd. At a Jesuit school whose motto includes “Women and Men in Service to Others”, occasionally Hoya fans need to let loose and serve themselves. Students, if fortunate, spend only 4 years in college, and these students have not witnessed a Signature Win of the magnitude of a 2007 NCAA victory over UNC on the Road to the Final Four, an outright Big East tournament victory (last one 2007, Jeff Green MVP) or the 2006 victory of an unranked Hoyas team over #1, 17-0 Duke Blue Devils. I would cut the students some slack for last night’s Court Storming. This is release for following a program that has disappointed in the post-season in recent years. A complete victory like the one last night provides hope that yes, Virginia, we may be witnessing and participating in a 21st Century Hoya Hoops Renaissance.
Next Up for the Hoyas: At Marquette on Saturday in Milwaukee for the season sweep, and two of the next three on the road. Now and forever a target, the Hoyas, Coach and Team, needs to translate its success to where it has stumbled most often, on the road.