The Prominent News: The Hoyas secured the victory and made it three consecutive victories before they hit the road for rematches with St. John’s and Butler. The Hoyas gutted this one out, as the outcome was in doubt, especially late in the second half, when the game was won at the free throw line. The Hoyas, now 18-8 overall, 10-5 in the BIG EAST, second place in the BIG EAST behind rival Villanova, secured a first round bye in the BET in New York in March, where all bets are off now for who will secure the conference tournament crown.
The LessProminent News: The Hoyas struggled mightily to secure this win against one of the bottom feeders in the BIG EAST. The consistency and strong play of the past two games was not evident, and whether it was the unusual Saturday night (8pm start), the battle instincts of a team, DePaul, who is simply trying to save face at this point in the season as it cannot seem to catch a break, or whether the Hoyas were careless on defense and sloppy on offense, this was not a game made for the “Fan Experience”. Most fans were on edge throughout much of the game as Georgetown could not seem to build upon any lead and allowed DePaul to stay around the entire game, always too close for comfort.
The Game: While it wasn’t pretty, it was a win. Sloppiness was written all over it in the first half. The Hoyas led by three points at the half and used a 7-3 spurt over the opening few minutes of the second half to push the lead to double digits, 40-30, on a jumper from DSR. A layup and free throw from Smith at the 15:29 mark gave the Hoyas a 43-32 lead. DePaul responded with seven unanswered points and cut the lead to 43-39 on a layup from Aaron Simpson at the 14 minute mark. The Hoyas twice took an eight-point lead, first on a Copeland layup and then on a dunk from senior forward Aaron Bowen. DePaul then went on a 10-5 run to pull within two points, 54-52, after a 3-pointer from reserve Forrest Robinson with 6:27 remaining. Robinson was draining threes and the Hoyas could not seem to stop him. Another 3-pointer from Robinson, his third-straight, narrowed the gap to 56-55, but an 8-1 Hoya run over 3:50, capped by a jumper from Copeland and Trawick’s layup led to some breathing room at 64-56. DePaul wouldn’t quit and narrowed the gap to two points, 64-62, after free throws from the Blue Demons’ season high scorer, guard Billy Garrett, Jr., held under average for the game, with 27 seconds left. Georgetown freshman guard Tre Campbell then increased the lead to four, 66-62, with a pair of free throws. After DePaul scored one on a free throw from Jamee Crockett, Trawick hit one of two free throws with 13 second left to give the Hoyas a 4-point advantage, 67-63. A combination of timely free throws and stops sealed the victory for the Hoyas.
NotSoProminent Stats But Good Enough on a Stormy Night in DC: The Hoyas shot 44.6 percent from the floor (25-of-56), 30.8 percent from the arc (4-of-13) and 70.0 percent from the free throw line (14-of-20). Significantly, GU held a 43-30 advantage on the boards and handed out 12 assists while committing 13 turnovers, 6 of which came from freshmen Peak and White combined.
The ProminentPlayers of the Game: “The Core” of DSR, Smith, Copeland and Trawick carried the team on Saturday night while other teammates struggled to contribute in a productive way. Junior guard and stalwart DSR led the team with 19 points and seven rebounds, and Smith, who had little impact in the first half, came out hungry for the ball in the second half and was the force who took control of the game. Smith recorded his sixth double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Credit both Smith for his desire to get the ball and his teammates for feeding him inside proficiently. Freshman forward Copeland continued to relish his starting role and provided the scoring and support needed by his team, adding 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Senior guard Jabril Trawick finished with 10 points, six rebounds and three assists, including the ProminentPlay of the Game. Michael Hopkins also played an efficient and effective 15 minutes, mostly as a substitute for Smith on defense.
The ProminentPlay of the Game: While Trawick earns ProminentPlay of the Game willing his way to a critical reverse layup in the second half, both Smith and Tre Campbell share Honorable Mention for each hitting two critical free throws down the stretch. Trawick’s will to the hoop is emblematic of his grit and determination all season long and his team’s desire to gut out the win, sloppy or not. It became clear in the final minutes that this game was going to be won or lost at the line and while 70% is not stellar, it was enough for the Hoyas to get the job done on Saturday night.
Coach’s Observation: “All wins are good. We made too many unforced errors … It’s a good win.”
Next up: The Hoyas are going to have play much improved ball on the road against St. John’s and Butler. (UPDATE: On Monday night, the Johnnies put away Xavier at home to improve to 19-8 and virtually ensure a post-season at large bid) Having secured a bye in he first round of the BIG EAST tournament, the Hoyas must strive for improved performance, and wins on the road at this point in the season would show resilience and experience to finish the season strong and prepare for the post-season. However, no one should be looking past St. John’s, who will look to avenge their loss against the Hoyas on January 28th. Madison Square Garden is a familiar venue for the Hoyas. This season they beat a very good Indiana team there, 91-87, in OT, when IU was hovering around the Top 25-30 (like the Hoyas) on December 27th. Tip off time is noon Saturday 2/28 at the World’s Most Famous Arena.
Return to the Top 25 in the AP and Coaches Polls? Doubtful but possible. I think we’ll see the Hoyas hanging around the 26-28th spots when the rankings are released today. UPDATE: Hoyas are indeed #26 in both polls.
Miscellany: Finally the fans at the Phone Booth were rewarded with a free Chick-fil-A sandwich as DePaul missed consecutive free throws in the final minutes consistent with the Chick-fil-A season promotion. That may have led to the loudest cheer of the night from the crowd of approximately 8,000.
See you at the Garden!