When I arrived at the Verizon Center tonight, I thought that there must have been an error on the scoreboard when the opponent read: Islanders. No, not at all, the team from Texas A&M Corpus Christi indeed reside on an island. For at least one half the team believed they might make headlines like the unknown team FGCU did against the Hoyas a couple of years ago. The Islanders–as the school’s website states, “Picture yourself in a tropical environment where top-notch academics and cutting-edge research are blended into a robust lifestyle. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is the only University in the nation located on its own island.”
For the first half, the Islanders reminded me of that Florida Gulf Coast team–small but pesky and with some talented outside shooters. The Hoyas fell behind and spent the entire first half clawing their way back to a 34-34 tie at the half. And nothing looked easy. I wish I had been a fly on the wall in the Hoyas’ locker room at halftime, because Georgetown played with greater purpose, energy and teamwork in the second half to pull this one out, to the delight of the approximately 5000 fans at Verizon and anyone who could find Fox Sports 2 in their cable package. Either students assumed this one would be a bore, were being diligent or cut out for Thanksgiving a week early as even the lower bowl of the arena was sparsely populated.
I. JTIII Looks for a Winning Combination: Much of this game appeared to be a coach searching for five players who click. That goal was elusive, and may be for several games. At times even though the Hoyas have several returning upperclassmen, it appeared that no combination worked well together or had the chemistry needed to power the Hoyas past a smaller and less talented team. However, some things worked to result in victory.
II. Josh Smith Turned it Up a Notch: With 20 points and 12 rebounds in 26 minutes, Josh appeared to respond to the criticism of his play against St. Francis of Brooklyn. In what has always been expected of him since arriving at the Hilltop but seldom seen, he dominated the boards and easily tipped in points and so tonight, it was senior Smith and not freshman Peak leading the way. Freshman LJ Peak played well again and showed why he will be an important of this team. With ten points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds, while his shooting percentage trailed tonight, the Hoyas will continue to rely on Peak’s natural ability to get to the hoop and score. He is exciting to watch!
III. Trawick and DSR Solid: DSR seems to be finding his groove in the early going and Trawick continues to do many good things without big numbers (both had 7 points tonight, while Trawick had 5 rebbies and 4 assists). I believe that they will be the core of this team, but they are missing ….
IV. Markel Starks, We Miss You!: What I have learned from the first two games is that there is a gaping hole at point guard, one that won’t be easily filled by DSR, Jabril or freshman Tre Campbell. It will be worked out because it must, and tonight I missed Markel’s control of the court.
V. Mikael Steadies the Ship: Hopkins continued to demonstrate senior leadership qualities and had a solid outing with 12 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks. I believe he can be even stronger and will need to step up, as will Josh and others, soon against the Florida’s and KU’s of the hoops world.
VI. Tonight’s Secret Ingredient: Aaron Bowen, AB, Sparkplug, Difference Maker. As I tweeted early on, Get Bowen In. For 15 minutes as the Hoyas struggled, fifth year senior Aaron Bowen sat on the bench and I wondered, “Why?” Smith had 20 points, but Bowen brought the energy, enthusiasm, athleticism and punch that every winning team needs. If Coach doesn’t see Bowen in the starting rotation, he should be the Hoyas’ Sixth Man and play the role that Pat Ewing Jr. played for the Final Four Team last decade. Bowen’s stat line in 18 minutes: 13 points on 5 for 7 shooting, 3 for 4 at the foul line, 5 steals, 2 assists and 2 rebounds. I don’t think you can afford to leave that type of production on the bench.
There is a long way to go but there is promise. Get Bowen in earlier, keep Smith motivated and wait until DSR has that 30 point breakout game that we know will come soon. With help from Campbell, Copeland and White and hopefully more time for Hayes and Mourning, the season is early. Very Early.
Check out the highlight reel! https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=839296896121336&set=vb.130171857033847&type=2&theater