Hoyas defeat High Point Panthers in a blowout

With the last day of classes on the horizon and final exams right around the corner, the Hoyas (5-2, 0-0 Big East) dismissed the High Point Panthers (3-4, 0-0 Big South) 80-45 in a pleasantly uncharacteristic blowout victory.

The Hoyas’ defense stifled the Panthers on the offensive end, as the Panthers shot a measly 28 percent from the floor, including an anemic 14 percent from three-point range. The Hoyas effectively contained Panthers’ star sophomore forward John Brown, who struggled to get into a rhythm. Brown, the Big South Preseason Player of the Year who averaged 21.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game entering the contest, recorded only eight points on four-of-eleven shooting from the field.

The Hoyas’ slow pace controlled the game early on, but sloppy play dominated the half’s closing sequences, and the Hoyas limped into the break with a 28-16 lead. Slow starts, which have hurt the Hoyas repeatedly this season, are something both the players and coaching staff are striving to correct immediately.

“As a unit, I think we collectively understood that, you know obviously some words were exchanged in the locker room going into halftime, but even still I think the guys kinda knew that we had to snap out of it,” said senior Markel Starks. “It’s not like we don’t have the stamina for it, we are a good team and I think that every game we have to get better and better, but once we snapped out of it and came out in the second half I thought we were pretty good.”

But the team exploded offensively in the second half while holding High Point to 37 percent shooting, eventually opening up a 40 point gap, their largest lead of the game, with 2:26 remaining in regulation.

Strong backcourt play from Starks and sophomore D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who notched 18 and 17 points respectively, paced the Hoyas’ offensive attack. Starks particularly impressed, shooting eight of 11 from the field in just 28 minutes played. For the senior guard, who has struggled to find his shooting touching in recent games, the scoring outburst was long overdue.

“The ball just went in. I really honestly couldn’t tell you, I’ve been getting up extra reps. Earlier on the ball just wasn’t going in but tonight obviously it went in,” said Starks. “But more importantly: defensively tonight I thought we were pretty good.”

In the frontcourt, Georgetown received sizable contributions from their trio of big men, Josh Smith, Mikael Hopkins, and Moses Ayega. Smith, plagued by foul trouble throughout the game, scored an efficient eleven points in 18 minutes, but, as always, wreaked havoc down low against a small High Point frontcourt. Hopkins and Ayegba combined for 9 points and 14 rebounds, a promising sign for the Hoyas, who need production off the bench desperately.

Senior forward John Caprio performed effectively late in the second half, with flashes of athleticism on both ends of the floor, including a soaring block that ignited the crowd at Verizon Center. Caprio, who tied his career-high of four points, has taken on an increased role with the team this year.

“His coach really hasn’t given him the opportunity to be on the court, maybe as much as he should have,” said a sarcastic John Thompson III. “I understand the fans are not in our practices every day, but there is nothing that Cap did today that surprise anyone.”

The Hoyas will have a quick turnaround for their next game, as they take on Colgate (4-2, 0-0 Patriot League) Saturday at Verizon Center at 12 p.m.

Photo: Abigail Greene/Georgetown Voice

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