Georgetown barely brushes Colgate aside in a close game

In what has steadily become an unpleasant December ritual for most Hoyas fans, the Georgetown basketball team (6-2, 0-0 Big East) narrowly escaped with a victory in a heavily favored matchup against a non-conference opponent. This time, the Blue and Gray unconvincingly prevailed against Colgate (4-3, 0-0 Patriot League), 61-55 in front of an anxious crowd of 7,966 at Verizon Center Saturday afternoon.

As always, shooting was the story of the game for the Hoyas, who shot a paltry 37.5 percent from the field and an abysmal 1 of 15 from three-point range. Sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, the leading scorer for the Hoyas, had a particularly tough outing, shooting 1 of 8 from the field, and scoring a season-low 4 points. Senior guard Markel Starks also struggled, scoring 12 points but shooting 3 of 13 from the field.

Despite the win, Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III expressed disappointment with his team’s performance and did not make any of his players available to the media after the game.

“Our group has to play a lot smarter, we have to make good decisions, if we want to win,” said Thompson following the win. “They played a soft man-to-man which we picked apart. We did a very poor job of executing today.”

Luckily for the Hoyas, the three-point centric Raiders also struggled with their stroke. Entering the contest as one of the top three-point shooting teams in the country, Colgate missed their first eleven field goal attempts of the game. This did not bode for the remainder of the game as the Raiders shot an anemic 32 percent from the floor, including 5 of 24 from three-point range. Sophomore guard Austin Tillotson, the only Raider who seemed to find his form, scored a game-high 21 points, including 11 of Colgate’s 15 first half points.

“We obviously got off to a cold shooting start. We don’t have the luxury of being able to pound the ball inside and pound the glass and I credit Georgetown for doing that in the second half,” said Colgate Head Coach Matt Langel. “Just the way our team is built and the players we have, we’ve got to be able to make jump shots. In our four game win stretch we were able to do that, but not so much tonight especially early in the game.”

Notwithstanding the outside shooting problems and streaky play from the usually spectacular backcourt, the Hoyas found success in the post against the undersized Raiders. Junior center Joshua Smith lead the Hoyas in scoring with 14 points. Despite being double teamed for much of the game, Smith was able to use his size pull down rebounds on the offensive glass and to generate scoring opportunities or get to the line. Senior forward Nate Lubick also sparked the Georgetown offense, scoring 10 points on 5 of 8 shooting. Lubick also controlled the boards for the Hoyas, tallying 7 rebounds during the game.

“We did a better job of getting (Nate) the ball,” said Thompson. “We have to get him the ball down there, because he scores at an efficient rate down there. I thought he did a good job of getting key rebounds when we needed them.”

Junior forward Mikael Hopkins, who struggled much of last season, had a strong outing, continuing a resurgent season in his role off the bench. Hopkins scored 9 points and pulled down 8 rebounds, providing the Hoyas a much needed spark especially towards the end of the first half.

“He has done that for several games now, he comes in and gives us a boost,” said Thompson. “He’s been doing a good job at rebounding, and he’s been allergic to rebounds up until now, up until this year, but he’s pursing the ball he’s getting rebounds out of his area, he’s getting ones in his area, so I think he’s been giving us a pretty big lift off the bench in general.”

Despite the tough win, Thompson hopes his team learns from these challenging matchups in order to prepare for similar opponents they may face in the NCAA Tournament later on this year.

“At the end of the day hopefully a lot of these games will prepare us for the NCAA tournament. I said at the beginning of the year that this is the toughest schedule that we’ve put together since I’ve been a coach here,” said Thompson. “It’s easy to pick up the schedule and look and start talking about the Oregon and everyone that was in Puerto Rico, VCU, Michigan who we could possibly play, down the road we have Michigan State and Kansas – it’s easy to look at those games, but it’s all these other games that are all against very good teams, and hopefully that will get us ready for the tournament.”

The Hoyas will have some time off before facing off against Elon (5-4, 0-0 SOCON) at Verizon Center on Tuesday, December 17. Tip-off is set for 7 pm.

Game Notes: Georgetown is now 8-1 all-time against Colgate and 149-84 and schools from the Patriot League… The win marks the Hoyas’ third consecutive game where they have held their opponents to under 32 percent shooting… The last time the Hoyas shot less than 40 percent from the field and won was on February 23 earlier this year, when they defeated Syracuse 57-46 at the Carrier Dome.

Photo: John Delgado-McCollum/Georgetown Voice

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