Bowen Arrow: Career game from fifth-year senior shoots Hoyas past Islanders

Respect your elders.

After the strong play of the team’s freshmen in their season-opening win, it was the seniors this time who propelled the Blue and Gray to victory. The Hoyas (2-0, 0-0 Big East) defeated Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (1-1, 0-0 Southland), 78-62, Tuesday night at Verizon Center. Career games from senior forward Aaron Bowen, who tallied career-highs with 13 points and five steals, and senior center Joshua Smith, who had his first double-double as a Hoya with 20 points and 12 rebounds, proved to be the difference makers in a much closer game than the score indicated.

With the scored tied at 34 at halftime, the Hoyas opened the second half with a 21-11 run in the first eight minutes of the frame to put the game out of reach. Bowen’s efforts, on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, stole the momentum from the Islanders and brought an intensity to the Hoyas that they lacked in the first half. His energy lifted the Hoyas in the second half, since the Blue and Gray offense shot 55 percent from the field in the frame, while forcing 11 Islanders’ turnovers on defense.

“I am just doing my job,” Bowen said. “Coach Thompson tells me that every time I touch the court just to play with energy and I feel that that’s what I did.”

In the post-game press conference, Coach John Thompson III lauded Bowen’s play in the winning effort and compared his playing style to former Hoya Patrick Ewing Jr., who won Big East Sixth Man of the Year under Thompson in 2007-2008.

“I think that he can have the same type of effect as [Ewing]” Thompson said. “A couple of years ago Pat was starting and then I brought him off the bench and he affected the game with his energy. Much like Aaron, Pat was always getting deflections, getting steals, getting rebounds. I think Aaron can have a similar effect on this year’s team.”

Bowen, however, was not the only senior to provide a boost for the Hoyas. After an underwhelming debut performance against St. Francis, where he only pulled down two rebounds, Smith was much more effective in the low post for the Hoyas, converting 8-of-12 field goal attempts, as well as pulling down double-digit rebounds for the first time as a Hoya.

“(His performance) was better. His effort level was much, much better today,’ Thompson said. “If Josh plays with that intensity and effort and that energy, that should happen every time.”

Led by Smith, the Hoyas greatly improved upon their rebounding from their prior game against St. Francis. After allowing 22 offensive rebounds in their season opener, the Hoyas controlled the glass for much of the contest, out-rebounding the undersized Islanders 39-23, including 18 offensive rebounds. The Hoyas converted those opportunities,  scoring 27 second-chance points.

“Rebounding on offense and defense, it demoralizes a team. Even though we won the first game, [St. Francis] had too many offensive rebounds and it didn’t really feel like we won. We didn’t really feel too happy,”Smith said. “Any time we can affect them on the boards, on both ends, especially offense, coaches don’t like that, when teams get second, third, fourth opportunities when everybody is crashing the boards. It was good.”

Junior forward Bryce Douvier and senior guard John Jordan led the Islanders in the team’s valiant effort to upset the Hoyas. Douvier led the team with 16 points on 6-of-14 shooting while also pulling down a team-high five rebounds. Jordan complemented Douvier with 14 points along with a game-high five assists. A Preseason 1st Team All-Southland Conference selection, the experienced Jordan created difficulties for the Hoyas early on with his disciplined play and was the primary reason both teams were tied at halftime. Thompson had nothing but praise for him after the game.

“John Jordan can control the game as well as anyone. He’s so poised, nothing fazes him, and he just skates along and gets to where he wants to go and places his people, so when you play against a really good point guard like that you have to work,” Thompson said. “In the first half we didn’t do as well as we needed to, to contain him. You’re not going to stop him because he’s so good at setting up his teammates.”

One point of concern from Tuesday night’s game for the Hoyas may be the play of junior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. The Big East Preseason Player of the Year struggled to find his form for the second consecutive game, shooting just 1-of-4 from the floor for only seven points in 24 minutes, his fewest played minutes since January of his freshman year. Thompson, however, is not too worried about him, and when asked about it in the team’s post-game press conference, rejected the notion that he benched Smith-Rivera. Simply put, he stuck with the team’s hotter hands.

“I thought the other groups we had in there were playing better,” Thompson said. “He was in a little bit of a funk, that’s going to happen.”

The Hoyas will look to build on their two-game winning streak when they face Robert Morris (0-2, 0-0 NEC) this Saturday afternoon at Verizon Center. Tip-off is slated for 12 p.m. It will be final game of the Hoyas’ three-game homestand before they travel to the Bahamas over Thanksgiving break to participate in the prized Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament.

Photo: Noah Buyon/Georgetown Voice

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