Colonized: Smith, Hoyas impose will on Robert Morris in victory

The Georgetown men’s basketball team (3-0, 0-0 Big East) closed out their season-opening, three game homestand in style as they defeated Robert Morris (1-3, 0-0 NEC) 80-66, Saturday afternoon at Verizon Center. Senior center Joshua Smith recorded his second consecutive double-double, with 22 points and 11 rebounds, to lead the way for the Hoyas who extended their winning streak to three games.

“I’ll take it,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said. “If we can get fast starts to the first half, fast middle and fast ends, everything will be fine. But I’ll take it.”

The Blue and Gray controlled the tempo of the game right from the opening tip, jumping out to an early 12-4 lead after a made three-pointer by senior guard Jabril Trawick. Although the Colonials replied with a 14-9 run to make it 21-18 Hoyas with 7:18 left in the first half, the Hoyas entered halftime with a commanding 36-24 lead after a 15-6 run to close the opening frame.

In the second half, the Hoyas led by as many as 27 points and never let their lead sink to single-digits, cruising to victory, despite a half where they outscored the Colonials only 44-42.  For the game, Georgetown shot 49 percent from the field, while Robert Morris struggled to find its form for most of the day, shooting a measly 31 percent. The Hoyas depth and physicality on defense presented problems for the Colonials, who wore down as the game progressed.

“Our personnel is such that we can go deeper than we have in recent memory,” Thompson said. “I think this team has been built to be able to wear teams down at both ends of the court.”

Despite Smith’s strong performance, he was not the only Hoya to make his presence felt. After forgettable offensive performances in the team’s first two games, senior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera was effective in all facets of the game for the Hoyas. The Big East Preseason Player of the Year rediscovered his shooting form, scoring 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting, while also dishing out a game-high seven assists and pulling down six rebounds.

“I think this has been two out of three games where D’Vauntes has had high assists as well as high rebounds for his position,” Thompson said. “Once the smoke clears, he is still going to score. He knows that, I know that, we know that. We are just trying to get settled in.”

Unlike last year’s team where he and then senior guard Markel Starks provided much of the team’s offense, Smith-Rivera acknowledged that he doesn’t have to score in order to help the Blue and Gray succeed. As the team’s primary ball-handler this season, he knows that he has to get his teammates involved, which he has done a good job of so far. Smith-Rivera has tallied at least six assists in two of the Hoyas’ three games.

“I just want to affect the game in every way possible, it’s not really about me,” Smith-Rivera said. “I think so far it’s been great, everybody has been getting good looks at the basket and getting guys involved is key, just making sure that everybody is comfortable.”

Senior forward Mikael Hopkins and freshman forward L.J. Peak also had good showings. For the second time this season, Hopkins pulled down 10 rebounds as well as blocking four shots. Peak added 12 points and 4 assists, which makes him the first freshman to score double-digit points in his first three games since Greg Monroe in the 2008-09 season. Overall, Thompson feels that Peak and the rest of the team’s freshmen, who he has not been hesitant to include in the rotation so far, have settled in pretty well to the Hoyas’ scheme, both on offense and defense.

“I think that they are very comfortable when they are out there. They are freshmen, they are going to have their ups and downs,” Thompson said. “It’s an emotional roller coaster in many ways. But I think as a group, they all look very comfortable out there and they understand what we are trying to accomplish.”

Now that they have concluded their three-game homestand, the Hoyas will go on the road for the first time this season when they travel to participate in the prized Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas, which includes a talented eight-team field. In their opening game on Wednesday night, the Hoyas will face off against No. 8 Florida (2-1, 0-0 SEC) in what will surely be the first true test of their early season. Despite three blowout wins in as many games to start the season, Thompson is unsure of whether his team is ready to face such stiff competition.

“Time will tell. Starting with Florida, they are a terrific team. We are going to see,” Thompson said, regarding his team’s preparations for the tournament. “I think, as much as we could, guys have gotten minutes, guys have gotten situations, guys have gotten their feet wet. Now we are going to be thrown into the proverbial fire.”

Tip-off between the Hoyas and the Gators is tentatively slated for 9:30 p.m.

Photo: Noah Buyon/Georgetown Voice

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