Cope-n for Business: Freshman forward’s late three-pointer lifts Hoyas past Butler

The freshman did it.

Down 59-58 after Butler junior forward Roosevelt Jones’ layup regained the lead for the Bulldogs with 12.5 seconds left in regulation, the Hoyas needed someone to step up.

Freshman forward Isaac Copeland answered the call, as senior guard Jabril Trawick kicked the ball out to him in the corner when the Bulldogs’ defense collapsed on his penetration, and drained the game-winning three-pointer with 5.4 seconds remaining to lift Georgetown (12-5, 4-2 Big East) past Butler (13-6, 3-3 Big East) for the 61-59 victory.

“We gave Jabril the ball and told him to make a play so everybody just spotted up in their corner and I made a shot,” said Copeland, who scored 10 points, all in the second half, and grabbed six rebounds.

It’s exactly how Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III and the Hoyas diagrammed it in the timeout preceding the possession.

“We left the decision up to Jabril. Put the ball in Jabril’s hands and have Josh come up and set an on-ball (screen). We had Isaac on the single side and D’Vauntes and LJ on the other side and told Jabril just get to the rim, get to the rim and if they collapse on you and one of those three are open kick it out,” said Thompson. “He made a terrific play, a terrific decision. His man inched in a little bit and he snapped it to (Isaac) and he made the shot. It was designed to get Jabril on ball and have three shooters out there with him and let him make a decision.”

With junior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and senior center Joshua Smith on the floor at the time for the Hoyas, it may have seemed odd to the casual observer for the Hoyas not to get the ball in their hands for the final possession. But the Hoyas expect everyone on their roster to be able to step and make a play when needed, even if you’re a freshman.

“As Coach Thompson always says, one of our mottos is `trust each other’,” said Trawick. “So I snapped it to him and he made a big play for us.”

The intense finish was quite appropriate for the exciting back-and-forth affair the transpired between both teams, as the game saw 12 lead changes. Early on though, it did not look like the game would be so close.

Despite a promising start, as Smith converted two field goals in their first two possessions, the Hoyas struggled offensively for most of the first half, as they went without a made field goal for a span of 8:56, from the 10:40 mark until senior forward Mikael Hopkins’ tip-in ended the drought with 1:44 left in the first half.

The Bulldogs took advantage, as they jumped out to a 27-15 lead with 3:33 remaining in the opening frame, behind 13 first-half points from junior guard Kellen Dunham. The Hoyas regained their composure, however, as they ended the half on a 12-4 run to cut the Butler lead to 31-27 at halftime.

In the second half, the Hoyas, spearheaded by Trawick and Copeland came out with an aggressiveness that was not present for much of the first frame. A 10-0 run, capped by six straight points from Trawick, in the opening minutes of the half gave the Hoyas’ a 39-36 lead, their first lead since the opening seconds of the game.

The Blue and Gray extended their lead to 44-38 after a Copeland three-pointer with 12:47 left, but the Bulldogs responded with a 10-3 run to take a 48-47 lead following freshman forward Kelan Martin’s jumper at the 8:50 mark.

Both teams traded leads until Jones’ layup gave the Bulldogs a 58-57 lead with 1:42 left to play. A pull-up jumper from Smith-Rivera regained the lead temporarily for the Hoyas with 38 seconds left, as Jones hit another layup in traffic to put the Bulldogs back on top 59-58 before Copeland’s late-game heroics.

After the game, Thompson had nothing but praise for Trawick, who helped bring the Hoyas back into the game with his tenacity on both the offense and defense.

“I thought Jabril had one of his better games on both ends of the court. Starting the second half we put him on (Andrew Chrabascz) and he does a decent job,” said Thompson. “He’s guarding little guys, he’s guarding big guys and he can, that’s what he does. We feed off of his energy and he provided a lot of energy at the defensive end and the offensive end.”

Overall, Smith-Rivera led the Hoyas with 14 points, off of 4-of-11 shooting, while Smith added 10 points and Hopkins tallied eight points and eight rebounds. The two key players on the final possession, Copeland and Trawick, both finished with 10 points, with Trawick also adding six assists.

Thompson and the Hoyas have always expected this type of play from Copeland, even though this was only his third career game scoring in double-figures and first with more than four rebounds.

“It’s not like everyone in the locker room is going to say, ‘Ooh, Isaac is pretty good.’ They know that,” said Thompson. “That’s something that has happened through weeks and months of workouts and watching and playing with him. The trust has been there.

For the Bulldogs, Jones led the way with a game-high 28 points, on 12-of-19 shooting, while Dunham added 13 points, all of which came in the first half. Jones, who has not attempted a three-pointer this season, created problems for the Hoyas throughout the game with his penetration and deftness near the basket.

Thompson has nothing but respect for the Bulldogs, who defeated the Hoyas 64-58 earlier this season at the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament.

“That’s a very good team. That’s a mature team. They know how they want to attack you. They know how to take advantage of defensive situations when they put pressure on you. They have so many guys that can hurt you,” said Thompson. “You can sit and talk over and over again about how (Roosevelt) Jones isn’t an outside shooter, but you can’t stop him. That being said, I thought our defensive effort pretty good. It was a BIG EAST game. It was a tough physical game.”

The win is definitely a confidence booster for the Hoyas, as they face No. 5 Villanova (17-1, 4-1 Big East) this Monday night at Verizon Center. Tip-off is slated for 9:00p.m.

“We have to play tough because we know that they’re going to be aggressive and coming right at us so we just have to be ready to play Georgetown basketball and grind it out,” said Trawick.

Photo: Georgetown University

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