Snow Day: Hoyas plow through Red Storm for second-straight win
DC’s first major snowfall of 2015 may have given Georgetown students the day off from classes. But that did not extend to the Georgetown men’s basketball team, (17-8, 9-5 Big East) as they dismantled St. John’s (17-9, 6-7 Big East), 79-57, Tuesday night at Verizon Center in front of 8,685 fans.
Six Hoyas scored in double-figures, with five tied for a team-leading 12 points apiece, to lift the Blue and Gray to their second consecutive victory in their first game in seven days.
Junior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera recorded his second double-double of the season, scoring 12 points while grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds and dishing out six assists. Making his second consecutive start, freshman forward Isaac Copeland nearly had a double-double as well, as he complemented his 12 points with career-highs in rebounds, nine, and blocks, three.
Coming off the bench, senior forward Mikael Hopkins recorded 12 points, eight rebounds, and three steals. Joining in on the well-balanced scoring effort, senior center Joshua Smith and freshman forward L.J. Peak notched 12 points each and senior guard Jabril Trawick, the only starter not to score exactly 12, added 11.
“We have different people that can score in different ways,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said after the game. “When we look bad offensively it’s when the ball is stagnant and I thought today we did a good job of keeping it moving and we have some different people that can score.”
Georgetown found themselves leading the St. John’s 33-23 at halftime, despite shooting only 36 percent from the field, including 0-of-9 from three-point range. In the second half, however, the Hoyas shot an astronomical 68 percent from the field, including 7-of-10 from three-point land, building up their commanding double-digit lead to as many as 22 points to cruise to victory.
“In the first half we were also getting open shots they just weren’t going in,” Thompson said. “The shots that we missed in the first half we were fortunate to make in the second half.”
The Blue and Gray defense created problems for the Red Storm throughout the contest, as they held the Johnnies’ two leading scorers, senior guard D’Angelo Harrison and sophomore guard Rysheed Jordan, to eight total points on combined 1-of-15 shooting from the floor. Held without a field goal for the final 8:45 of the first half, the Red Storm could not overcome the double-digit deficit they faced for the entirety of the second half.
“I think our defense, early and throughout the whole game was really good,” Thompson said of his team’s defensive effort, which forced 15 turnovers and outrebounded the Red Storm 43-33. “Because we were getting stops and getting rebounds we were able to get out in transition, which we want to do.”
The defensive effort by the Hoyas in the second half quelled any hope of a St. John’s comeback, who never cut the deficit to less than 13 points in the final frame.
“It was winning time. I know the main focus was to get stops,” Hopkins said of the Hoyas’ defense to seal the win. “We already had the lead, we just wanted to come down there, key in, get stops and finish the game up.”
Thompson had praise for Hopkins’ play off the bench, especially, in the team’s post-game press conference. The Hyattsville, Md. native started the Hoyas’ first 23 games this year until Thompson opted to start Copeland in his stead the last two games.
Empowered by his new role, Tuesday’s game was only the third time this season that Hopkins scored in double-figures and the first time in four games that he pulled down eight or more rebounds.
“Hop is a senior, Hop wants to win,” Thompson said of Hopkins. “ I’ve said this many times, Hop may understand what his coach wants more than anyone in that locker room, some of the coaches included. Starting or not starting, I know he understands what that’s about and he’s a player. He gets in there and plays.”
Senior guard Phil Greene IV’s game-high 18 points led the way for St. John’s, who saw their three-game winning streak snapped with the loss. Senior forward Sir’Dominic Pointer tallied 16 points to go along with his team-high eight rebounds. The two seniors were the only bright spots for the Red Storm, who have not defeated the Hoyas at Verizon Center since Jan. 2003, a little over 12 years.
“It is very frustrating. Just not having a sense of urgency that we should have had,” Greene said. “This was basically a must-win for us. We wanted to win here, we haven’t won here. The effort that we had was unacceptable.”
The Red Storm will have a shot at redemption when both teams face off again at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Feb. 27. But until then, St. John’s Head Coach Steve Lavin knows his team can be better.
“Clearly we faced a team that played well and we were disappointed with our performance,” Lavin said of his team’s play. “We struggled all night to find any type of rhythm offensively and we had no answer defensively.”
Despite winning their second-straight game by more than 19 points after dropping three of their prior four games, Thompson feels there is still lots of areas for improvement as his finishes the rest of conference play and moves on toward the post-season.
“We’re better. We can’t get complacent. We are going to have some pretty hard practices here the next couple of days,” Thompson said. “I think that a lot of it is our players, it takes time, but I think they’re starting to take pride and understand that attention to detail is important. We still have to keep the focus that we’ve had lately and still keep trying to get better.
The Hoyas will return to action this Saturday night at Verizon Center when they look to complete the season sweep against DePaul (12-14, 6-7 Big East), who they defeated earlier this season in Chicago on Jan. 13, 78-72. Tip-off is slated for 8:00pm.
The game will mark the last chance most Georgetown students will have to see the Blue and Gray in action at Verizon Center this season. The team’s final home game, on Mar. 7 against Seton Hall (15-11, 5-9 Big East), occurs at the beginning of spring break, which starts on Mar. 6.
Additional reporting by Alex Boyd and Kevin Huggard
Photo: Georgetown University