On to the Next One: Hoyas fly by Eastern Washington to advance to Third Round
PORTLAND, OREGON — The doubters may rest.
With 13-seed Eastern Washington leading Georgetown 24-17 with 8:12 remaining in the first half, all of the ingredients were there for another March disappointment from the Hoyas against a double-digit seed.
Senior center Joshua Smith and senior forward Mikael Hopkins were sitting on the bench due to early foul trouble. Eastern Washington junior guard Tyler Harvey already had scored 10 points and appeared well on his way to another 25-plus point night. And the Hoyas were playing in front of a hostile Moda Center crowd flooded with Eastern Washington fans adorned in red, who made the five and a half hour trip from the Cheney, Wa. campus.
Despite all these adverse factors, Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III and his team would not let the Eagles, as well as the Hoyas’ most ardent critics in the national media, have their way.
His team outscored their opposition 41-11 over the next 15 minutes of play to help 4-seed Georgetown (22-10, 12-6 Big East) down 13-seed Eastern Washington (22-10, 14-4 Big Sky), 84-74, Thursday night and advance to the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament.
“We felt like we had something to prove just in general, just because last year we didn’t make the tournament,” senior guard Jabril Trawick said. “This year we just felt like we had a chip on our shoulder. Regardless of who we were playing, we just wanted to come out and get a win. That’s what we did tonight.”
Georgetown junior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera led the way with a team-high 25 points, 19 of which came in the second half, while Hopkins and Trawick added 10 points apiece. A Big East All-1st Team selection, Smith-Rivera attributed his scoring output and hot shooting, 6-of-12 for the game, including 4-of-7 from three-point land, to his teammates. Overall, the Hoyas shot 52 percent from the field, including 11-of-23 from three-point range.
“My teammates got me open,” Smith-Rivera said. “They were setting great screens. We were just reading what they were doing… But overall I think we executed really well.”
But most importantly, the Hoyas’ bench came through when needed most. Junior center Bradley Hayes had career-highs in points, eight, and rebounds, six, all of which came in the first half. Freshman forward Paul White added 10 points off 4-of-5 shooting, while freshman guard Tre Campbell added 9 and senior forward Aaron Bowen added 8.
Hayes, especially, earned praise for his efforts after the game. The sparsely used center had only appeared in eight of the Hoyas’ 18 Big East contest this year before Thompson inserted him into the contest due to Smith and Hopkins picking up two early fouls. But for what Hayes lacked in prior experience, he made up with his energy.
“My coach always tells me before the game, ‘Be ready. Contribute as much as you can,’” said Hayes in the post-game press conference. “I’m always mentally ready when I get into a game and I just tried to do what I could to contribute to my team.”
Thompson did not expect that high level of play from the Jacksonville, Fl. native.
“What BJ did today is unbelievable,” Thompson said. “That’s what this tournament is about, stories like that.”
Playing up to their billed fast-paced tempo right from the opening tip, Eastern Washington dictated the game’s pace from the early going, as they jumped out to their 24-17 lead.
But then, it was time for the Georgetown bench to take over. Led by Hayes, Campbell, and Bowen, the Hoyas erupted for a 22-7 run in the remainder of the half to enter halftime up 43-33. In the first half alone, the bench accounted for 30 of the Hoyas’ 43 points. For the game, they outscored Eastern Washington’s bench 45-21.
“I just felt like we came in there with a lot of energy,” Campbell said in the Hoyas’ locker room after the game. “We brought to the confidence to the game, to our team too.”
Although winning is always a pleasant feeling for the victors, the Hoyas felt even sweeter about the win after the game, considering Eastern Washington Head Coach Jim Hayford guaranteed a win on a nationally syndicated radio show earlier this week. Thompson took a shot at Hayford’s guarantee in the post-game press conference.
“You know, so he guaranteed victory. And you know, maybe it’s just me, but when I think of that, I think of Joe Namath. I think of Muhammad Ali. I think of Larry Bard and the three-point contest,” Thompson said. “The kids brought it to me and said, ‘Their coach is guaranteeing victory. “I kind of looked down there at him. Thought he didn’t fit the bill of guys that usually guarantee victory.”
For the players, it gave a team that traveled to Portland with already a lot to prove even more of an incentive to win.
“That was a big target for them. We just had to come out here and punch them right in the mouth from the get-go,” Campbell said. “That was just more motivation for us.”
Hayford, however, did not regret what he said.
“No, not at all,” said Hayford during the post-game press conference when asked about the guarantee. “I don’t think that motivated them. I wouldn’t have wanted to play this team without my team having full confidence.”
Harvey, the nation’s leading scorer this past season, led the Eagles with a game-high 27 points off 9-of-20 shooting, including 6-of-12 from three-point range. Junior forward Venky Jois scored 19 points, on 8-of-12 shooting, while freshman forward Bogdan Bliznyuk added 11 points off the bench. Overall, Eastern Washington shot 41 percent from the field.
Trawick felt that he and the Hoyas did a good job of containing Harvey and the rest of the Eagles offense.
“Coming into the game, I wanted to make it tough for him by forcing him right,” Trawick said. “I knew a lot of his tendencies and a lot of the moves he wanted to do… I think I did a pretty good job on that tonight.”
With the win, the Hoyas now advance to the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament, the first time since 2012, and will face five-seed Utah (25-8, 13-5 Pac 12) Saturday night at approximately 8:45 p.m. EST. A win against the Utes would earn the Hoyas their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2007, the year Thompson and the Hoyas last made it to the Final Four.
Although a win against the Utes would most likely quell most in the media’s doubts about the Hoyas’ ability to have success in March, Thompson doesn’t know if it necessarily will, saying that he and his team don’t really think about too much anyway.
“You keep doing your business, you keep doing what you’re supposed to do, eventually people will be quiet,” said Thompson. “To tell you the truth, we’re Georgetown. Even if we do so, people may not be quiet. We’re used to that.”
Photo: Georgetown University