Georgetown Hoyas basketball hits the road after recent success at home


Georgetown guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera is fifth in the Big East in scoring. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

After a triumphant stretch in which it won seven straight at Verizon Center, the Georgetown men’s basketball team embarks on its lengthiest road swing this season, playing three times in eight nights beginning with Wednesday’s game against Providence at Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

The Hoyas carry the momentum of consecutive victories to open the Big East schedule with them to Rhode Island, where wind chills in the single digits await along with the reeling Friars, who have dropped three in a row and are winless in conference play.

Georgetown (10-3, 2-0), which has beaten Providence in eight straight meetings, then travels to Indianapolis for Saturday’s date with Big East newcomer Butler and to Cincinnati on Jan. 15 to play Xavier, another first-year member of the revamped conference that lost regular powers Syracuse, Connecticut and Louisville.

“As we do everything here, we compartmentalize to a certain extent,” Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said Tuesday. “Yes, we have three road games in a row, which if you look at our schedule you can separate that and say this is a chunk. The way we’re approaching it is we play Providence at Providence, and then after that game we play whoever’s next at their place and after that whoever’s next at their place.”

Georgetown began 2012-13 losing two of three on the road but is among four teams to have opened conference play unbeaten this season. The Hoyas are coming off Saturday’s 77-60 dismantling of longtime rival St. John’s, which fell behind by 26 at halftime and never recovered thanks in large part to the shooting of D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera.

The sophomore guard made 6 of 7 three-pointers, including his first four to help stake the Hoyas to a 29-10 lead. Smith-Rivera finished with 31 points, three short of a career high, made 9 of 12 from the field and added six rebounds and three assists.

He did commit four of Georgetown’s 18 turnovers, leading Thompson to comment on the need for his charges to be more attentive to ball security, especially in a highly competitive conference where the final outcome frequently can be decided by one or two possessions.

Georgetown has averaged 17 turnovers over its first two Big East games and is third-to-last in the conference in turnover margin (plus-0.54).

“It’s something we’ve talked about, yes,” Thompson said. “If you look at the numbers, when we get shots, we score more often. It sounds simple, but we have to make sure we get a shot every possession down the court. Let’s get a shot, and we usually get good shots.”

While turnovers have been a nuisance, the Hoyas are countering with shooting accuracy and swarming pressure. Georgetown has shot 52 percent in its first two Big East games and leads the conference in overall field goal percentage at 49.5. It also is first in field goal percentage defense (38.2).

The Friars (10-5, 0-2), meantime, are last in both of those categories following a 91-61 loss to No. 11 Villanova on Sunday. Providence’s three-game losing streak in the Big East includes a pair of overtime games, most recently falling at home to Seton Hall, 81-80, in double overtime.

Providence has the second-leading scorer in the Big East in Bryce Cotton. The senior guard, who scored a game-high 25 against the Pirates, is averaging 20.2 points. In last year’s game against Georgetown at Verizon Center, Cotton finished with a game-high 21 points.

The Hoyas can claim two of the top seven scorers in the Big East. Smith-Rivera (17.1) is fifth, and senior point guard Markel Starks (16) is seventh after logging 12 points against St. John’s. Starks (Georgetown Prep) also had four of Georgetown’s 17 assists on 23 field goals in that game.

“For me it’s just more exciting,” Smith-Rivera said of playing on the road. “To silence the crowd, just to have them involved in the game, it’s very exciting, but to win on the road is really tough in this conference, so hopefully we can do that.”

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering many local and national beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He joined The Washington Post sports department in 1990 as a member of the high school staff and worked as a copy editor and assignment editor for almost 19 years.
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