Isaac Copeland collected a pass from D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera at the top of the three-point arc early in the second half Tuesday night and briefly examined his options. St. John’s guard D’Angelo Harrison was in front of Georgetown’s freshman forward, so Copeland had the size advantage for an unobstructed three-point attempt.
Copeland elected otherwise, and several dribbles later, he was by Harrison and into the painted area where three Red Storm players awaited. He couldn’t really go around them, so Copeland went over them, completing a one-handed dunk that brought the Verizon Center crowd to its feet.
The emphatic field goal underscored a 79-57 victory in the Hoyas’ first game in a week, bumping them into third place alone in the Big East with four games left in the regular season. Georgetown (17-8, 9-5) logged its largest margin of victory in a Big East game and continued to fortify its NCAA tournament credentials by dispatching an RPI top 50 opponent that came in with a three-game winning streak.
“I know, now that I’m starting to hit a lot more three-pointers, people are going to run out, close out on me a lot faster,” Copeland said. “So earlier in the game, I was getting that midrange shot, but it wasn’t falling. [Teammate] Tyler [Adams], he told me next time go all the way to the rim and finish, so that’s what I did.”
The Hoyas won their second in a row and for the seventh time in 10 games to move a half game in front of idle Providence, which wins the tiebreaker based on a regular season sweep. Villanova is in clear control of first place and Butler is second, a half-game ahead of Georgetown.
All five Hoyas starters reached double figures, including 12 points each from Copeland, Smith-Rivera, Joshua Smith and L.J. Peak. Starting guard Jabril Trawick had 11 points, and former starter Mikael Hopkins added 12 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Smith-Rivera also had game highs of 10 rebounds and six assists, and Copeland contributed nine rebounds, three blocks and two assists without a turnover.
“I thought we did a good of” being unselfish, Hoyas Coach John Thompson III said. “We have different people that can score in different ways. When we look bad offensively, it’s been when the ball’s been stagnant. I thought today we did a good job of keeping it moving.”
The Hoyas, whose lead never dipped below 13 after intermission, ended a two-game home skid by shooting 68 percent in the second half and went 7 of 10 from three-point range after missing all nine attempts from beyond the arc over the first 20 minutes.
Their nine turnovers were tied for the fewest this season, marking their first game not in double digits in that category since a 61-59 victory over Butler on Jan. 17. That was the last time Georgetown won at Verizon Center. Also impressive was limiting Harrison (five points), the second-leading scorer in the Big East, to 0-for-9 shooting.
St. John’s (17-9, 6-7) got the upper hand initially by scoring six straight points to take a 19-15 lead with 8 minutes 45 seconds to go in the first half on Joey De La Rosa’s layup. That field goal would be the last of the half for the Red Storm, which shot 0 for 10 during that stretch and went 5:20 without a point.
Georgetown reeled off 13 points in a row, beginning with Copeland’s jumper. Hopkins scored on a layup with 6:37 remaining until halftime to give the Hoyas the lead for good, and Peak and Smith-Rivera combined to make 3 of 4 free throws. Hopkins soon thereafter collected an offensive rebound and scored to make it 26-19.
Reserve forward Aaron Bowen was trying to collect a defensive rebound moments later and got his right arm tangled with Peak on the way down. The senior remained doubled over on the court in front of the Georgetown bench before gently walking to the bench favoring his right elbow.
Bowen went to the locker room for further examination but was well enough to play in the second half with the Hoyas ahead 33-23 at the break.
“I thought they were razor sharp and hitting on all cylinders tonight,” St. John’s Coach Steve Lavin said of the Red Storm’s longtime Big East rival. “The reality is collectively we played poorly. There wasn’t any bright spot tonight.”