NEWARK — Circumstances hardly could have been bleaker for the Georgetown men’s basketball team early in the second half Tuesday night. The Hoyas were smarting after relinquishing all of a 20-point lead to Seton Hall, which had momentum and the Prudential Center crowd squarely in its corner following a three-pointer to tie in the opening minutes.
From there, a game in danger of yielding an inexplicable meltdown soon became the defining performance in the brief career of Georgetown’s Isaac Copeland. The freshman forward either scored or assisted on 14 points in a row during a decisive flurry, and the Hoyas went on to claim an 86-67 victory.
Copeland finished with a season-high 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting with a game-high eight rebounds and committed just one of the Hoyas’ 10 turnovers. That’s the fewest they’ve had in their past six games after committing 30 over the previous two, both losses.
Junior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored a game-high 23 points, including a three-pointer with 18 minutes 11 seconds left in regulation that provided Georgetown (16-8, 8-5 Big East) the lead for good. It was the first of three three-pointers in the second half for Smith-Rivera and began a 17-4 run following Sterling Gibbs’s three-pointer that drew Seton Hall (15-9, 5-7) even at 44 moments earlier.
“Isaac, he played like a man today,” said Smith-Rivera, who was 7 for 12 from the field as part of Georgetown’s 53 percent shooting. “That’s how we need him to play for the remainder of the season, continue to rebound for us like that.”
The victory ends a stretch of three out of four games on the road and ensures Georgetown will remain in fourth place in the Big East heading into its first week-long bye. The Hoyas won for the fourth time in five road games.
Georgetown got 12 points from senior guard Jabril Trawick, who added four rebounds, three assists and two of his team’s 10 steals. The Hoyas held a 27-11 advantage on points off turnovers — and a 40-22 advantage on points in the paint — and ended a two-game slide against Seton Hall despite attempting 13 fewer free throws.
Gibbs led Seton Hall with 17 points, and forward Angel Delgado chipped in 12 points and game-high 15 rebounds but was unable to prevent the Pirates from losing their third in a row and for the seventh time in 10 games.
“Going into the game, I knew I was going to start, so I had to make up for the last game when I started,” said Copeland, referring to his five-point performance in 26 minutes in his first start, a 66-53 loss to Xavier on Jan. 24. “I just wanted to come out and be aggressive and do what my team wanted me to do. I think I did a good job of that.”
The Hoyas opened by moving the ball as crisply as they have all season, determined to avoid the lethargy that has plagued them through their recent swoon. The initial burst included three straight three-pointers, two from Copeland, and Georgetown added seven more in a row to sprint to an 18-4 lead before the Pirates called timeout with 14:47 left until halftime.
Two more Hoyas field goals compelled Seton Hall Coach Kevin Willard to call another timeout just over a minute later, but the lead expanded to 27-7, the game’s largest, following center Joshua Smith’s layup and forward Aaron Bowen’s three-point play.
But Seton Hall jolted fans out of their doldrums with a 22-6 surge featuring two three-pointers from Gibbs and another three-pointer from Isaiah Whitehead. By the time Delgado dunked to cap the run, the Pirates were within two possessions.
The Hoyas pushed the lead back to double figures, 43-33, on Smith-Rivera’s four consecutive points, but Seton Hall went into the locker room down 43-38 when Delgado scored off an offensive rebound and Whitehead swished a deep three-pointer.
“I was really pleased with the fact that we came back and showed good effort to get back in the game and did some really good things,” Willard said. “We let a couple turnovers, little things morph into a big problem. [Copeland] really changed the way we had to play defense.”