With so many numbers kicked around in college basketball at this time of year, it’s easy to forget that the game is played on the court. The “eye test” still matters, and the Georgetown men’s team hasn’t looked great recently.
Although math whizzes have raved about the Hoyas’ tough schedule and overall performance, something didn’t add up as they dropped two of their first three this month. Against St. John’s on Tuesday night, Georgetown’s performance was in sync with the computers.
In a much-needed laugher at Verizon Center, the Hoyas cruised to a 79-57 Big East victory over the Red Storm. After opening a double-digit lead at halftime, the Hoyas led by 22 points in the second half, displaying the focus Coach John Thompson III only has seen in spurts the past few games. When you rely so much on freshmen, sometimes it’s hard to keep everyone on the same page.
The Hoyas’ newcomers have impressed — forward Isaac Copeland is sprinting to the finish — but they keep Thompson busy. There was plenty for Thompson to teach as the Hoyas took aim at making a statement against the Red Storm.
Winners of three straight in conference play, St. John’s was having a good stretch. Coach Steve Lavin’s squad appeared out of its league against Georgetown, which, after shooting abysmally early in the game, found its groove.
Every starter scored in double figures. In the second half, Georgetown shot 68.2 percent from the field and made 7 of 10 from behind the three-point arc. Defensively, the Hoyas swarmed the Red Storm, which made 11 of 31 shots after halftime.
“The shots they were hitting . . . they were clicking,” Lavin said of the Hoyas. “They were razor sharp.”
The Hoyas put on such a solid show, they made the numbers crunchers look good.
Despite having a record that would seem to put them on the so-called bubble for an at-large NCAA tournament berth, the Hoyas (17-8, 9-5 Big East) are beloved by the math whizzes. To its credit, Georgetown played a very difficult nonconference schedule that included Florida, Kansas and Wisconsin.
In assembling the NCAA tournament field the past few years, the selection committee has made it clear that playing a good nonconference schedule is a good thing to do.
The mathematicians tell us the Hoyas have played the second-toughest schedule in the nation. Georgetown has a nifty RPI in the low 20s (in case anyone wondered, the media relations staff listed the information on the front page of the Hoyas’ game notes).
But the Hoyas have four conference games remaining before the Big East tournament. They must forget about the numbers and keep it going on the court. Thompson plans to reinforce the message.
“We can’t get complacent,” he said. “A lot of it is our guys, our players, are starting to take pride and understand that attention to detail is important. We still have to keep the focus and keep trying to get better.”
On Tuesday, Georgetown was about as good as it’s capable of being offensively.
Freshmen Copeland and L.J. Peak were among five players who scored 12 points apiece.
“We have different people that can score in different ways,” Thompson said. “When we look bad offensively it’s when the ball is stagnant. We did a good job of keeping it moving.”
Undoubtedly, some time off helped. The Hoyas had not played since defeating Seton Hall on Feb. 10. They made good use of time re-energizing, forward Mikael Hopkins said.
“It was very big,” he said. “It gave guys like [guards] D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Jabril Trawick, guys who play a lot of minutes, time to rest their bodies and recover. It also allowed us to focus on defense. We knew that St. John’s was a good offensive team. We were able to focus on some of their schemes. It was good for us.”
Again, the numbers back it up. Red Storm guard D’Angelo Harrison, who entered averaging a team-leading 19.1 points, went 0 for 9 from the field and scored five points. At almost 14 points per game, guard Rysheed Jordan is second on St. John’s in scoring. He went 1 for 6 and finished with three points. For that, the Hoyas deserve to take a bow.
“Our guys worked very hard. They did a very good job of helping each other,” Thompson said. “We did a good job of making second, third, fourth rotations.”
It’s still unclear where the Hoyas are headed. But if they keep it together on the court, the numbers should wind up telling a good story.