Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Men’s Basketball | 2nd Matchup Set With St. John’s

MICHELLE XU/THE HOYA Freshman forward Isaac Copeland scored 12 points and notched nine rebounds in Georgetown’s 79-57 victory over St. John’s on Feb. 17.
Freshman forward Isaac Copeland scored 12 points and notched nine rebounds in Georgetown’s 79-57 victory over St. John’s on Feb. 17.

From the Bahamas to the Big East, Georgetown’s men’s basketball team (18-8,10-5 Big East) has soundly navigated the challenges it has faced on the court this season.

Georgetown will need to continue its success on the court if the team aims to leave Madison Square Garden with a win against St. John’s (19-9, 8-7 Big East).

A victory Saturday night would allow the Hoyas to hit their stride ahead of a crucial game at Butler (20-8, 9-5 Big East) next Tuesday. Butler is currently in second place in the Big East, just one place ahead of third-place Georgetown. The Hoyas’ trip to Indianapolis will likely decide the second overall seed in the Big East tournament.

“At this stage of the year, each game has significance because you’re coming down the home stretch and want to play your best basketball late in the year,” St. John’s Head Coach Steve Lavin said.

Despite the Hoyas’ current three-game winning streak, they have been unable to claim a place in college basketball’s highest echelon. A few narrow losses during the non-conference schedule and its inability to establish a prolonged winning streak during league play have hampered Georgetown’s efforts to stay ranked among the top 25 teams in the country.

Luckily for Head Coach John Thompson III and his players, statements in this sport are made in March, and his team has managed to stay the course until now. Georgetown is in a strong position as the calendar flips to college basketball’s most crucial month.

“[This is] the time of the year that you want to play best, and I think this is a year that we have the depth and the quality of play in the Big East that there are going to be multiple teams playing that second weekend of the NCAA tournament,” Lavin said.

As the Hoyas make their final preparations for the postseason, they appear armed and dangerous as they ride a three-game winning streak.

The Hoyas have won four games in a row twice this season. The first such streak, between Nov. 15 and 26, streak, between Nov. 15 and 26, opened the season, and the second was in January, during the team’s best stretch of the season that included home wins over Butler and No. 6 Villanova (26-2, 13-2 Big East).

Since Georgetown struggled in a 69-53 loss at Villanova on Feb. 7, Thompson has removed senior forward Mikael Hopkins from the starting lineup and replaced him with freshman forward Isaac Copeland. The change is a testament to how far Copeland has come as a defender since the start of the season and has given the Hoyas more speed in transition.

“[Copeland is] getting better every game; he’s consistently, not just scoring, but putting up rebounds and playing well defensively,” Head Thompson said. “I said at the beginning of the year that one day the clouds are going to open up for him and we’re in the midst of watching that happen.”

Since the move to the bench, Hopkins has averaged just over 13 minutes per contest, compared with the 23 minutes per game he was playing before the Hoyas’ most recent win streak.

Copeland, meanwhile, has played just over 18 minutes per game for the season, but has seen 31 minutes per game over the last three games. He set a new career high for minutes played in a game that ended in regulation with 33 minutes against St. John’s, then eclipsed that number when he played 36 minutes against DePaul last Saturday.

While Georgetown looks to push for second place in the Big East, St. John’s, which is currently sitting at fifth place in the Big East, is clinging to the unforgiving fringes of the NCAA tournament bubble.

The Hoyas will look to build off of its 22-point win over the Red Storm at Verizon Center on Feb. 17.

“They were winning leading up to our game, they just happened to have a bad night that day,” Thompson said. “They’re playing very well right now, they’re playing very unselfish basketball. They put pressure on you at both ends of the court and you have to play well to beat them.”

Georgetown’s offense produced its most well-balanced offensive performance of the season in its game against St. John’s. All five starters and Hopkins finished in double-digits in scoring, but none had more than 12 points.

Red Storm senior guard D’Angelo Harrison is second in the Big East with an average of 18.4 points per game, but the Hoyas held him in check in their previous game against St. John’s, limiting him to just five points on 0-of-9 shooting from the field.

St. John’s 79-57 loss to the Hoyas was the second time all season that Harrison scored single-digit points.
Georgetown will look to limit Harrison and the rest of the St. John’s squad once more when the team tips off against St. John’s at noon.

“Georgetown-St. John’s Saturday afternoon in the Garden is special; we’re excited about coming up to New York,” Thompson said.

Hoya Staff Writer Tom Schnoor contributed to reporting.

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