After a thrilling 74-73 comeback win against Creighton (14-7, 5-3 Big East) Tuesday night, the Georgetown men’s basketball team (13-8, 6-2 Big East) will now will host No. 10 Providence (17-4, 5-3 Big East) Saturday at Verizon Center for a rare weekend night game. Georgetown is currently in a two-way tie for second place in the Big East, and a win against the No. 10 team in the country would boost its NCAA tournament resume. Providence, which is currently tied with Creighton for third place in the conference standings, is coming off a 75-68 loss to No. 7 Xavier (18-2, 6-2 Big East) at home.
After their scintillating victory Tuesday, the Hoyas will enter this game on a high note. Despite several questionable foul calls that they received in the second half, the Hoyas were able to overcome an 11-point deficit with 2:32 left in the game. A 15-3 run over the final 2:17, capped off by a late steal by freshman guard/forward Kaleb Johnson and two free throws — including the game winner — from senior guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, was enough to complete the comeback and give the Hoyas a win that improves their chances of playing in the NCAA tournament.
“We had ample opportunities to quit and pack it in, but our guys kept fighting and found a way to put us in position to have some success in the end,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said of the win.
Smith-Rivera scored 19 points and had three assists and three rebounds, while freshman forward Marcus Derrickson had his best game since suffering a knee injury earlier in January, scoring 10 points and grabbing four rebounds.
The Friars, meanwhile, will come into this game hungry after dropping a home game to the Xavier Musketeers on Tuesday in front of a sellout crowd that turned out for the first-ever matchup between two top-10 teams at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, R.I. Providence sophomore forward Ben Bentil scored 25 points while star junior point guard Kris Dunn stuffed the stat sheet with 16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and seven steals. The Musketeers built up a 17-point lead in the second half, but the Friars went on a 14-3 run to cut the deficit to six points with five minutes remaining. A late Xavier three-pointer put the Musketeers up by six and put the Friars away for good.
The trio of Bentil, Dunn and sophomore forward Rodney Bullock currently leads the Friars on the stat sheet. Bentil and Dunn lead the conference in scoring with 20 and 16.9 points per game, respectively.
“Providence clearly has two of the better players in the league — if not in the country — with how Dunn and Bentil are going right now,” Thompson said.
Bullock averages 12.4 points per game to go along with 7.0 rebounds per game. It will be imperative that Georgetown’s centers — senior co-captain Bradley Hayes and freshman Jessie Govan — avoid getting into foul trouble against Bentil, who is one of the best big men in the conference. Bentil leads the team in free-throw percentage and field goal percentage, and limiting Providence’s leading scorer and rebounder will come down to the defensive efforts of Hayes and Govan in the paint.
Dunn is a projected NBA Draft lottery pick. He decided to return to Providence after last season in what some saw as a surprising decision. There is not much the electric guard cannot do, as he averages 16.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 3.2 steals per game.
“They have a very balanced team because Dunn is so good. We have to be sharp.” Thompson said.
Smith-Rivera will have his hands full both on offense and defense against Dunn. It will be interesting to see if Thompson chooses to defend Dunn with another player, like sophomore guard Tre Campbell or junior forward Reggie Cameron, to allow Smith-Rivera to focus his efforts on the offensive end of the floor. Last season, in Georgetown’s two conference games against Providence, Smith-Rivera scored 15 and 21 points, respectively, with only two turnovers between both games. He will have to continue his strong stretch of conference play for the Hoyas’ offense to click.
Rebounding will be of critical importance in this game, as the Friars are third in the Big East in offensive rebounding, while the Hoyas are fifth in defensive rebounding. Georgetown had rebounding issues in the first half of the Creighton game on Tuesday, getting out-rebounded 23-19 in the first half and allowing 10 offensive rebounds as well.
A win against the Friars would be a major boost for the Hoyas’ chances to make the NCAA Tournament. With games against No. 6 Villanova (17-3, 7-1 Big East) on the road and Xavier at home, as well as two games against Providence and Butler University (14-6, 3-5 Big East) remaining, Georgetown needs any win it can get. After grabbing a win at Xavier last week, then ranked fifth in the country, another win against a top-10 team would significantly benefit Georgetown.
“Every team in this league, your next game is going to be a really big game,” Thompson said.
Saturday night will be no different for Georgetown.
Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m., and the game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.