Over the past two weeks, the Georgetown men’s basketball team (15-8, 7-5 Big East) suffered three painful losses to Xavier, Providence and Villanova. Each game was characterized by slow starts and prolonged periods of offensive droughts. Now, Head Coach John Thompson III and his team must stop the bleeding Tuesday night in Newark, N.J., when they face a Seton Hall team (15-8, 5-6 Big East) that is equally desperate for a victory.
“We lost three of four; we try to look past it, but the next game is crucial for us. We need this one,” junior guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera said. “The easy thing is to crumble at this point.”
The veteran had his most ineffective game of the season managing a paltry two points as Villanova avenged its Jan. 19 loss by earning a 69-53 victory this past Saturday.
Despite its recent slide from the national rankings, Georgetown is in fourth place in the Big East, and with six conference games remaining, there is still time for the Hoyas to find their form before the postseason.
One key improvement that the Hoyas need to focus on is their offensive consistency, as they have turned the ball over nearly 16 times per game in their past three recent losses.
“It’s past the midway point of conference play, everyone knows what we’re doing, how we’re doing it. We know what everyone else is doing,” Thompson said. “It comes down to execution and communication.”
After a hot start that included a Jan. 3 66-61 overtime win over Villanova, Seton Hall has cooled down recently, losing five of its past seven games. Junior guard Sterling Gibbs leads the Pirates with 17.1 points per game, good for third in the conference.
The Pirates’ wild-card difference maker is freshman guard Khadeen Carrington who averages just under nine points per game but has gone off for 20 points in two Big East games this season.
“He’s a natural scorer. He’s hard to guard — really, really hard to guard,” Thompson said of Seton Hall’s impact freshman. “He’s an offensive threat. He’s aggressive, and he’s effective.”
Seton Hall freshman forward Angel Delgado is another threat for the Pirates; he averages 9.4 rebounds per game, which is third nationally among freshmen. Delgado also scores 9.1 points per game and is a formidable threat on the interior.
“He’s a good player. He works hard. He’s skilled, he’s mobile and he’s got a toughness to him,” Thompson said, discussing the surprising impact that Delgado has had on Seton Hall’s season.
“It’s very important [to keep Delgado off the boards]. This guy is almost averaging a double-double,” senior center Joshua Smith said. “He’s probably top three in our conference in rebounding, he’s averaging about nine per game, and it’s always important to keep guys off the glass because you can give our guys confidence when we’re playing defense when you limit them to one shot.”
Following Tuesday night’s 7 p.m. tipoff, Georgetown will have a rare week-long break before taking the court again at home against St. John’s next Tuesday. In the midst of a long season, the Hoyas welcome the chance for respite, but they do not want to allow the stigma of a third-straight loss to linger for an entire week.
In order to break out of its slump, Georgetown has to avoid slow starts on the offensive end, a tendency that has plagued the team recently. Against Xavier, Georgetown didn’t score its 10th point until there was 3:59 remaining in the first half. Against Villanova, it took Georgetown over 11 minutes to score 10 points.
“We can’t start off slow, we can’t dig ourselves a hole like we did the other day,” Thompson said. “We can’t have that kind of start against good teams.”
Georgetown’s 6-foot-10-inch, 350-pound senior center Joshua Smith only pulled down two rebounds against Villanova and has fouled out of two of the past three games. To find offensive stability, Smith needs to establish himself on the low block early and often.
“In the last four, five games, I haven’t been playing well. I fouled out of a few of those games, and I haven’t made an impact the way I want to impact the game. I just have to be aggressive [against Seton Hall],” Smith said.