The Georgetown men’s basketball team (4-2, 0-0 Big East) escaped the cold front that blew into the Washington, D.C., area this week, flying to the Bahamas to compete in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.
Three days, one overtime win and two close losses later, the Hoyas finished fourth in the stacked tournament that included four top-25 teams. Although there were some positive takeaways from the weekend, the final result was disappointing.
“It’s not a good thing to come away with a loss — we came here to win three games, not lose two,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said after the team’s third and final game.
In its tournament opener on Wednesday, the Georgetown men’s basketball team beat No. 18 Florida (3-2, 0-0 Southeastern Conference) 66-65 in a thrilling overtime victory punctuated by a jump shot from junior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera in the waning seconds of the game. The victory set the Hoyas up for a second-round meeting against No. 2 Wisconsin on Thursday, which they lost in heartbreaking fashion, 68-65. Georgetown played Butler (5-1, 0-0 Big East) for third place on Friday afternoon, falling to the other Big East bulldogs 64-58.
Georgetown, 66 – Florida, 65 (OT)
On Wednesday night, the Hoyas entered the overtime period tied with the Gators at 53 points. Two three-pointers from freshman forward Paul White and another from freshman forward L.J. Peak helped the Hoyas keep the game tied at 64 points with under a minute to play.
Senior forward Mikael Hopkins fouled Florida sophomore guard Kasey Hill, who made one of his two free throw shots at the line, giving the Gators a one-point lead. With three seconds left on the clock, Smith-Rivera sank a pull-up jumper from the top of the key to take back the lead. The Hoyas successfully defended a last second attempt from Florida to complete the upset and move on to semifinals of the tournament.
Georgetown, 65 – Wisconsin, 68
On Thanksgiving Day, the Hoyas tipped off against No. 2 Wisconsin, looking to pull off their second upset in as many days. Unfortunately, they came up just short when Smith-Rivera’s game-tying three-point attempt bounced off the rim.
Though Georgetown commanded a nine-point lead midway through the second half, the Badgers closed the gap and then some, taking a seven-point lead with just under two minutes left in the game. Thanks to a Smith-Rivera three-pointer and three successful free throws from White after he was fouled beyond the arc, Georgetown cut its deficit and trailed 65-66 with under a minute to play.
Wisconsin made a layup to stretch its lead to three points. Smith-Rivera attempted a tough three-point shot, but couldn’t repeat his Wednesday night feat, missing the game-tying basket.
Georgetown, 58 – Butler, 64
Butler, which beat No. 5 North Carolina in the first round, took a 13-point lead with 4:29 left in the first half. However, a 12-3 run by the Hoyas brought the Blue and Gray within four points of the Bulldogs at the break.
The Hoyas claimed the lead twice in the second half, but sloppy play in the game’s final minutes cost the Hoyas the win. Down 59-56, senior forward Aaron Bowen missed a breakaway layup. After another defensive stop, White missed a wide-open three that would have tied the game.
“We have several freshmen who made freshman mistakes,” Thompson said. “Hopefully making them now will mean not making them in January, February and March.”
Fouls committed by the Hoyas in the final minutes sealed their fate. Freshman forward Isaac Copeland led the team with 16 points.
Smith-Rivera seemed to respond well to the higher-ranked opponents, leading all scorers in the Hoyas’ first two games with 17 points against Florida and a whopping 29 points in the loss to Wisconsin. He also added 12 points in the loss to Butler.
Senior center Josh Smith, however, who led the team in points and rebounds in the Hoyas’ previous two games against Robert Morris and Texas A&M Corpus Christi, had a relatively marginal impact on the game. Smith recorded only eight points and four rebounds against the Gators and 10 points and three rebounds against the Badgers. Against Butler, he picked up his second foul with 12:15 to play in the first half, which limited his playing time.
“We have to reevaluate our coaching [to do] a few things differently because we’re getting some fouls called [when], in the future, we can’t have these guys getting [into] foul trouble,” Thompson said.
Although the Hoyas will leave the island with only one win, the fact that all three of their games were decided in the last minute — and two of them on the last shot of the game — bodes well for the young team trying to find its rhythm. Proving that the team can hang with the likes of Florida and Wisconsin this early in the season is reason enough for optimism, and no doubt a confidence boost for the team.
While the loss to Butler will certainly sting, the Hoyas will be that much hungrier when they face the Bulldogs in conference play in the spring.
The keys, as always, will be a short memory and determination.
“I think we have a good idea of what we need to work on,” Smith-Rivera said. “We didn’t achieve the goal that we wanted to achieve coming here. … We can only look forward and not really dwell on this one.”