Hoya Takeaway: Georgetown 83, Providence 71

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

A heartening offensive performance overcomes a dominating performance from Bryce Cotton and moves the Hoyas to the right side of the NCAA bubble.

The Georgetown Hoyas won their fourth straight game, evened their Big East record, and boosted their NCAA Tournament chances with an 83-71 victory over fellow bubble dweller Providence at the Verizon Center.

For the second straight game, Georgetown won with an efficient offense overcoming an inconsistent defense, which is a notable change for the previously scoring challenged Hoyas.

Georgetown got off to a very fast start offensively, aided by fortuitous black swan events such as Nate Lubick hitting a perimeter jumper and Aaron Bowen hitting a three. The most important factor for the Hoyas was the return to form of D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. DSR hit an early three to break a four game shooting slump, and behind his efficient performance (22 points on 7-11 FG, 6-7 FT) Georgetown built a 12 point lead with seven minutes remaining in the first half.

However, the lead disappeared faster than Ed Cooley’s waistline as Friar star point guard Bryce Cotton got hot. He scored 16 points in the last seven minutes of the first half, hitting threes from all over the court (5-6 for the game) and drawing fouls (10-11). He generally torched his counterpart Markel Starks, to the point where Hoya Coach John Thompson III eventually put defensive ace Jabril Trawick on him.

Cotton was much too quick for Trawick though, and his 31 points carried Providence to a four point halftime lead which they eventually extended to seven.

However, the Hoyas fought back by turning to a zone defense which was more effective in containing Cotton. Georgetown was also aided by a rarely seen balanced scoring attack which saw multiple players effectively attack the rim and get to the line. Jabril Trawick (12 points, 2-4 FG, 7-9 FT), Reggie Cameron (11 points, 3-7 FG, 4-4 FT), Aaron Bowen (six points, 1-3 FG, 3-4 FT), and Nate Lubick (eight points, 4-6 FG) all made timely and efficient contributions.

These contributions were extremely important because stalwart point guard Markel Starks had a decidedly off night, scoring 14 points but requiring 15 shots to do it.

On the whole, Georgetown’s offensive performance was solid and it showed the continued promise of the team’s recent attempts to get to the rim.

The team’s 7-22 performance from long range was nothing special, but the attempts to get to the basket combined to produce a sizzling 57.6 percent shooting from inside the arc and 30 free throw attempts, of which the Hoyas made 24. In addition, the usually turnover prone Hoyas limited themselves to a mere five turnovers in this contest. The mix of two point shooting, free throws, and ball security produced a highly efficient offense and a blueprint for the rest of the year.

The front court however continues to be a major problem for Georgetown on both sides of the ball.

Mikael Hopkins, even in one of his better games, was inefficient on offense with eight points on 2-8 shooting from the field. He also gets docked major style points for the unsightly flat three point brick he threw up in the first half. More importantly, Hopkins fouled out again, continuing a recurring problem.

His last two fouls were major mental errors with the Hoyas ahead with less than two minutes to go, and were emblematic of the frustration Hoya fans continue to have with him.  Backup center Moses Ayegba picked up three fouls in eight minutes, once again suggesting the likelihood that Georgetown will run out of big men late in an important game.

The combination of Lubick, Hopkins, and Ayegba also struggled to stop the Friars’ big guys. Kadeem Batts (14 points, 5-8 FG, 7 rebounds), and Tyler Harris (13 points, 4-9 FG, 4-4 FT), were both effective, and had both not been plagued by foul trouble themselves could have caused Georgetown major damages.

As an aside, it is good for the conference to see Ed Cooley putting out a Providence product that is much better than anything we have seen in a decade. Cotton is the real deal, and his performance in this game brought Georgetown fans nightmares of Armon Bassett. But while they are still in the bubble discussion, the Friars are likely to fall a bit short of the NCAA’s this year. This is not a deep team and Cotton and Batts are graduating so it is unclear what the future holds for Providence

It seems like Georgetown has demonstrated it can do almost everything, but is only capable of excelling in a few areas at a time. Right now, the Hoyas are featuring strong back court play, an effective offense based on attacking the rim and avoiding turnovers, and much welcomed parity in the free throw department. This has been accompanied by a slip in the team’s defense and a continued struggle by team’s outmanned front court. Tonight’s game reinforces what the Hoyas have already proven themselves to be, a decidedly mediocre bubble team that can produce moments of greatness and horror.

The Great Bubble Adventure of 2014 continues Sunday with another huge game at St. John’s, yet another team quite close to the cut line.

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