Men’s basketball finds shooting touch in home opener

November 14, 2013

After an abysmal shooting performance against Oregon (1-0, 0-0 PAC-12) in their season-opening game, where they shot 6.7 percent from three-point range, the Georgetown men’s basketball team (1-1, 0-0 Big East) regained their touch in their home debut against Wright State (1-0, 0-0 Horizon). The Hoyas shot 50 percent from the floor against the Raiders on the way to a 88-70 victory, their first of the 2013-14 season.

The Hoyas wasted no time jumping out to an early lead, which they held for the entirety of the game, extending their advantage to as many as 19 points before the ten minute mark. Defense was the key for Georgetown in the first half. Wright State was forced into 11 turnovers, many of which led to points on the other end for the Hoyas. A 50-31 halftime lead proved too difficult for the Raiders to overcome.

Junior guard Kendall Griffin led Wright State with 15 points, while senior guard Miles Dixon and sophomore forward JT Yoho added 14 each. However, the scoring stopped there for the Raiders, as no other Wright State player  achieved double figures.

“I told our team, [Wright State] is a very good team. [Head Coach] Billy [Donlon] does a terrific job with them. They’re going to be fighting for their league championship, they’re the kind of team you see in the NCAA tournament, and they’re a veteran team,” said Head Coach John Thompson III following the win, which improves his record in home openers to 7-2. “We were fortunate to get AJ Pacher in foul trouble early. That changed the dynamic of what they do, because he’s such a point of emphasis with a lot of things they do. But that’s a very good team.”

The strong guard play of the Hoyas caused problems for Wright State, as sophomore D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and senior Markel Starks erupted for 25 and 23 points respectively. This point total tied Starks’ career-high. After shooting a combined 8 of 24 from the field in the season opener, the pair jointly shot a much improved 15-of-26 from the floor, including 6-of-13 from three-point land. However, their dominating performance did not surprise Thompson.

“It was what we expected, to tell you the truth. The last game was not who they are, so for them to come out here and play like they did today is what we expected,” Thompson said. “They both have the responsibility to score points, but also to get their teammates involved. For some people it’s easier than others to understand that responsibility – that they have to score points for us, but then they also have to get everybody else the ball in positions where they need it.”

After a strong debut performance against Oregon, where he scored 25 points, junior center Josh Smith had only six points in 17 minutes played. He found himself double-teamed almost every time he touched the ball. However, this opened things up for the rest of the Georgetown offense, particularly their shooters on the perimeter.

“We don’t mind the double. We invite the double. He’s normally very strong with the ball. Josh is a good passer,” Thompson said. “Josh getting doubled is something we anticipate happening this year. I think we can put shooters out on the court to get open shots, and we have guys smart enough to know when and how to cut.”

Among the beneficiaries was freshman Reggie Cameron, who after an unmemorable debut against Oregon, scored nine points, all coming from beyond the arc. Cameron also added three rebounds and two assists in his home debut, rounding out a productive 18 minutes played.

“Reggie can shoot, so Reggie did what Reggie does. I thought he was active and attentive defensively,” Thompson said following the win. “He got hurt a couple of times in the first half in their zone where their bumps weren’t fast, but for the most part from a defensive perspective I thought he was attentive and active. He also has to rebound for us, but he’s feeling his way through it.”

Still suffering from jetlag after traveling halfway around the world in the last week, the Hoyas will have a week off, after which they will return to action against  Northeastern (0-2, 0-0 CAA) in San Juan in the opening round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The three-game tournament posseses a stacked field with a potential second matchup against either Kansas State (1-1, 0-0 Big 12) or Charlotte (1-1, 0-0 CUSA). And, if the Hoyas make it all the way to the finals, they could meet either No. 8 Michigan (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) or No. 14 Virginia Commonwealth (2-0, 0-0 A10), both Final Four participants within the last three years.

On a separate note, notably absent from the home opener was the familiar voice of Fr. William McFadden, the public address announcer for the Hoyas since 1973. McFadden has fallen ill and the team hopes to have him back as soon as his health permits.

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