The Georgetown men’s basketball team (3-3, Big East) defeated Maryland Eastern Shore (1-5, MEAC) 68-49 Tuesday night at Verizon Center to give the Hoyas their first winning streak of the season.
Senior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera finally broke out after a quiet start to the season, scoring a game-high 30 points, while the rest of the Hoyas struggled to find the bottom of the net. Smith-Rivera’s co-captain Bradley Hayes was the only other Hoya to break double digits with 11 points. The Hawks, who feature a Rivera and Copeland of their own, shot a measly 36 percent on the day.
“We’re taking two wins, which we needed,” said Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III. “That’s stating the obvious, but it still feels good to take two wins.”
Smith-Rivera was potent in both halves, draining five buckets from downtown in the first act before driving and converting on and-ones on the back end. His 17 first-half points trailed the entire UMES team by only three heading into the break. While the rest of the team struggled to manage only 38 points combined, the Preseason All-Big East First Team selection created space for himself and fought his way to the line. He left the court to a roaring applause with one minute remaining in the game.
“Rivera was a man among boys tonight,” said UMES Head Coach Bobby Collins.
Thompson was never worried about the captain’s play. He knew it was only matter of time.
“I’ve lost a lot of hours and night’s sleep over a lot of different things as it relates to this young man,” said Thompson. “But none of them have to do with offense and it never will. If the ball isn’t going in, who cares, it means the basket is crooked.”
Smith-Rivera, however, was quick to attribute credit to his teammates and coach for keeping him involved.
“My teammates just supported me pretty much through all the games and I finally feel like the weight is off my shoulders a little bit,” said Smith-Rivera. “And coach has been telling me to just keep playing. Like he said, he’s not worried about the offense, so shots were going to fall eventually and I appreciate my teammates for just continuing to find me and continuing to look for me when I’m open.”
From the opening tip, the Hawks could not figure out the Hoyas’ opening press, and coughed the ball up 14 times in the first half. Even after the Hoyas eased off the press, the Georgetown defense took advantage of UMES passing lanes to rack up seven steals and made good for easy fastbreak lay-ins before the break.
When the Hawks did manage to hold onto the ball, they could not put it in the basket. A paralyzed UMES offense stuffed with frozen players were forced to settle for contested outside shots, pumping at only 33 percent in the first half.
UMES senior guard Devin Martin was responsible for forcing a could-be humiliating blow-out to a more palatable comfortable Hoya victory. While the rest of the Hawks were anemic with the ball in their hands, Martin fought alone for 12 points off 5-of-13 shooting.
“[Dominique Elliot] and [Martin] would thrive in the Big East,” said Thompson.
Unlike the Hawks, the Hoyas were constantly cutting in the opening minutes, and UMES could not keep up. The Hawks countered with a full-court press of their own in the second half, scrapping their way to eight steals on the night and shrinking the lead to 48-37 with 9:03 remaining in the game as the Hoyas struggled to inbound and bring the ball up.
“I think we have to do a better job, when getting pressured, of responding to that as the person with the ball and the receivers,” said Thompson. “We had too many turnovers, and I put them in the category of unforced turnovers. We just have to take care of the ball better.”
Sophomore forward Paul White was limited to six minutes in his second game back from a hip injury, while sophomore guard Tre Campbell put up seven points in his return from illness.
“It’s great. I think they are key parts to what we’re trying to work toward this year,” said Smith-Rivera. “Tre brings us a lot of energy off the bench and so does Paul, he’s a great rebounder, can defend, can rebound, so it’s great to have them back.”
Sophomore forward Isaac Copeland’s hot streak came to an abrupt halt, as he failed to score a single point in 19 minutes of play. Junior guard Reggie Cameron, who had also been known for his distance shooting, proved he can hold his own in the paint. After playing minimal minutes in his first two Georgetown campaigns, Cameron continued to surprise in his successful junior season, slashing through the paint and following shots to the tune of six points off an efficient 3-of-5 shooting.
Cameron had the help of Hayes inside, who controlled the paint on both sides of the ball, falling one rebound shy from a double-double.
Despite the Georgetown shooting woes, the Blue and Gray had the opportunity to put the game away early, but converted on only 44 percent of free throws in the first half in what has now become a season-long pattern of poor free-throw shooting. The Hoyas did improve from the charity stripe in the second half, bringing the total on the day to 70 percent overall. Once again, Smith-Rivera was exceptional, hitting all five of his chances.
Georgetown returns to action this Saturday afternoon when they renew their rivalry with No. 14 Syracuse (6-0, ACC). Tip-off is set for 1:00 p.m. In addition to being the first time the foes will meet since the 2012-13 season, the Hoyas will look to extend their winning streak to three games and pick up their first win over a ranked opponent this season.
“We need to win again, we need another win,” said Smith-Rivera, the last remaining Hoya to have played significant minutes against the arch-rival. “Especially Syracuse, especially Syracuse.”
For additional news and notes from today’s game, click here.