CHARLOTTE — “Christmas would have been canceled.”
That post-game statement by Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III most aptly summarizes the feelings many would have had if the Hoyas failed to get a win against another mid-major opponent.
Fortunately for the Hoyas, it never got that far.
The Georgetown men’s basketball team (7-5, Big East) escaped Tuesday night with an ugly 62-59 win over Charlotte (2-9, Conference USA) in front of 6,448 fans at Time Warner Cable Arena. The win snaps the Hoyas’ two-game losing streak in their final non-league contest before the start of Big East play.
Sophomore forward Isaac Copeland led five Hoyas to score in double-figures with a team-high 12 points. Senior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera added 11 points, while sophomore guard L.J. Peak, freshman forward Marcus Derrickson, and junior forward Reggie Cameron each had 10. Senior center Bradley Hayes also grabbed 10 rebounds, his third consecutive game with double-digit rebounds.
With 2:22 left in the game and the reeling Hoyas down late 54-53 to another inferior opponent, the holiday season looked like it would not be so merry for those on the Hilltop.
Thompson called a timeout to set up a play for Peak, the only sign of life for the Hoyas during a stagnant second half in which the team shot 7-of-26 from the field. The Gaffney, S.C. native had not made a single one of his eight field goal attempts up to that point, but had made 7-of-8 free throws due to his consistent penetration.
“We knew we were going to have to get it to him and let him get to the basket to see if he could make a play,” said Thompson.
Peak rewarded his coach’s confidence. He drained a three-pointer right out of the timeout to give the Hoyas a lead, 56-54, from which they never looked back. Smith-Rivera followed suit at the 1:31 mark with an acrobatic three-point play, as well a steal with 26 seconds left and the Hoyas up one-possession. Cameron and Derrickson went 3-of-4 from the free throw line in the closing 15 seconds to ice the win.
“I think we made plays at the end that we haven’t been making,” said Thompson. “We got a couple big rebounds, come up with the loose ball, we hit some big shots which we haven’t been doing.
Each team had their run in the first half. After Charlotte opened the game up 10-8 lead with 13:30 left to play, Smith-Rivera’s conventional three-point play at the 7:38 mark capped a 14-2 Georgetown run to put the Hoyas up 22-12. The Hoyas opened up their lead to as many as 14 points, 30-16, with 4:39 left after two made Copeland free throws.
The 49ers responded, however, as they ended the half on a 13-2 run. Charlotte redshirt junior Braxton Ogbueze and senior center Joseph Uchebo scored all of the 49ers’ points in the run to cut the Georgetown lead to 32-29 at halftime. Ogbueze finished with a game-high 18 points off 5-of-8 shooting from downtown while Uchebo finished with his second double-double of the season, 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Hoyas will return to action in eight days, when they open Big East play at DePaul (5-7) on Dec. 30. Tip-off is set for 9:00 p.m. Thompson knows his team has a lot work in the coming week, but he’s pleased with the win.
“All the ills of our world have not been solved, but to make plays when we needed, to come out of here with a win feels more good than bad.”