With just six games left in the season, the Georgetown men’s basketball team (14-11, 7-5 Big East) will face the No. 20 Providence Friars (18-7, 6-6 Big East) Saturday afternoon in a game that could very well determine if the Hoyas will be dancing in the NCAA Tournament come late March. Tip-off is set for 12:00 p.m., with the game broadcast on FOX.
The Blue and Gray enter the contest following their largest win of the season, a 92-67 rout of St. John’s (7-18, 0-12 Big East) on Monday night. Three Hoyas—senior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, sophomore forward Isaac Copeland, and sophomore guard LJ Peak—combined to score 67 points in the game. Copeland also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds on the night. His strong performance fully demonstrated his break from a mid-season slump that had plagued him throughout conference play.
“I’ve [focused on] just being more aggressive on both ends of the floor,” said Copeland. “It’s allowed my game to naturally flow and allowed me to find my spots.”
For Providence, the most recent stretch of conference play has presented the team with a prospect they have not faced all year: a three-game losing streak. The Friars’ most recent loss, a 96-91 double-overtime loss to Marquette (16-9, 5-7 Big East) on Wednesday, dropped the team to sixth in the Big East. However, the battle for second place is still up for grabs, as second-place No. 5 Xavier (21-3, 9-3 Big East) sits just three games ahead of seventh-ranked Butler (17-7, 6-6 Big East). A win on Saturday would keep the Hoyas tied for third place in the conference, while victory for Providence would move the Friars into the top half of the league standings.
“[The Big East] is a good league with a lot of good teams,” remarked Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III. “There’s not much difference one through 10 to be honest. There’s still a lot of important games to be played.”
If the Hoyas want to come out with a key victory on Saturday, they will need to stop the one-two punch of Providence’s junior guard Kris Dunn and sophomore forward Ben Bentil, who combined to score 52 points when these teams met on Jan. 30 at the Verizon Center, a game in which the Friars defeated the Hoyas, 73-69.
Dunn, a projected lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft, makes his presence felt in every aspect of the game, as he averages 17.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 3.1 steals per game. Bentil, a candidate for Most Improved Player in the conference, leads the league in scoring with 20.6 points per game on 47 percent shooting.
“[Bentil and Dunn] are going to get theirs, they’re too talented,” said Thompson. “But you just have to make sure that the next four guys can’t get 10,12,16 points. It’s hard to defend them because [Dunn] always gets by his man. He’s as good a guard as there’s been in the league in a long, long time.”
The Hoyas will look for a win Saturday to gain momentum for the final stretch of the season, which is set to include games against No. 1 Villanova, No. 5 Xavier and third-place Seton Hall. If the Blue and Gray are able to grab enough wins during this portion of conference play, they may be able to move themselves off of the bubble and safely into the NCAA Tournament.
“Our mentality for the rest of the season is just to close,” said Smith-Rivera. “We have Providence on Saturday so it will be a good challenge for us, and we’re ready for it.”