Georgetown won its season opener Saturday in convincing if uneven fashion, beating visiting St. Francis 83-62 thanks to a stifling defense, a fast-paced offense, and the thrilling debut of freshman LJ Peak. Peak's eruption--23 points, 9 of 9 field goals--headlined an otherwise balanced Georgetown effort that included solid contributions from returning veterans and extended views of the much-hyped freshmen.
The Hoyas got out and ran, compensating for an iffy half-court offense with plenty of transition buckets. Georgetown scored the game's first eight points, six in transition, and got up the floor quickly off of St. Francis misses and turnovers. The open court particularly suited Peak and senior Jabril Trawick (11 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block, 2 steals), athletic wings who ably filled lanes in the Hoyas' attack. Peak got baskets just about everywhere, slashing into the paint, burying a three, rocking the rim on a breakaway dunk, and getting to the line (where he made just 3 of 7 for the day, his one weak spot). For his part, Trawick got into the paint and finished well around the rim, eschewing the three-pointer that became a regular part of his arsenal last season.
The half-court offense was less successful, as possessions often got bogged down in confusion, poor execution, and questionable shot selection. These struggles were to be expected. Georgetown's rotation largely consists of new players and old players adjusting to new roles, meaning that cuts, timing, reads, spacing, and passing may take a while to click. JT3 also played 11 players in the first half, so no five-man unit saw more than a few minutes together before the deck was shuffled anew. Whatever the reasons, the Hoyas' offensive struggles allowed St. Francis back into the game, as the Terriers briefly took the lead midway through the first half and still trailed by only six at intermission.
After the break, Georgetown came out running again, smothering St. Francis on defense and generating easy run-out baskets. The freshmen got run throughout the game, ever more so as the margin grew. Peak was sensational, scoring at will. His ability to hit the outside shot will be critical going forward, both to keep driving lanes open and to create spacing for his teammates. Paul White looked very good, scoring six points on a mid-range jumper, a runner off the bounce, and a post-up, and also displaying the ball-handling and passing skills that should make him a valuable asset going forward. Isaac Copeland also scored six, albeit more quietly, ably finishing opportunities near the basket. Tre Campell overcame a rough opening half to finish with seven points and some aggressive on-ball defense. All of these Hoyas benefited from the fast pace: Georgetown played 74 possessions on Saturday, which would have ranked third-fastest among Hoya games last season.
The two presumed pillars of the Georgetown offense both had so-so days. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (8 points on 2-of-9 shooting) struggled with his shot in his first game as the team's de facto point guard, sometimes passing up opportunities and at others forcing drives into traffic. Still, he managed the offense well, particularly in transition, notching 6 assists against just 1 turnover; he also crashed the boards for 9 rebounds. Joshua Smith was a similarly mixed bag in his return to the court, posting 10 points but gathering just 2 rebounds and sometimes struggling to finish over smaller defenders in the post. He'll need to do better rebounding and holding off defenders to be effective as the competition improves.
After a disastrous last season, Georgetown's defense was largely back in form. St. Francis shot just 32 percent from the field as the Hoyas forced the Terriers to settle for one long jumper after another. The length and speed of the freshmen, Aaron Bowen (8 points), and Mikael Hopkins (2 points, 10 rebounds) caused the Terriers fits, as the Hoyas forced 17 turnovers. There were a few blemishes, as Georgetown allowed 22 offensive rebounds (a disastrous 41.5 O Reb. %) that the Hoyas will have to remedy going forward. Still, the Hoya defense was a menace, particularly when Hopkins, rather than Smith, played center.
Overall, this was a feel-good win. St. Francis was legit competition: although not Big East-level, the Terriers are the favorite to win their conference and make the NCAA tournament. Georgetown largely dominated the visitors, maximizing its size and athletic advantage through defensive pressure and transition offense. The freshmen look like they belong, and each has particular skills to contribute immediately. DSR and Smith both had somewhat rough outings but both neither was a disaster, and both are acclimating (or in Smith's case reacclimating) to a relatively new role. Hopkins and Bowen showed polished versions of their normal selves, limiting their miscues while turning their size and energy into production.
Georgetown's schedule will get harder, although not in the coming week, when the Hoyas host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Tuesday. The game against the Islanders, and next Saturday's contest against Robert Morris, will be time for more adjustments by new players and old players in new roles, more tinkering by JT3 of the rotation, and hopefully two more double-digit wins. In the meantime, your Georgetown Hoyas are an undefeated juggernaut.