Holy cow. Georgetown pulled out an exciting, maddening, flawed, and ultimately clutch overtime win over 18th-ranked Florida in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis Wednesday night. The Hoyas alternately seemed determined to outlast their best competition of the season and equally resolved to give the game away. Ultimately, Georgetown emerged from the extra session victorious thanks to the late heroics of of their presumed leader, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who led all scorers with 17 points, including the biggest two of the night.
The Hoyas proved they belonged with the Gators from the tip. The Hoyas spread the wealth, feeding Joshua Smith in the post but also finding the open man, as seven different Georgetown players scored before intermission. Georgetown took advantage of ice-cold shooting by Florida, which struggled even with wide-open perimeter looks. And yet the Hoyas never really pulled away, failing to connect from three-point range and struggling to string together consecutive baskets. Any momentum was further stifled by whistles: a dubious flagrant foul on Joshua Smith for an inadvertent elbow to Jon Horford's face, a technical assessed to a frustrated JT3, and foul trouble for the Hoyas' two main offensive cogs, Smith and Smith-Rivera. Entering the break, Georgetown led by just four, leaving the feeling that an opportunity might have been wasted.
Coming out of the half, Florida found more offense on second chances that Georgetown permitted thanks to sloppy back-line defensive rotations and a smaller lineup. For the game, the Gators converted 18 offensive rebounds into a punishing 20 second-chance points. Horford and Dorian Finney-Smith led the assault on the offensive glass. Georgetown's struggles to get the ball back exposed one downside to playing versatile but slim freshman Paul White as a stretch power forward, and also showed that the Hoyas still have plenty of kinks to work out defensively.
And yet, those offensive boards only gave the Gators so much offense, and the Hoyas never fell behind by more than a basket. Down the stretch, Georgetown turned to Smith-Rivera, who made one big shot after another. The junior guard has slogged through a shooting slump for the first few games, adjusting to a new lead-guard role. Much of the Florida game was the same, at least until the five-minute mark, when DSR took over, scoring the last seven points of regulation, including high degree-of-difficulty jumpers that kept the game from slipping away. A leaning, contested long two from Smith-Rivera tied the game with just under two minutes to go. That knot was preserved by a final Hoya defensive stop, a blocked shot by Aaron Bowen (with an assist from a swiping LJ Peak).
Overtime only increased the tension. Smith-Rivera kept pouring it on, feeding Smith in the post and then driving to the hoop for a powerful lay-in. White stepped up with the shot clock dwindling to nail a three, the first of his young career, to put the Hoyas up four. After a Florida mini-run put Georgetown down by a point with under a minute to play, Peak stepped up to match his classmate's feat, nailing a triple. The tables turned again when Gator guard Kasey Hill beat Mikael Hopkins on a switch to manufacture a three-point play that put Florida back up by one with just 12 seconds to play. But Georgetown found one last answer when DSR stepped into a long two from the top of the key that rolled in to put the Hoyas ahead for good.
This was by no means a perfect win. Georgetown's offense remains a work in progress, as outside shooting is scarce (except, apparently, in overtime) and the Hoyas labor to find points outside transition and Smith post-ups. Ball handling is an issue against pressing defenses, and ball movement needs improvement against zones. The Hoya defense is far better than last season but porous on the defensive glass and prone to confusion in pick-and-rolls. DSR has struggled to live up to the deserved preseason hype, and some of the Hoya depth appears to be not quite ready for prime time. Florida was a banged up, offensively limited bunch on Wednesday, and yet Georgetown nearly gave the game away one time after another. Plus, there was the general lousiness of AXSTV, Seth Davis being Seth Davis, the ongoing assault of block/charge calls on the enjoyability of basketball, in this case negating a SWEET MIKAEL HOPKINS DUNK, and the madness of a rule where a surprisingly nimble but nevertheless very large man can't even turn around without getting whistled for a freaking flagrant foul because Florida chooses to play defense with its damn face.
Yet, there was so much to like. The last-minute heroics of White, Peak, and DSR are thrills are the big-lights payoffs after cakewalks against lesser lights. We all knew DSR was a star coming into this season, and he began to fulfill that promise late Wednesday night. Peak and White both look like reliable contributors, at minimum, with very bright futures. Peak (8 points, 2 steals) is lethal in transition and a fearless scorer, while White (10 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals in 35 minutes) is a steady ball handler, a zone buster, and perhaps a serviceable outside shooter. Smith is a real weapon, albeit a foul-prone one, who has shown far better effort on the boards of late, and Hopkins more than made up for a few defensive miscues with a really solid 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 blocks. Jabril Trawick made some hotheaded mistakes but used the same energy to chip in 10 points and 6 rebounds.
Georgetown has very little time to savor this victory, as the Hoyas return to action Thursday afternoon at 3:30 Eastern. Then, they'll face the rested, #2-ranked Wisconsin Badgers, who will provide a much stiffer test than Florida did today. Until then, your Hoyas remain an undefeated juggernaut.