We're finally on the board! After a pair of season-opening losses, Georgetown lead Wisconsin from wire to wire Friday evening en route to a 71-61 victory. The Hoyas' first win of the season was steady if not necessarily overpowering, a solid performance on both ends of the floor, and in particular Georgetown's best defensive outing of the season.
Georgetown smothered Wisconsin from the start, denying the Badgers on the bounce and from three. Wisconsin made just one of three shots from the field, and did no better from three, where the Badgers hit just five shots all night. It was a far different tale from last season, when a veteran Badger squad staged a late rally to beat Georgetown in the Bahamas, just one victory in many en route to a national runner-up finish. Friday, Wisconsin looked like it hadn't yet replaced its two departed NBA first-round picks, Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, with only forward Nigel Hayes adequately filled the void.
But the Badgers' offensive futility was just as much a testament to Georgetown's defense. LJ Peak was particularly impressive, bottling up Badger guard Bronson Koenig, a presumed star this year who failed to reach double figures and hit just 1 of 6 from beyond the arc. Freshman Kaleb Johnson also saw took a few runs at Koenig, generally sticking to his assignment even with his foul trouble. And the Hoya back line was better than Tuesday against Maryland, plugging driving lanes and contesting shots at the rim.
On offense, Georgetown used active cutting and quick ball reversals to free up outside shooters and attacked the paint to earn trips to the free-throw line. Once again, Georgetown star guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera flew a bit below the radar, struggling with his shot for much of the night before catching fire late. DSR wasn't alone, as the Georgetown starting five went just 3 of 17 from the field for 6 points before half. Making matters worse, the Hoyas' first guard and forward off the bench were both absent again, as Tre Campbell (undisclosed illness) and Paul White (nagging hip injury) again did not play.
With no offense from the starting lineup and diminished depth, the Hoyas dug deeper to generate points. First and foremost was junior forward Reggie Cameron (a career high 14 points), who torched the nets from three before the half, burying four three-pointers on a series of flare cuts and ball reversals. The performance was a pleasantly surprising as it was necessary. Cameron came to Georgetown with a reputation as a shooter but has struggled, through two-plus years, to connect from deep. Friday, Cameron fulfilled that promise, for one night anyway. His defense also was good, as Cameron and Isaac Copeland took turns on Nigel Hayes, each playing with great energy to make life more difficult for the Wisconsin stud. That defensive activity allowed the other Hoyas to stick to their assignments, rather than helping down on Hayes, further suffocating Wisconsin's perimeter shooting.
The other reserve star was Jessie Govan (13 points), who likewise set a career high for points. Govan still has a way to develop on both ends of the floor, but he already shows great touch, flashing across the lane for points on the run, and stepping beyond the arc to fire away from three. He also had the flashiest play on a night that, with Wisconsin as the opponent, largely lacked flash. After the half, Govan grabbed an offensive rebound, faced up, and, when his defender looked away, simply blew by for a baseline dunk. With ascendant senior big man Bradley Hayes struggling, Govan's contributions were all the more welcome.
After half, the Hoya starters awoke. Copeland (team-high 15 points, 8 rebounds), spurred by some jawing with Nigel Hayes, stepped behind the arc to bury three triples. Copeland's in-between game is still a work in progress, as he struggles to create offense off the dribble. After a lackluster opener, Copeland upped his effort on the boards and in the offense. DSR's also perked up after the break, hitting a key three-pointer and icing the game from the line.
With the win, Georgetown moves to the final of the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden, where the Hoyas will play Duke, which won Friday's nightcap over VCU. That match-up on Sunday afternoon will give Georgetown yet another chance at a high-profile win in an eventful early season.