Georgetown pulled to .500 tonight in rather unremarkable fashion, beating Maryland-Eastern Shore, 68-49. Previously dormant senior guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera turned in a lights-out shooting performance, notching 30 points for the fourth time in his career. Otherwise, the Hoyas' win was ho-hum, bordering on disappointing. After a DSR-fueled explosion before halftime, Georgetown merely held on after the break, always keeping the lead in double digits but never really running away with what should have been a blowout. Still, the Hoyas won, setting up Saturday's reunion with arch-rival Syracuse.
Believe it or not, the beginning of this game was encouraging. After sleepwalking through first halves against low-lights Radford and Bryant, Georgetown came out hot against UMES. The Hoyas pressed the Hawks, forcing a dozen first-half turnovers with energy and activity in the passing lanes. After several games of no or token full-court coverage, Georgetown's aggressive press was refreshing and productive.
On offense, Georgetown kept the ball moving and kept moving off of the ball. UMES turnovers and offensive movement led to easy opportunities at the rim for Bradley Hayes (11 points, 9 rebounds) and beyond the arc for Smith-Rivera, who buried everything in sight. Smith-Rivera emphatically broke out of a season-long slump from three, where he had made just 10 of his first 35 attempts on the year. Against the Hawks, DSR buried 5 of his first 7 shots from deep, finding one open look after another. When consecutive DSR threes helped balloon the Hoya halftime lead to 18, the rout appeared to be on.
But then there was the second half to play. While UMES came out of the break with a hop in its step, the Hoyas looked alternatively indifferent and tentative, a mood reflected by the sparse home crowd. Georgetown managed just a low-percentage LJ Peak jumper during the first six minutes after intermission, fumbling the ball, jacking up out-of-rhythm shots, and generally abandoning the aggressive play that had characterized the first half.
Meanwhile, the Hawks extended a full-court press that fueled a 9-0 run to whittle the Hoya lead to 12. Georgetown committed turnovers as prolifically in the second half as it had forced them in the first, ending the game with 17 miscues, most after the break against the Hawks' pressure. Apparently frustrated with his team's listless play, JT3 went to the rarely seen DSR-Peak-Tre Campbell-Reggie Cameron-Hayes lineup and stuck with it, without substitution, for almost the entire rest of the game. Like the rest of this game, that lineup was a bit odd, particularly given Georgetown's evident depth and JT3's frequent substitutions in the season to date. Even so, that lineup was good enough to keep UMES at arm's length, and eventually push the lead back to 20-plus.
The main encouraging sign from Tuesday's win was Smith-Rivera's outstanding play after a lackluster start to the season. Six games in, Georgetown appears to have plenty of offensive talent but no sure thing apart from DSR. The Hoyas will need their senior guard to score on demand to reach their full potential this season. Smith-Rivera was money against UMES, burying a headline-grabbing 5 triples while also hitting a near-perfect 5 of 6 from inside the arc and all 5 of his free throws.
The win over Maryland-Eastern Shore also was Georgetown's first game at full strength. Versatile forward Paul White, who missed the team's first four games, played his second straight, albeit in limited minutes, while the shifty Campbell returned from a three-plus game absence due to an undisclosed illness. Both sophomores are key cogs in the Georgetown rotation, and Campbell in particular logged heavy minutes against UMES, scoring 7 points while playing much of the second half. Even if White and Campbell's play didn't lead to a blowout win, their return is essential to the Hoyas' long-term hopes.
Finally, the Hoyas' perimeter defense generally looked good. Georgetown forced 16 UMES turnovers and held the visitors to just 35 percent shooting, including a paltry 5 of 15 from three.
Still, there were reasons for concern. Apart form a few easy baskets by Hayes, he and fellow big man Jessie Govan contributed almost nothing at either end of the floor. Both centers get lost or burned too easily defensively, giving away as least as much as they reap on offense. And even those offensive contributions were muted against UMES, as Hayes and Govan both finished softly and often unsuccessfully around the basket.
The other Hoya bigs weren't much better. Isaac Copeland entered the game as Georgetown's leading scorer but put up a goose egg, turning the ball over 3 times while missing all 3 of his shots. Freshman forward Marcus Derrickson regressed after a positive showing against Bryant, also committing 3 turnovers while scoring 5 points. Overall, these four Georgetown bigs turned the ball over 12 times against just 1 assist and failed to overpower a smaller, albeit energetic, UMES front line.
However pedestrian, it was a still a fairly easy win, which was all Georgetown needed before the reunion with Syracuse. A few weeks from now, most of us will struggle to remember the particulars of this game, so it's hard to get too worked up over them now. Instead, it's time to turn to our attention to the hated Orange.