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Game Preview: Georgetown vs No. 17 Xavier

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NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Georgetown Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Game 14: Georgetown Hoyas (8-5) vs No. 17 Xavier Musketeers (11-2)

Series: Xavier leads 9-4

Where/When: Verizon Center, Saturday 11am

TV: FS1

Line: Xavier -2.5

KenPom: 74-72 Xavier, 57 percent

Georgetown is back in action on New Year’s Eve trying to avoid an 0-2 BIG EAST start against a Xavier team that has pretty much loved facing the Hoyas since joining the league in 2013. The Musketeers have held the upper hand in the series going 4-2 in regular season contests while also picking up a BIG EAST tournament win in the 2015 semifinals.

Only once - in the 2012-13 seasons - has a John Thompson III Hoyas team started 0-2 in the league. Of course starts aren’t everything as that team went on to win the regular season crown and a 2 seed in the NCAAs.

After seeing DePaul take No. 1 Villanova to the wire and St. John’s knock off No. 13 Butler already this week, JT3 knows there will be few, if any, places to hide this season so it’s best this thing gets going early, especially with four of the next five BIG EAST games at the Verizon Center.

“The beauty and the curse of the BIG EAST, there’s no easy games.”

The two biggest storylines coming out of the Marquette loss were the health of LJ Peak and the Hoyas defensive issues, particularly after JaJuan Johnson pointed out what he felt were lazy tendencies.

Well first up is the report that Peak has deemed himself healthy after scoring a season low four points on 1-8 shooting in just 22 minutes.

“I’m fine,” Peak said about the groin injury he suffered in practice leading up to the Marquette game.

That being said, JT3 needs to monitor the situation as Peak underestimated his injury on Wednesday.

“LJ will be on his death bed before he’ll say, Coach I can’t go,” JT3 explained.

“I had a long talk with him after the game, like you got to be honest with me, let me know how you’re feeling. That’s something we’re definitely going to watch because he’s not one to tell you I’m not right. When he finally said coach I can’t, I can’t - that was alarming because he doesn’t do that. We’ve got to watch him. He says he’s fine, our medical staff says he’s much improved so we’ll see.

Moving onto the defense, JT3 didn’t feel that Johnson’s comment held merit while also indicating that he and team were fully aware of what was said.

“We made sure our guys saw it and heard that.”

Now that being said, JT3 is aware that there are areas where his Hoyas need to improve in order to get back to their winning ways.

He pointed out that after clawing back from a 14-point deficit to tie things up the Hoyas had seven straight scoreless possessions with many ending in a turnover.

“We have good offensive players so we have to get a shot every time down the court. We can’t just keep giving it back to the other team.”

JT3 also felt that there wasn’t enough helping on defense against Marquette.

“As much as our defense was poor, as much as our help and support of each other wasn’t where it was has been, our offensive execution in key points in the game has to be better. We ended up with too many islands. Everyone was just thinking about my man, my matchup, and not supporting as much as this group has to do.”

So what do the Hoyas need to do against Xavier? With so many great, interchangeable players such as Trevon Bluiett, JP Macura, and Edmond Sumner to deal with JT3 knows Georgetown needs be aware of the shots from deep while not giving up the drives to the hoop.

“It’s key that you just stay attentive and you don’t watch,” said JT3. “You have to be cognizant of I have to give support but I can’t lose my guy. They have guys that can bang shots and if you’re late or too slow in your close they can go by you.”

AP Struggles: Since stunning then-No. 5 Xavier on the road last season the Hoyas are just 1-6 against teams ranked in the AP Top 25. Georgetown is just 9-18 against ranked foes since Otto Porter left school.

Reason to be cynical: It seems hard to believe that Peak will back to his old self by Saturday morning. Rodney Pryor is probably the best scorer on the team but Peak is the best player as he nearly matches Pryor’s scoring while also playing the team’s best defense.

Reason to be delusional: Xavier has been a bad matchup for the Hoyas of late but you never know when someone might go off like Tre Campbell did last season. Jonathan Mulmore off the bench to the rescue?

Prediction: It’s my birthday so I’m picking a Hoyas win. Let’s say Hoyas 75, Xavier 70, as Georgetown remembers what it’s like to get to the free throw line.