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GAME THREAD: Coppin State at Georgetown

Hoyas open the season looking for the first win in 2022!

NCAA Basketball: Butler at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Game 1: Coppin State (0-1) at Georgetown Hoyas (0-0)

When: Tonight, Tuesday, Nov. 8th, 2022 at 8:30 PM

Where: Capital One Arena

Series: Hoyas lead 3-0

Last meeting: Georgetown beat Coppin State 80-48 at McDonough on Dec. 8, 2020 in a game where Jamorko Pickett pulled down 18 rebounds.

TV: FS1 (Scott Graham & Tarik Turner)

Radio: The Team 980 (Rich Chvotkin, 49th season), SiriusXM 381, XM App 971

KenPom Ranking: Georgetown 100, Coppin State 329

KenPom Projection: Georgetown 84-65 (96%)

Line: Georgetown - 17.5, o/u 149.5

Georgetown’s back!
Well, the head coach, some of the staff, and like three players are back ... with about 8+ new faces on the bench. The Hoyas’ quest for their first win since December 15, 2021 begins by hosting Juan Dixon’s Coppin State on Tuesday, November 8th at 8:30 PM.

This hashtag Hoyas season may technically start tonight, but Georgetown could not afford to wait this long to turn the page. Many fans may feel like the new season began with some “changes” in late March seen in the hiring of Assistant Coach Kevin Nickelberry and elevation of Clinton Crouch, with Louis Orr coming off the road in the role of Special Assistant. Transfers Brandon Murray, Primo Spears, Jay Heath, Akok Akok, Qudus Wahab, Bradley Ezewiro, and Bryson Mozone signed on, while Don Carey, Collin Holloway, Tyler Beard, Timothy Ighoefe, Jalin Bilingsley, and Kobe Clark left. Aminu Mohammed moved on to the professional level.

These changes were not insignificant, but the phrase “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” was uttered more than once this off-season by even the most faithful of fans. After all, Georgetown was 0-20 against BIG EAST competition. Hoyas supporters listened for lessons learned by the head coach and instead saw shuffling of the staff and adding new, unproven faces. The idea of moving on with new, different leadership appeared simpler and more effective to nearly everyone outside of the program. Were these changes enough to make Georgetown nationally competitive again? Time will tell.

In October, Patrick Ewing publicly took some accountability for the horrific season. It was somewhat satisfying hearing him say that the buck actually did stop with him. Ewing also noted that quickly promoted Associate Head Coach Kevin Nickelberry will be focusing on the defensive end for the team. It’s no lie to say that Georgetown’s defenses under Ewing have been absolutely awful.

With last year’s opponent field goal percentage at 52.4% (ranked 277) and opponent three-point percentage at 36.9% (ranked 326), the Hoyas abysmal defense is the primary reason for losing 19 conference games last year. Ewing’s high-tempo offense puts a strain on their defense and, outside of a couple weeks in 2021, stopping the runs has plagued Georgetown since 2017. Nickelberry was noted for his “physical” defenses at Hampton, but no so much at Howard. If the Hoyas have any chance at righting this ship this year, the defense will have to look very different.

An influx of talent at GU can certainly help on the defensive end. Adding Akok and Wahab can potentially shore up the paint, and shedding some less-mobile players from last year may improve the Hoyas’ perimeter numbers. But Ewing has already been quoted about this season as a “process” and noting that players need to find chemistry, so there’s no telling what the defense against Coppin State might look like in the opener. Any progress would be appreciated.

The roster ostensibly appears more talented, but there are question marks. More recently, guard Dante Harris was announced to be away from the program on personal matters and Jay Heath has yet to receive his transfer waiver to allow him to play. Fans think they know the starting four in Spears, Murray, Akok, and Wahab, but further player rotation remains a mystery until tonight. The imaginary depth chart features a couple wings in Mozone, Bristol, and Riley, with a chance to step up when called upon, but backup at power forward appears thin.

Both Akok and Ezewiro could be used as small-ball centers against Coppin State, who featured only 4 minutes from the 6’11” Luka Tekavcic and 23 minutes from 6’8” forward Justin Winston in their opening loss to Charlotte on Monday night. Ewing cannot afford to experiment too much with lineups early and GU cannot afford to fall behind at all this whole game. They would prefer to dominate with a traditional center. Winning on both ends with Wahab will be important for building confidence.

Coppin State guards are very solid. Locking down CSU point guard Sam Sessoms, a Penn State transfer who scored 24 points last night, will likely fall to Primo Spears and Brandon Murray may get to show off his much-touted defensive prowess against Nendah Tarke, who averaged 13.3 ppg last year and was recently named to the MEAC Men’s Basketball Preseason First Team. Generating turnovers would be a nice touch from GU and their shiny new transfer guards.

Against these early non-conference opponents, proving that GU can lead throughout and squash runs will be keys for Ewing and the Hoyas. Even as 17.5-point favorites, Georgetown could have their hands full at times in this first game. For instance, Coppin State cut the Charlotte deficit to as little as 59-49 with 10:31 left in the game—a point differential that could be triggering for Hoyas fans that late in a game. CSU made only 3 of 22 three point attempts last night (13.6%), but any sign of a weak perimeter defense by Georgetown could allow the Eagles to heat up quickly.

In the opening game last year, Dartmouth made 16 of 38 three pointers (42.1%). The Hoyas did them some big favors as Dartmouth only ended up 9-16 (6-8 in the Ivy) and shot 33% from three for the year. If Georgetown doesn’t want to repeat the sins of the past, keeping Coppin State’s weak three-point shooting in check seems like the best place to start for game number one. The rebounding, the turnovers, and even the Hoyas’ scoring will likely take care of itself if CSU is kept to poor shooting percentages.

As Ewing said, each season is a “process” to come together and gel. Starting a defensive identity—after five years at Georgetown—would help a lot of fans to trust in that process.

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