New York, NY – Starting their season with an upset loss to Radford and a hard fought defeat to Maryland, the Georgetown Hoyas came to the 2K Classic in Madison Square Garden on Friday night looking for their first victory of the season and finding a worthy opponent in the Wisconsin Badgers looking to keep them winless.
But playing with a sense of urgency from the opening tip, the Hoyas jumped out to a lead, built it in the second half and finished the game strong winning 71-61 against a retooling Badgers team.
For much of his distinguished career at Georgetown, senior lead guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera found himself spearheading a Hoyas’ triumph. But on Friday night, it was a pair of bookend forwards in junior Reggie Cameron and sophomore Isaac Copeland who led Georgetown to its first win of the season.
Both Cameron and Copeland did major work behind the three-point line, but each at different junctures of the game. The 6-7 Cameron warmed up midway through the first half connecting on 4-of-5 shots from distance in scoring all of his 14 points before intermission. Cameron made all four of his three-point shots from a pillow spot on the right side wing.
“Reggie made shots and that’s what he does,” said Georgetown Coach John Thompson III.
With Wisconsin keeping a closer cover of Cameron in the second half, it was time for Copeland to go to work. At 6-9 with good length and bounce, Copeland’s skill set plays on the perimeter and in the paint. Finding himself with room behind the stripe in the second half, Copeland converted on 3-of-4 shots from distance in scoring all of his 15 points after halftime.
“Freshman year, he (Copeland) spent time trying to figure things out,” said Thompson. “Now he understands and has settled in not thinking and now playing.”
Smith-Rivera finished with 12 points and his 33 minutes led the Hoyas, but after mostly misfiring from the perimeter in the first half going 1-for-7, he spent a stretch of over five minutes on the Georgetown bench in the second half saddled with four fouls. To the Hoyas credit, they led by 11 when Smith-Rivera left the game at the 8:40 mark and were up the same 11 points when he re-entered at the 3:06 mark.
But like all good players, Smith-Rivera was able to put his imprint on the game as the final minutes were ticking off and the Badgers were fouling in a last ditch attempt to rally. After re-entering at the 3:06 mark, Smith-Rivera stepped to the free throw line and drained 6-of-6 attempts to thwart the Badgers comeback try. “D’Vauntes will be fine,” said Thompson. “I’m not worried about D’Vauntes.”
The victory over Wisconsin should look nice on the Georgetown resume come NCAA tournament selection and seeding time. Off to a 2-2 start after the loss, the Badgers are re-building around juniors Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig in reconstructing a team that went to the Final Four the last two seasons and came whiskers away from defeating Duke for the National Championship last season.
Even in defeat, Hayes played a strong all-around game and showed why NBA scouts will be following him closely this season. The 6-8 swing forward scored a team-high 22 points including knocking down 2-of-5 shots from behind the three-point arc.
In addition to scoring from distance, Hayes pulled up going left to knock down an elbow jumper, converted a jump hook over his left shoulder and made 6-of-8 free throws. He plays at a great pace upon catching the ball on the low block, rarely hurrying and always keeping vision for open teammates. He has a little Paul Pierce in his game utilizing head, shot and ball fakes to draw defenders off balance and get to the foul line.
Hayes has some big shoes to fill in replacing Frank Kaminsky as Wisconsin’s go-to guy. But having made great strides from his freshman to sophomore season, when he made nearly 40 percent of his three-point shots after not even attempting one as a freshman, Hayes has the broad shoulders and game to take on more leadership.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play with Frank the first two years,” said Hayes. “And from watching him play and the things he did and the patience that he had, I try to replicate that as much as I can. I had three turnovers today; I remember a couple of them trying to make a pass to an open guy. But for the most part, I try to stay patient. If I have a lane, I take it. If not, I find a teammate.”
Playing from behind as the Badgers did all game was something Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan teams are not accustomed to, especially the past two seasons when they have won 66-of-78 games. “When you go one for ten from three (as the Badgers did in the first half), it was a tough hill to overcome,” said Ryan.
With no seniors in the Badgers rotation, Ryan is still putting the pieces of his team together after losing Kaminsky and Sam Dekker to the first round of the NBA draft and senior point guard Traevon Jackson to graduation.
“This would have been a great year to do a foreign trip, let me put it to you that way,” said Ryan. “Because that’s five games, that’s 70 possessions a game, that’s ten practices…but you can’t do it every year. So what we’re trying to do is find who is going to be the starting five, the reserves, who’s going to get time. I’m still looking for that. There’s still plenty out there for people to get that are hungry. I like hungry guys.”
One of those hungry guys Ryan must like is Zak Showalter, a 6-2 junior guard from the Milwaukee area who went from a deep rotational player last year to starter this year. Showalter, whose father played for Ryan when he coached at D-III Wisconsin-Platteville, is the quintessential glue guy. Possessing the athleticism, strength and toughness to guard the opposition’s best backcourt player, Showalter also has the instincts to rebound and got his hands on seven caroms against Georgetown, second only to the 11 rebounds collected by Badgers center Ethan Happ.
With the victory, Georgetown takes Saturday off to prepare for the 2K Classic championship game on Sunday afternoon against Duke. Wisconsin will look to get back on the winning track when it takes on VCU in the consolation game.
This article was written by Tom Osowski, a correspondent and scout for NetScouts Basketball. You can subscribe to our RSS feed from the upper right corner of our home page, follow us on Facebook, or on twitter.
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