Georgetown’s role players shine again as they land win over Wisconsin

(AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
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NEW YORK — We’re three games into the season and the two biggest stars on Georgetown’s team are two kids that some Georgetown fans may not have heard of before.

That’s why the 71-61 win the Hoyas notched over Wisconsin on Friday afternoon in Madison Square Garden was Georgetown’s first of the season.

But it’s also why fans on the Hilltop should feel confident moving forward, and why they can go to sleep tonight knowing they’re going to compete at the top of the Big East this season.

Prior to the trip to to the City That Doesn’t Sleep, Georgetown’s best player was a senior center named Bradley Hayes. He scored 16 points last season, half of which came in an opening NCAA tournament win over Eastern Washington last season. He scored 14 points as a sophomore. He didn’t score as a freshman. Hayes, who averaged 17.5 points and 10.0 boards in season-opening losses to Radford at home and at Maryland, scored more in his first two games this season than he did in the first three years of his career combined.

Yeah.

Seriously.

Hayes struggled on Friday — he finished with just four points, which matched his four turnovers — but another seldom-used upperclassman stepped up. As a sophomore last season, Reggie Cameron scored six points total in Big East play. On Friday, he scored a career-high 14, all of which came in the first half as Georgetown jumped out to a 20-10 lead, never looking back.

“Reggie made shots in the first half because that’s what Reggie Cameron does,” Georgetown head coach John Thompson III said. “I thought he was very good on defense, and so a lot of the plays that we made when we need stops — deflections, getting on the ball, charges — I thought Reggie’s defensive effort was just as important as him making shots.”

Freshman Jessie Govan had 13 points, six boards and three assists off the bench on Friday, helping fill the void in the paint with Hayes struggling. Another freshman, Marcus Derrickson, scored 11 critical points that helped Georgetown come a possession or two away from upsetting No. 3 Maryland. A third freshman, the unherald Kaleb Johnson, entered Friday yet to take a shot at the collegiate level and left having been part of the lineup that Georgetown used to pull away from Wisconsin in the second half, playing extended minutes one that stretched the lead to as much as 14 points.

The rest of that lineup?

Govan, Cameron and sophomores L.J. Peak and Isaac Copeland.

Copeland was supposed to be one of college basketball’s breakout stars this season. Peak deserved consideration for that list as well. I’m only just now mentioning them, and I still haven’t brought up first-team all-Big East guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera.

Smith-Rivera had 12 points, five boards and four assists, but that’s not really representative of how he played on Friday. The 2-for-9 shooting, however, is; frankly, DSR has not played well yet this year.

“I’m not worried about him,” Thompson said. “D’Vauntes will be fine.”

Copeland finished with 15 points and eight boards, but the big shots he made late were negated by a mind-numbing turnover and the inability to hold onto late rebounds in traffic. He’s actually had a solid start to the season, his potential still outweighs his performance.

I say all that to say this: Georgetown’s stars have played nowhere near their potential through the season’s first week.

That will change eventually.

But what has happened is that, in the past four days, the Hoyas nearly picked off the No. 3 team in the country in their own building and handled Wisconsin fairly easily at the Garden. And they did all that without the benefit of their three best players playing like their three best players.

And then there’s the home loss to Radford. That cannot be overlooked — that’ll probably be enough to drop Georgetown a seed line come March — but as ugly as that performance was, it doesn’t really impact the way that I view this group moving forward.

That loss wasn’t due to any lack of ability on the Georgetown roster.

That was because they didn’t show up to play. They weren’t focused. There wasn’t the same intensity that you saw from them the last two games.

Was that a result of the Hoyas looking forward to a week that included trips to College Park and New York? Only they can answer that question, and it’s pretty easy to read between the lines when Thompson says things like this: “Our schedule this year, I’ve said it before, it may not have been wise how we put this together. The last week has been hell.”

It’s easy to overlook an under-manned opponent when there are three massive games on the horizon. That’s why the term “trap game” is a thing.

But as long as that performance was the anomaly, and not a constant theme moving forward, the Hoyas will be fine.