Back on script: Georgetown sits in 1st place in Big East
WASHINGTON (AP) Georgetown is back on script, which means the Hoyas have returned to a familiar spot - first place in the Big East.
No major injuries. No suspensions. The conference preseason player of the year is averaging better than 15 point per game. The football-lineman-sized center is getting his rebounds. A quartet of freshman have bought in to the challenges, on and off the court, that one encounters upon arrival at the Hilltop.
More and more, last year's NIT visit looks like a blip instead of the start of a trend.
''We literally had to keep reinventing ourselves and find different ways to win,'' coach John Thompson III said Tuesday. ''Knock on wood, we haven't had to do that this year.''
Monday night's 78-58 win over No. 4 Villanova put the Hoyas (13-5, 5-2) atop the standings and on target for a return to the Top 25. With a deep lineup that seemingly rotates its standouts from week to week, it fell to freshman Isaac Copeland to score a career-high 17 points to complement a defense that has yet to allow a team to shoot 50 percent this season.
''Our freshmen continue to settle in,'' Thompson said. ''They are all getting more comfortable and are playing now, instead of thinking. They are playing better, and thus we are playing better.''
The Hoyas knew what they had in D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera - deemed the Big East's top player before the season started - and in 350-pound center Joshua Smith, who gets to take up all the space he wants in the paint as long as hits the books and avoids the academic trouble that cost him much of last season.
Add in the freshmen, and it's a whole different team. L.J. Peak, Paul White, Tre Campbell and Copeland are combining to average 23.5 points per game - about one-third of the Hoyas' output - even though Peak is the only starter.
More importantly, they've been willing to play defense, which is the only way to stay on the court under Thompson.
''They're getting there,'' Thompson said. ''It's a process to understand how hard it is to defend at this level.''
Georgetown can look like a hard sell in modern college basketball. Thompson's share-the-ball offense is different from most anything that big recruits run in high school. The emphasis on academics - the Hoyas have suspensions, not scandals - can sound like a voice in the wilderness.
Thompson's current crop of freshmen proves it's a message that still gets through.
''We have tried to get guys who appreciate and understand that as much as they want to grow and develop their game, that they understand that they want to grow and develop their minds also,'' Thompson said. ''Now that doesn't mean that we don't want one-and-dones. Or two-and-dones. Otto Porter, Greg Monroe left after two years, but the time they were here they understand, they appreciate, and they're still working on their degrees. The two worlds can easily co-exist.''
''I can't speak to the world,'' Thompson said. ''I know what is important here, and what has always been and what always will be important here. And regardless what anyone does or doesn't do, this is Georgetown. This place is not for everybody, that's a fact, but if you embrace what everyone else does, embrace this institution on and off the court, there's no better place.''
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