Worst Season in JT3 Era Ends Without Postseason Appearance
Coming off yet another season of failing to past the round of 32 at the NCAA Tournament, then-senior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera announced that he would withdraw his name from the NBA draft and return for his senior season for one last shot at a deep March Madness run.
However, a lack of leadership led to another season full of inconsistency and disappointments for the Georgetown basketball team that finished 15-18 (7-11 Big East) — the first losing season under Head Coach John Thompson III.
Coming into last season, Thompson was aware of the lack of upperclassmen presence on the roster. With only three seniors on the roster, Thompson asked his sophomore class to play like seniors for added leadership.
“It probably was unfair of me to ask that of them, in hindsight to be honest, because they just didn’t, but they shouldn’t have because they’re sophomores,” Thompson said of his initial request.
But even senior leadership could not have saved the Hoyas from the unexpected disappointments of last season. Hours before Hoya Madness, Louisville transfer and then-junior forward Akoy Agau tore his ACL while participating in open gym with his current teammates and high school recruits, ending his season before he had the opportunity to don a Georgetown jersey.
“My vocabulary isn’t the best, but a word that’s ten times what frustration means is how I felt,” Agau said of his injury and sitting out all of last season.
Agau’s injury foreshadowed the rollercoaster that was Georgetown’s season. The Radford Highlanders of the Big South conference reminded Georgetown that anything was possible when they forced the Hoyas to come from behind just to force overtime in the season opener.
The game extended into double overtime, and in the second extra stanza, then-sophomore guard L.J. Peak missed a three-pointer with Georgetown up one, allowing Radford to pull off the improbable upset. Then-senior guard Rashun Davis corralled the rebound, dribbled the ball up the court and stunned the Verizon Center crowd when he sunk a three-pointer with 1.5 seconds left to give the Highlanders an 82-80 win.
“I learned that we have to come out and play hard from the get go and not come out lackadaisical and lose a game like that,” Peak said of the Radford game.
Then-freshman center Jessie Govan believed that the team’s lack of focus against Radford was attributed to looking forward to its next opponent, then-No. 3 Maryland.
“Last year we kind of looked forward to Maryland in our second game and we took Radford for granted, and they came out and beat us,” Govan said.
Despite the loss, the Radford game served as a coming out party for then-senior Bradley Hayes, who finished the game with his first career double-double, scoring 19 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Averaging less than five minutes per game his previous three seasons combined, Hayes quickly acclimated to the starting role.
Against Maryland, Georgetown appeared ready to pull off the upset, leading 61-54 with fewer than five minutes remaining. But a 7-0 Terrapin run tied the game up at 61. Then with 1:20 left, then-senior guard Rasheed Sulaimon nailed a three-pointer, giving Maryland a lead that it protected en route to a 75-71 victory.
A positive takeaway from the Maryland game was the emergence of then-freshman forward Marcus Derrickson, who went 3 for 5 from beyond the three-point arc. Derrickson finished the game with 13 points and six rebounds and was the only freshman on the team to start more than 20 games last season.
Georgetown’s season continued with a trip to Madison Square Garden to compete in the 2K Classic. In the opening game, Georgetown picked up its first win of the season in a decisive 71-61 victory over Wisconsin.
In the 2K Classic championship game, Georgetown faced off against then-No. 5 Duke. After leading 47-42 at halftime, Georgetown could not contain Duke’s then-sophomore guard Grayson Allen, who finished with a game-high 32 points. The game came down to the wire: Copeland dribbled the ball up court with five seconds left with Georgetown trailing 86-84, launching a deep three that hit the front of the rim as time expired.
“I just wanted to make a good play, I was kind of hot the whole game, I made a couple threes before then so I felt like I could get a good shot off,” Copeland said of his buzzer beater attempt. “If I made the shot it would have won the game, it would have been big for us.”
After starting the season 1-3, the Hoyas went on a five-game winning streak, including a huge home win against their biggest rival, then-No. 14 Syracuse. In front of a crowd of 18,231, Hayes led the charge with a career-high 21 points as the Hoyas beat the Orange 79-72 in the latest chapter of their storied rivalry.
Two consecutive losses to unranked teams ended the Hoyas’ longest win streak of the season. On Dec. 15, Monmouth handed Georgetown its fourth loss of the season, which was followed by another loss to UNC-Asheville.
“I felt like last year, we had a lot of mental lapses that we could’ve avoided,” Govan said in reference to the team’s several losses to small conference schools.
Georgetown opened conference play with back-to-back wins, first defeating DePaul on the road and then handling Marquette at home. Following a 13-point loss to Creighton, Georgetown answered with an 11-point victory over DePaul and a 20-point win against St. John’s to improve to 4-1 in Big East play.
In its first matchup against the eventual National Champions Villanova, Georgetown was plagued with foul trouble, committing 23 to Villanova’s 13. Peak fouled out as the Hoyas dropped the game 55-50.
Continuing the Hoyas’ up-and-down season, an impressive individual effort by then-sophomore guard Tre Campbell helped Georgetown come out with an 81-72 statement victory over then-No. 5 Xavier, handing the Musketeers their first home court loss of the season. Unfortunately, the Hoyas were unable to carry this momentum into the next game of their road trip, losing to Connecticut 68-62.
After defeating Creighton at home in a come-from-behind, one-point victory, Georgetown fell into a three-game conference skid, dropping the team’s Big East record to 6-5. While the Hoyas were able to pull off a 25-point victory against the Red Storm to end the losing streak, their season took a turn for the worse with another unexpected injury.
In a mid-February practice, Hayes broke his hand and missed the final six games of the regular season. Georgetown lost all six games in Hayes’ absence, with three of those final six losses coming within a three-point margin, the team suffering without Hayes’ vocal leadership on the court. The Blue and Gray finished eighth in the Big East standings with a 7-11 conference record.
Hayes, however, returned to the lineup just in time for the Big East Tournament opener against DePaul, in which Georgetown built an early lead and never let up. In the next game, the team’s season would end as the Hoyas lost their third game to the Villanova Wildcats, falling 81-67. The loss dropped the Hoyas’ record to 15-18, the first time the team has finished below .500 in Thompson’s 12 seasons on the Hilltop.
“It’s definitely been a struggle for myself,” Agau said with regard to watching a losing season from the sidelines. “Obviously knowing my game and knowing the things I could have brought to the team, just sitting there on the sideline was pretty hard for me.”
Heading into this upcoming season, Georgetown looks to keep a healthy roster, expand players’ leadership roles and mesh the return of Agau and Hayes — as well as the arrival of new players — with the rest of the team in order to rebound from a disappointing, inconsistent season.
(Cover photo: Julia Hennrikus/The Hoya)