John Thompson III and the Georgetown Hoyas are getting out of the D.C. area before the blizzard of 2016 strikes. Their schedule demands it. Saturday is another non-conference reunion game with a former Big East rival, Connecticut. Should snow accumulations locally make an immediate return home impossible, Thompson is armed with a contingency plan.
As doom grips the region over this impending storm, the Hoyas (12-7) enter the first matchup with the Huskies (13-5) Saturday since a double-overtime thriller in 2013 feeling hopeful and sunny. Coming off a win over the No. 5 team in the country will do wonders for mood, especially for a team that needed a NCAA Tournament résumé boost. However, the excitement isn't just over Tuesday's 81-72 victory at Xavier, but how Georgetown prevailed.
The offense, unlike the local traffic 24 hours later after one of snow hit the streets flowed. Georgetown had 21 assists on 26 field goals.
"We moved fast," Thompson said. "There have been times this year where it felt like we were stuck in the mud and we're not moving. The ball is no swinging and we're not pushing the ball. In that game we had fast ball movement and fast body movement, which we've been trying to get them to do all year."
Sophomore guard Tre Campbell scored 17 of his 21 points in the first half and finished 5 of 7 on 3-pointers while backcourt partner D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera added 20. The Hoyas shot 51 percent from the field and sank 10 of 25 3-pointers.
"I think the ball was just in the right spot at the right time," Smith-Rivera said. "We moved the ball a lot better. Guys got good looks, open shots.
According to the basketball analytics site BbState.com, the Hoyas' finished with an impressive offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of 1.22. That's the fourth time this season they've topped 1.2, but the second time in three games. On the season, the Hoyas' rating is 1.06.
Having their two primary ball handlers making plays in the same game certainly helped. Campbell recently started emerging from a slow start. The sophomore is 8 of 11 on 3-pointers over his last four games after shooting 6 of 23 overall. The surge boosted his percentage to 41.2.
"I was just shooting the ball with confidence," Campbell stated.
Thompson hopes that his young team is now collectively gaining confidence playing in his read-and-react offense.
"I don't know whether it's a case of we're slowly getting to the point where they aren't thinking, they're just playing so they can move faster. I just think the ball moved fast in that game," the coach said. "When that happens with the players that we have, it's hard to guard."
Hard to guard also describes the balanced Huskies, who have four players averaging at least 12 points including former Seton Hall guard Sterling Gibbs (12.2). Sophomore guard Daniel Hamilton stuffs the stat sheet with 12.2 points, 8.7 rebounds. 4.8 assists and 1.2 steals.
This season has been something of a reunion tour for the Hoyas with a game at Maryland, in terms of the old Big East, a home win over Syracuse. Despite the victory over the Orange, Georgetown is 7-5 against non-conference foes this season with Connecticut (12:00 p.m.) the final stop.
Smith-Rivera scored 14 points in Georgetown's 79-78 win at Connecticut on Feb. 27, 2012. The Hoyas helped form the new Big East while the Huskies became of the American Athletic Conference.
"I don't want to compare and contrast where we are to where they are," Thompson said. "I love where we are."
As for restarting the series -- Connecticut will visit Verizon Center next season, Thompson said, "Another stroll down memory lane. Yeah, we have history. Most years I've been happy with how I put together out-of-conference schedules. This year I probably wish we could do it all over again. That said, if you're looking for a team that there' history with, that you're familiar with, if you want to use the word 'rivalry'...this game makes sense."
Based on the snowy forecast, traveling back home Saturday probably won't make sense or won't be an option for the Hoyas. They'll need to be back for Tuesday's matchup against Creighton as Big East play picks up again.
"We're going to think positive and hope that we can get home Saturday," the coach said. "That being said, we are prepared to stay."