Hoyas-Xavier preview: Can resiliency conquer the Musketeers?

Hoyas-Xavier preview: Can resiliency conquer the Musketeers?
January 15, 2014, 1:00 am
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Matchup: Georgetown (11-4; 3-1 Big East) at Xavier (13-4, 3-1)

When: Wednesday, 7:00 p.m.

Where: Cincinnati, Cintas Center

Broadcast: TV - CBSSN; Radio - 570 AM.

History: While this will be their first matchup as Big East foes, the two sides have six times previously with Xavier winning four of six. The Hoyas took the most recent, knocking off the Musketeers in the opening round of the 1995 NCAA Tournament. 

MORE: Instant analysis: GW's with statement win over VCU]

KenPom: Georgetown 41, Xavier 30

Coaches: Georgetown - John Thompson III; Xavier - Chris Mack

Leaders: Scoring (D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, 17.3), Rebounding (Nate Lubick, 6.1), Assists (Markel Starks, 3.9)

Recent: The Hoyas are 1-1 on the current three-game road swing including's Saturday's 70-67 overtime win at Butler. The Muskeeters had won eight straight before losing at Creighton 95-89 on Sunday.

Two out, one in: Junior center Joshua Smith did not travel with the team and will miss a third straight game due to an ongoing academic issue, Thompson said during the team's media session on Tuesday. Guard Jabril Trawick remains sidelined indefinitely with a broken jaw wiht no Thompson offering no timeline for return. Meanwhile senior forward Nate Lubick, who appeared to suffer a nose injury late in Saturday's thrilling overtime win at Butler, has been "cleared to play," the coach added.

Back to Smith, Georgetown's third-leading scorer, primary low-post option and frustrating rebounder. It's cool to freak out if you want. Asked if this situation is as serious as the one that involving Greg Whittington, which ended the then sophomore's season, Thompson punted. "I don't want to comment on that."

Mikael Hopkins, who started every game last season, replaced Smith against Butler.

[MORE: 'Frustrated' Terps ready for Notre Dame matchup]

Well, that was interesting: Not just the win against Butler, which was Georgetown's first true road victory of the season. More about how the shorthanded squad - Smith and Trawick never played while big men Nate Lubick, Moses Ayegba and Hopkins fouled out - survived the final few minutes with a random frontcourt of Aaron Bowen, Reggie Cameron and John Caprio. Tuesday marked the first time many of the local media could catch up with Thompson for his take on specific aspects of the wild win.

Surviving: "We're a tough group, a resilient group. Guys are going to get opportunities now that haven't had them in the past, but they practice hard every day, they show it every day what they can and can't do in practice. As long as everyone plays as has hard as they can within themselves - we don't need anyone to now try and step out and not be who you are. I thought particularly in the overtime period when Nate had fouled out, Mikael had fouled out, Moses had fouled out, I thought guys did a very good job of executing at both ends of the court without stepping outside of themselves."

Did the draw-up-plays-in-the-dirt aspect make it at all fun for you?: "The fun is if you win. If you lose it's no fun. I thought they did a very good job. It wasn't just unconventional lineups. We were drawing up plays on the fly, altering things to fit the personnel we had out there. I thought they did a very good job of listening and going out an executing what we wanted.

Former walk-on turned little-used scholarship player John Caprio played a career-high 16 minutes: "I thought he was terrific. If you can go back and look, particularly at the end of the regulation and overtime, just defensively. It's not like he came up with a whole bunch of steals,  but you see the whole possession, him talking, moving this guy back, "You go up," "You step over" and "I got him." Just his awareness and understanding was nothing that will ever show up on the box score. The lay person may not even notice it, the way he orchestrated things on both ends of the court was invaluable. He's tough, Cap's a tough kid."

The balanced Musketeers: Sophomore guard Semaj Christon is the headliner thanks to his 16.2 points and 4.4 assists per game while shooting a staggering 48 percent on his 3-point attempts. In his last two games against Creighton and Marquette, Christon averaged 27.5 points and 18 of 27 shots (66.7) from the field. Yikes - and yet he's not the player Thompson singled out when asked about the challenge Xavier presents. 6-foot-10 junior center Matt Stainbrook is that rare big man who actually does damage inside. Xavier's only other double digit scorer, Stainbrook averages 11.4 points and 8.6 rebounds. 

Thompson: "They have a post presence unlike a lot of teams that we've gone against. He's really good, he's poised, he can score for himself, he's a terrific passer, doesn't get bothered. As much as people talk about Samaj, they're a balanced team. They have a very good point guard, they have a post presence, they have shooters around them. Defensively, you have to be very good at helping, but then getting out to your man. They're hard to guard."