Reporting Bobby Bancroft
WASHINGTON — Georgetown improved to 5-1 since losing Greg Whittington by defeating Seton Hall 74-52 on Wednesday night thanks to the usual – Otto Porter Jr (20 points), Markel Starks (16 points) – and the unusual – a solid contribution off the bench from junior walk-on John Caprio.
The Hoyas (15-4, 5-3) came up with a season high 15 steals on their way to forcing 25 Seton Hall turnovers. Georgetown also held the Big East leaders in made three-point field goals (eight) to just 5-of-20 shooting from that distance.
Caprio, who had played just three prior minutes in conference games this season, was inserted into the lineup after Seton Hall had made up more than half of an early 16-point deficit to climb back to within 23-16 with less than five minutes left in the first half.
His contributions were immediately felt as the guard from Seton Hall Prep energized both the crowd and the play of Hoyas offense that had momentarily gone stagnant. Caprio officially put his stamp on the game with an offensive rebound put back that gave the Hoyas a 32-18 lead. It was Caprio’s first career field goal in Big East play.
Georgetown took a 32-22 lead into the locker room while Caprio posted three points, two rebounds, an assist, and a steal in five meaningful minutes seemingly came out of nowhere.
While Caprio’s time on the court appeared a mystery at the time, Coach Thompson III threw high post-game praise the junior’s way, particularly in going against Seton Hall’s zone defense.
“They play that zone and you’re really not sure what’s coming and in terms of understanding how to play basketball, Cap[rio] is one of our better guys,” Thompson III explained.
“As you saw tonight, he’s one of our better rebounders and so that was not a fluke, I don’t think. I thought we needed him in there to get better flow.”
On first glance, a midweek match-up with a recently struggling Seton Hall (13-8, 2-6) squad doesn’t seem like a game that a likely NCAA Tournament team in Georgetown would be circling on the schedule. Upon further review, it was a game that meant just as much as any other conference clash, if not even more due to past events.
A season ago, Georgetown suffered its most lopsided defeat in a 73-55 loss on the road to Seton Hall. Not only did Georgetown ruin its chances for a double-bye in the Big East tournament by losing out on a tiebreaker with Cincinnati for fourth place at 12-6, the remainder of season would take a turn in a different direction.
After starting 20-6, Georgetown finished just 4-3 the rest of the way and did so by shaking things up.
Starting point guard Markel Starks was subsequently benched against Villanova without any reason given by Coach Thompson III. The then-sophomore would also come off the bench for the final six contests after starting 25 of the previous 26 games.
Prior to the rematch with Seton Hall, Starks made it clear that he hadn’t forgotten about that loss to the Pirates.
“It was just a bad game,” Starks said on Tuesday afternoon.
“It was just a bad night. Shots weren’t going in. Guys were frustrated, I was frustrated myself. Obviously the guys that are returning, nobody has forgotten about that game.”
Starks responded from his 1-for-9 performance last season by going 6-of-9, including 4-of-5 from three-point range, as the Hoyas led by as many as 32 points in the second half. Georgetown ultimately returned the favor by handing Seton Hall its worse loss of the season. The Hoyas even did one better by holding Seton Hall to a season low in points.
While Starks wasn’t available for comment after the game, his classmate Caprio – four points and a team-high six rebounds in a career-high 12 minutes, was able to describe just how nice it was to reverse the result almost a year later.
“I remember last year pretty vividly losing there,” Caprio recalled.
“I had a bunch of family members there and they were kind of ragging on me about it. Actually one of the managers on their team was my manager in high school so he was kind of getting into me on Facebook about it so, yeah, it was good to beat them.”
All social media bragging rights aside, Georgetown was extremely efficient offensively by assisting on 19 of 24 made field goals with Nate Lubick (eight points) leading the way with a team-high five.
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera added 11 points, marking the third time in four games that the freshman reserve has reached double-figures.
Notes: Finding a way to focus on areas to improve, Coach Thompson III mentioned that he might have his team practice free throws upon returning to campus after Georgetown went just 18-for-32 from the line for the game and hit just 11-of-22 (50 percent) in the second half. The 22-point rout was Georgetown’s largest Big East win since defeating South Florida by 30 points last season at home.
Up Next: Georgetown completes a three-game home stand on Saturday afternoon at 4 PM against St. John’s (14-7) in the annual ‘Gray Out’ game. The Hoyas defeated St. John’s 67-51 in January at Madison Square Garden. The Red Storm have reeled off five straight wins since that loss to Georgetown to take sole possession of third place in the Big East at 6-3.