Poor play in Big East is now thing of the past
There isn't a particular coaching strategy that John Thompson III credits for Mikael Hopkins' improved performance over Georgetown's last three games. It's closer to the exact opposite, and it may have come partly by accident.
Either way, the sophomore center finally has started to provide the kind of dividends expected from someone who has started every game this season.
Hopkins followed a career-high 14 points in last weekend's 69-63 victory at Rutgers with a career-high nine rebounds in Monday's 63-55 win over Marquette. His presence in the paint will be crucial Friday for the surging Hoyas (18-4, 8-3 Big East), who will put their six-game winning streak on the line against Cincinnati (19-6, 7-5), the best rebounding team in the conference.
|No. 15 Georgetown at Cincinnati|
|When » Friday, 9 p.m.|
|Where » Fifth Third Arena,|
|TV » ESPN|
"I've probably tried every method that a coach can try with him," Thompson said. "He has played better the last couple of games. He still can do better than he has been doing, and hopefully we can get that out of him also."
Hopkins, who is averaging 6.4 points and 2.5 rebounds, said Thompson didn't congratulate him on either of his past two games. But the DeMatha High product doesn't feel Thompson has been especially hard on him, either.
"It's not really tough love," Hopkins said. "I've known Coach a long time, so he knows I can play. He recruited me and watched me in high school. It's just my confidence. I feel as though if I have confidence in myself, then I'll be able to do well."
Hopkins never lost his starting job as he struggled over Georgetown's first eight Big East contests. He averaged 2.6 points and 1.0 rebounds, including three straight games in which he didn't grab a single board.
"Mikael is physically talented," Thompson said. "There's not much that he's not comfortable doing. A lot of times he may focus too much on what's going on offensively, and he needs to focus on rebounding, defending, running hard, just making harder movements, harder efforts, and the offense will fall in place."
Against the Scarlet Knights, Thompson's hand was forced when Nate Lubick picked up two fouls in nine seconds just six minutes in, thinning a rotation that already has been reduced to little more than six players.
"With Nate being in foul trouble in that game, he had to keep me on the court," said Hopkins, who played 32 minutes, one shy of his career high. "I feel as though that built my confidence a lot."
From the bench, Lubick relived his sophomore season, when he started 33 games but often found himself out of the game in crunch time.
"I was so happy for him," Lubick said. "I was frustrated for a lot of last year, and I know what he was going through. I wish I could've been out there with him when he was playing well. It was awesome, and we needed it. We wouldn't have won that game without him playing the way he did."