WASHINGTON — John Caprio is a Georgetown walk-on, a junior majoring in finance and marketing who had played in all of 43 minutes over 2½ seasons on the Hilltop.
Yet there he was, on the court late in the first half of a Big East game, helping steady the Hoyas after Seton Hall had made a run.
Coach John Thompson III has been trying all sorts of combinations this season, and Caprio’s role in Wednesday night’s 74-52 win was the latest attempt to shake up the rotation.
“That was not predetermined,” Thompson said. “That was just the way the game was going. I thought we needed him in there.”
The coach’s instinct was a good one. Caprio had three points, two rebounds, an assist and a steal in five first-half minutes after the Pirates had cut a 16-point deficit to seven. The student section began chanting “Ca-pri-o!” after his putback gave Georgetown a 32-18 lead.
He returned in the second half, after the game was a blowout, and finished with four points, six rebounds and two assists. It was easily the best game of his collegiate life, prompting Thompson to say: “I probably should have been playing Cap more.”
“In terms of understanding how to play basketball, Cap’s probably one of our better guys,” the coach said. “As you see tonight, he’s one of our better rebounders, so that was not a fluke, I don’t think.”
There was also the standard production from Georgetown’s two reliable scorers. Otto Porter had 20 points, and Markel Starks added 16 for the Hoyas (15-4, 5-3 Big East), who had a season-high 15 steals and never trailed, taking advantage of Seton Hall’s turnovers to take a 20-4 lead less than 8½ minutes into the game.
Brian Oliver scored 13 points and Aaron Cosby 12 for the Pirates (13-8, 2-6), who have lost six of seven. Eugene Teague had more turnovers (five) than points (four) before fouling out, and Fuquan Edwin had four turnovers to go with nine points.
Coach Kevin Willard tried his 10th different starting lineup of the season, but 25 turnovers and poor 3-point shooting (5 for 20) kept his team playing catch-up.
“We got a little frustrated,” Willard said. “One of the things we’re struggling with is understanding the different teams in this league. ... We now have four teams that play all zone, we have four teams that play really tough man-to-man, we have four teams that play no defense, we have some teams that play half-zone, half-man.”
The Pirates were also hurt by foul trouble. Teague and Brandon Mobley both had four with 16:19 remaining — which was also when the Hoyas started shooting 1-and-1. Georgetown attempted 22 free throws in the second half but made only 11, going 18 for 32 for the game.
Thompson said he was seriously considering calling a free-throw practice when the team returned to campus immediately later Wednesday.
“Just look at 18 for 32,” the coach said. “I don’t know when those came, but they came.”
Georgetown has been playing better recently despite losing Greg Whittington for academic reasons six games ago. The Hoyas have been playing more up-tempo in his absence and giving rarely used bench players bigger roles, especially as starter Mikael Hopkins continues to struggle.
Aaron Bowen was part of the postgame news conference after scoring the first winning basket of his three-year Georgetown career in Saturday’s win over Louisville, and Caprio made an appearance on the podium Wednesday.
“I just got tired of what the usual suspects were saying,” Thompson joked.
Caprio had some motivation behind his performance. The New Jersey native never heard the end of it last year after the Hoyas lost by 18 at Seton Hall.
“I had a bunch of family members there, and they were kind of ragging on me about it,” Caprio said. “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’s good to beat ‘em.”
The lights dimmed for several minutes during the second half because of a storm in the Washington area, but the game was not stopped and play did not appear to be affected.