In an efficient and complete performance during its Big East home opener, the Georgetown men’s basketball team (9-5, 2-0 Big East) defeated Marquette (10-4, 0-2 Big East) 80-70 Saturday night at Verizon Center.
The Hoyas controlled play from the beginning of the game and saw their lead grow to 19 before the Golden Eagles woke up later on in the second half and cut the lead to single digits. It got close at times, but behind the strong play of senior guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who scored 12 of his 15 points in the last two minutes of the game, the Hoyas pulled out the victory to remain undefeated in the Big East.
Marquette Head Coach Steve Wojciechowski, whose team is still winless in the Big East, was frustrated by Saturday’s performance.
“I don’t know if our guys have made the adjustment to playing in the best conference in the United States,” Wojciechowksi said. “You have to put 40 minutes of amazing effort and concentration in, and each possession is valuable. We’re not playing at that level, and I don’t know why we haven’t made that adjustment.”
At the start of the game, it was a battle of the big men, as Georgetown senior center and co-captain Bradley Hayes and Marquette junior center Luke Fischer traded buckets, each scoring six points in the first five minutes. Fischer, along with Marquette’s star freshman forward Henry Ellenson, were kept in check by the Hoya defense; Ellenson scored 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting, while Fischer had 10 points and nine rebounds on 4-of-11 shooting.
Though many have extolled Ellenson’s performance in his rookie season, Wojciechowski says there is still room for progress.
“[Ellenson is] still learning,” Wojciechowski said. “Even when you’re as confident as he is and having as good of a year as he is, doesn’t mean there isn’t a learning curve.”
Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III was pleased with how his players defended Ellenson.
“I thought we did a very good job of paying attention and listening and executing our scouting report defensively,” Thompson said. “But our guys were physical with him, and we crowded off of who we should’ve crowded off of. … I think our guys were very attentive, both on [Ellenson] and Luke Fischer.”
Georgetown freshman forward Marcus Derrickson had one of the best performances from either team, scoring 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting, including 2-of-5 from three-point range, and grabbed five rebounds. Derrickson spent most of his time on the defensive end of the court guarding Ellenson in the post and was a major factor in Ellenson’s poor shooting from the field.
“My 16 points weren’t just off of just me,” Derrickson said. “My teammates — in particular, D’Vauntes — really set me up on a lot of those plays and found me in the corners. We just shared the ball.”
After a steal by sophomore forward Isaac Copeland and a fast break layup by sophomore guard L.J. Peak, who came off the bench for the second straight game, the Hoyas kept control of the lead in the first half. Georgetown upped the lead to 13 when Derrickson pump-faked from the corner, drove along the baseline, and hit the layup as he was fouled by Marquette’s Fischer.
Georgetown took a 49-36 lead into the locker room at halftime after Marquette sophomore redshirt guard Duane Wilson sank a three-pointer with eight seconds remaining. Wilson was the Golden Eagles’ leading scorer with 17 points, and was a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc.
The Hoyas got off to a fast start to begin the second half, with Derrickson canning a three and Smith-Rivera following suit by draining his first shot of the game, also a three-pointer, off a steal by sophomore guard Tre Campbell.
However, as it has often this season, Georgetown allowed its opponent to get back into the game, as Marquette went on a 13-2 run to make it 57-49.
“We made the two threes to start the half, but then the ball started to stick and then we stopped moving our bodies,” Thompson said. “We took some quick, bad shots instead of trying to make it work.”
Both teams began a scoring drought at that point, with no baskets sinking for the next four minutes. Georgetown junior forward Reggie Cameron broke the stalemate when he hit a three to put the Hoyas back up by 11 with eight minutes to go.
The Golden Eagles began cutting into the Hoyas’ lead and reduced their deficit to seven points when freshman guard Haanif Cheatham hit two free throws after being fouled by Copeland. Several offensive mistakes by Georgetown allowed Marquette back in the game, as the Golden Eagles scored 15 points off of 16 Hoya turnovers.
“In the second half we showed a little bit more fight,” Wojciechowski said. “I thought we played harder and as a result we were more disruptive defensively.”
Smith-Rivera led Georgetown in one last surge back against Marquette in the remaining two minutes, and got the lead back up to 10 after hitting a pair of free throws. The senior co-captain closed out the game with 29 seconds left by hitting two more free throws after a turnover by Cheatham, allowing his team to seal the game and continue its strong start in conference play.
“When it comes time to win the game, D’Vauntes does what he has to do,” Thompson said.
Along with Smith-Rivera’s and Derrickson’s strong showing, Peak scored 10 points, and went from 5-for-5 from the field, though he also had four turnovers. Copeland scored 11 points and pulled down seven rebounds, while freshman center Jesse Govan had another strong performance, going 3-of-4 from the field on his way to recording 11 points, five rebounds and four blocks.
Next, the Hoyas will travel to Omaha, Neb., on Tuesday to face the Creighton Blue Jays (10-5, 1-1 Big East). Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. EST.