Saturday’s letdown loss to Seton Hall (11-7, 2-3 Big East) was an enormous setback for a Georgetown team desperately searching for a win.
Georgetown (11-6, 3-3 Big East) lost back-to-back games for the first time this season, and the progress of a team searching for its identity after losing two starters — junior center Joshua Smith for academic reasons and junior guard Jabril Trawick to a broken jaw — has been stagnant.
“We’re undermanned, but that’s not an excuse,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “We need to figure out how we can play differently with who we have now.”
With the score tied at 25 with just over 4 minutes to play in the half, the Hoyas reeled off a 10-1 scoring run to head into the locker room with a comfortable nine-point lead.
The second half, however, was a different story. Seton Hall was more aggressive and immediately began to chip away into Georgetown’s lead. With 14 minutes remaining in the game, the Hoyas’offense went cold and only mustered 13 points for the rest of the game. Much like the game against Xavier, Georgetown couldn’t buy a field goal, failing to hit one for the final 9:44.
“We had wide open looks [down the stretch],” junior forward Mikael Hopkins said. “They just weren’t going in.”
It is troubling how ineffective the Georgetown offense has been late in games.
Unfortunately for Hopkins, his first collegiate double-double — 11 points and 15 rebounds — was not part of a win. Joining Hopkins was Bowen, who notched 11 points and seven rebounds.
“Mikael played with an energy and passion that I’ve never seen from him before,” Thompson said. “I thought we wasted the best game of his career. If he can play with that energy and passion, that’s a step toward what we need to figure out.”
Hopkins attributes the passion and energy that Thompson spoke of to an attitude change this offseason.
“This year I really focused on attacking the glass, but it wasn’t enough today,” Hopkins said. “They had 15 offensive rebounds that led to wide open threes.”
And the Pirates knocked down those threes, shooting 11-of-20 from beyond the arc.
In many ways, the performance against Seton Hall was strikingly similar to the team’s meltdown against Xavier last week, when the Hoyas blew a 17-point second-half lead and eventually lost by 13. Against Xavier, the Hoyas allowed 51 second-half points while they only mustered 21 themselves.
“We have to try to go back and figure out why we are [losing second-half leads],” Thompson said. “We will.”
Thompson had an unlikely ally in Seton Hall Head Coach Kevin Willard, who sympathized with Georgetown’s depleted roster.
“I know what it’s like to play without starters,” Willard said. “When you don’t have [a full lineup], it’s tough. You will lose games and blow leads.”
Seton Hall has recently returned to full strength after regaining senior center Eugene Teague — a 270-pound monster underneath, who grabbed nine rebounds and scored ten points — and senior guard Fuquan Edwin, who dropped 24 points, including five three pointers.
What is the diagnosis for a team whose month turned sour after starting off with an impressive victory over St. John’s on January 4?
“We have to do a better job of limiting offensive possessions and three-point [attempts],” Thompson said. “And transition points.”
In short, a little bit of everything.
Georgetown must regroup quickly if it hopes to make the NCAA tournament this year. With the toughest part of the schedule – a road trip to Creighton, a neutral date with Michigan State, and a home game against Villanova – coming up, the Hoyas can’t afford to spend too much time figuring out ways to win games.
First, Georgetown must take care of business at home, as it takes on Marquette Monday night at 9 p.m.
“We’re going through a little slump right now,” Thompson said. “It’s a very important game.”