Georgetown men’s basketball suffered another painful loss at the hands of the Marquette Golden Eagles on Jan. 2, as a Georgetown 36-20 halftime lead resulted in a 64-60 loss. Georgetown’s stifling defense disappeared from the interior as the Golden Eagles closed the game on a 22-6 run.
In the beginning, it seemed this game would be different from the past few for the Hoyas (3-8, 1-5 Big East), who used a different starting lineup for the first time since first-year guard Dante Harris made his first start against St. John’s on Dec. 13. First-year forward Kobe Clark replaced senior guard Jahvon Blair in the starting lineup alongside Harris, senior forward Jamorko Pickett, graduate guard Donald Carey and sophomore center Qudus Wahab.
The new year did not indicate a new offense for the Hoyas, who opened their game with turnovers from missed passes on each of their first four possessions. It was clear the team was missing the steadying presence of Blair, one of the Hoyas’ primary ball handlers and the conference’s sixth-leading scorer. When the Hoyas could finally get a shot off, Harris sunk a long two-pointer off the dribble to get the offense going. The opening stretch led to both teams having multiple non-shooting fouls and multiple turnovers, with the Hoyas trailing the Golden Eagles (6-6, 2-4 Big East) 7-2 after four minutes.
Georgetown Head Coach Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85) did not pin the blame for the slow start on any player or repeated play in particular, saying he had faith in his players to make their own decisions with the ball.
“Everyone has to take it upon themselves to make the right decision,” Ewing said in a postgame press conference.
By working the offense through Wahab and Blair, the Hoyas managed to go on an 8-0 run as they scored early, giving themselves a 12-9 lead with 12:30 remaining in the first half. This run coincided with Marquette center Theo John going to the bench with two early fouls. Georgetown’s early 10-4 rebounding advantage also contributed to its early lead.
The Hoyas’ strong play on defense forced 11 consecutive misses for the Golden Eagles.Georgetown led 18-9 with 8:48 as Marquette called timeout. A putback layup for Marquette forward Justin Lewis ended the Hoyas’ 12-0 run, and the Hoyas led 18-11 at the under-eight television timeout. Both teams improved their offensive strategies as the scoreboard read 25-14 at the under-four timeout.
Georgetown arguably played its best defensive half of the season in the opening period, holding the Golden Eagles to just 20 points on 26% on field goal shooting. Late in the first half, first-year forward Jamari Sibley was a great spark for the Hoyas at both ends of the court, hitting his first two shots for 5 points while playing solid perimeter defense both on and off the ball.
A technical foul by Marquette guard Greg Elliott led to two made free throws by Blair. Wahab followed with an open basket after a series of turnovers to give the Hoyas a 32-19 lead. An offensive rebound by Wahab off a missed Georgetown free throw led to a deep three-pointer for Blair as the half’s final basket. Georgetown closed the half with a good defensive possession on the interior to ensure a 36-20 halftime lead.
Blair started the second half with a miss from deep as he tried to maintain his strong rhythm for the Hoyas. Two baskets attacking the rim by the Golden Eagles cut the deficit to 24-38, and Ewing called timeout with 18:14 remaining in regulation. The Golden Eagles’ athletic advantage came to the surface over the next few minutes with an alley-oop conversion and a chase-down block resulting in just a 39-28 Georgetown lead at the first television timeout of the second half.
Wahab continued to lead the offense for the Hoyas with two buckets on post-ups early in the second half, remaining a constant threat at that end of the court. Blair drew a foul on a three-pointer with 12:33 to play, swishing all the free throws to extend the lead to 47-34. A three-pointer from Marquette forward Jamal Cain, who led the Golden Eagles with 13 points at the time, resulted in a 47-37 lead for the Hoyas at the next television timeout with 12 minutes to play.
The Hoyas came out of the timeout with fresh legs as Sibley and graduate forward Chudier Bile played their first second-half action and scored baskets on the Hoyas’ first two possessions to extend the lead to 15, followed by blocks from Bile and sophomore center Timothy Ighoefe off the bench. Another basket by the Eagles’ Jamal Cain cut the deficit to 54-44 and Ewing called timeout with 8:20 remaining in regulation. Through the first 11:40 of the half, the Golden Eagles made 10 field goals, surpassing their first-half total of eight.
A 7-0 Golden Eagles run, fueled by two Georgetown traveling violations, cut the Georgetown lead to 54-49. A missed dunk attempt by Wahab gave Marquette the ball down 56-51 with 5:31 to play. At the final television timeout with 3:50 to play, the Hoyas led 56-55, the slimmest margin since the score was 10-9.
After that timeout, the Golden Eagles’ ball movement led to a good look in the lane as they took a 61-60 lead before Marquette forward Jamal Cain hit a corner three-pointer to extend the lead to 64-60 with 15 seconds to play and effectively end the game.
When asked about the slow finish to the game for Georgetown, Ewing brought up the same issues that plagued the team early on.
“We started the game with five or six turnovers, we finished the game with five or six turnovers,” he said during a press conference.
For the Hoyas, Harris continued his struggles at the offensive end with 6 points on nine shots to go with five assists and five turnovers. Ewing saw tonight as part of a continued growing experience for the first-year, while recognizing that in key moments, Harris should be more confident and under control by this point in his first year.
“It’s all right to make mistakes, but not down the stretch,” Ewing said of Harris.
Ewing made it clear that the Hoyas could have won the game with a few more smart plays down the stretch by the players on the court at closing time.
The Hoyas return to action Jan. 13 to take on the DePaul Blue Demons (1-4, 0-4 Big East) in McDonough Arena.