PORTLAND, Ore. — The Georgetown men’s basketball team (22-11, 12-6 Big East) failed to advance to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in its five appearances in the NCAA Tournament dating back to 2007. In front of an electric crowd, Utah (26-8, 9-4 Pac-12) overcame an early first half deficit and ended Georgetown’s season with a 75-64 win at the Moda Center.
In the final minutes of the game, Utah, a highly motivated team trying to cement a new position in the Pac-12, overpowered the Georgetown team. The Utes forced the Hoyas into taking tough shots, hit six of its last seven field goal attempts and went 9-of-14 from the line.
“They had key baskets when they needed them and we didn’t get key stops,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “Then down at the other end we got some looks; the ball didn’t go in.”
In the loss, junior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera only managed 12 points and went 0-of-7 from three.
“Smith-Rivera is a kid that makes three threes a game all year long,” Utah Head Coach Larry Krystkwoiak said. “[Junior guard Brandon Taylor] and our guys [freshman guard Isaiah Wright], [senior guard Delon Wright], did a heck of a job. For him to go 0-7 from three is a key ingredient.”
At the beginning of the game, it looked like this would be the year that Georgetown would finally quiet the pundits and exceed expectations in March.
Georgetown began the game by getting open looks and taking advantage of Utah by converting five of its first seven three-point attempts. Less than seven minutes into the first half, a three-point attempt by senior forward Jabril Trawick rolled through the hoop to gave the Hoyas a commanding 21-10 lead.
Despite Georgetown’s hot start and early lead, Utah was not worried; the team may have even been encouraged by the opening minutes, according to Delon Wright.
“If you’re hot the first half, chances are you’re not going to be shooting that well in the second half,” Delon Wright said. “We wanted them to continue shooting the ball, because that’s not really their game.”
The Hoyas effectively moved the ball and found open looks in the low post, but soon, they relied heavily on the jump shot. With senior center Joshua Smith on the bench after picking up two fouls within the first 10 minutes of the game, Georgetown struggled from the field and went more than four minutes without scoring.
“Jabril hit a couple, Isaac hit a couple,” Thompson said. “Then we went through a phase toward the end of the first half where we fell in love with shooting those jump shots and didn’t attack the rim enough and didn’t get the ball inside enough.”
With 8:52 remaining in the first half, Taylor drained a three to regain the lead. The teams exchanged baskets through the end of the period and entered halftime knotted at 32.
While most of the Georgetown players stayed out of foul trouble in the first half, the second half proved to be difficult for the team. Smith picked up his third foul less than 15 seconds into the half, and exactly two minutes later, senior center Mikael Hopkins suffered the same fate.
Once Hopkins picked up his fourth foul with 16:04 left in the game, Thompson turned to junior center Bradley Hayes. Although Hayes initially provided the Hoyas with energy, he was unable to duplicate the magic of Thursday’s game and did not score against Utah, unlike his performance against Eastern Washington two days prior, in which he scored eight points.
After Utah’s lead ballooned to eight points, Smith returned with 10:36 remaining in the game and ignited a 7-0 run for the Hoyas. Freshman forward L.J. Peak hit a three-pointer and Smith followed with two baskets of his own.
Although Georgetown tied the game at 49 with 8:40 to play in the half, its foul trouble continued, as Utah was in the bonus for the final 10 minutes of the half. Ultimately, these free throws made the difference, as Utah was 16-of-23 from the line in the second half while Georgetown was 3-of-4.
Though Georgetown’s bench scored 45 points in the team’s second-round game against Eastern Washington, it managed a mere two points against Utah. With Trawick, who eventually fouled out after picking up five fouls in the second half, and Smith on the bench in foul trouble for extended periods, Georgetown was left with little offensive production.
Peak led the way for the Hoyas with 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting, while Copeland added 14 points after failing to score against Eastern Washington two nights prior.
With the loss, the Hoyas will say goodbye to four seniors: Trawick, Smith, Hopkins and guard Aaron Bowen.
“It’s one of the few last times that that group is going to be together,” Thompson said. “And so, you know, just have to thank those guys, in particular our seniors. They’ve worked hard.”
Although these players were invaluable to the team, the future bodes well for Georgetown. Presumably, three starters — Smith-Rivera, Copeland and Peak — will all be returning next season.
“I think that the group that they got, the guys coming back, it’s going to be a special team next year,” Trawick said.