How exactly did we win this game again? This was not the first game I've seen the Hoyas play as a Top 10 team. But it was certainly the first, in the short time I've been able to call myself a Hoya, that I've seen them play with the fortitude of a Top 10 team. Despite showing a porous first half defense, being unable to set up any sort of offensive rhythm for a stretch of about 20 minutes from the first half to the second, and the refs' propensity to make terrible calls against the Hoyas for the majority of the game, the Old Blue and Gray mounted a 34-14 run after Todd Mayo's three-pointer with 13:12 left in the second half and upended the Golden Eagles of Marquette.
Last season, our beloved Hoyas were rewarded for their trouncing of #17 Memphis in Memphis with a Top 10 ranking (9th) for the first time all season. How did they respond? With an embarrassing loss at #15 Notre Dame. If you remember, though, the Hoyas rattled off a nice Big East win streak and again made it into the Top 10 (9th again) after a win at #13 Syracuse. Georgetown responded by losing at #12 Connecticut and BARELY making it out of South Florida with a win. This was the first game Georgetown has played as a Top 10 team since then, and for once, they ended up looking the part. My gripe with this team has always been their inability to run away with games, to kick a team while they're down. This is most often the case against teams that Georgetown SHOULD beat handily, and yet still seem to have some issues with. Georgetown can keep games close even when they should be running away with them, but they have never, before tonight, shown me they could dig themselves into a huge hole and proceed to pull themselves out and beat a REALLY GOOD TEAM. The Hoyas may not have looked like the 9th best team in the country for 30 minutes of the game tonight, but those last 10 minutes showed everyone why they deserve that spot.
Early Offense - Unlike in the Providence game, Georgetown had no issues finding ways to score points early in the game. The Hoyas made 9 of 13 shots and scored 21 points in the first 8 minutes. Four of those baskets were layups, indicating the Hoyas' ability to get in the paint early. Hollis Thompson was also fed well during this stretch; he made two three-pointers and scored 8 in the early part of the game. This was something we absolutely needed to see from the Hoyas after their poor showing against Providence on New Years' Eve.
Hollis Thompson's Return - Speaking of Hollis, how about Hollywood? We were wondering where he's been for about the last month, and he finally reminded us why we love him so. 'Fro or no 'fro, Hollis came to play tonight. Shooting 6-7 (4-5 3-pt) for 16 points and just 1 turnover, Hollis Thompson's amazing effort book-ended a horrendous offensive performance for the majority of the game. Jason Clark may be the guy you want to lead the team at the end of the game, but that is now 2 game-winning three-pointers Hollis has hit. Can you ask for much more when it really counts?
Crunch Time Defense - Darius Johnson-Odom hit a three-pointer with 12:07 left in the game to put Marquette up 59-44. Do you know when Marquette's next basket was? Three minutes later, when Jae Crowder's basket put the Golden Eagles up 12. After that, Marquette did not make a single field goal until Davante Gardner's layup tied the game at 68 with 1:37 left. Seven and a half minutes without a field goal from a team that looked like they could score at will in the first 25 minutes?! It would be easy to say that the Golden Eagles just went cold, but I attribute this to tough defense on DJO, Crowder, and Todd Mayo, who only attempted a combined 2 shots and were credited with 3 turnovers during that stretch. Huge crackdown by the defense there.
There's No Quit in These Boys - I'll be honest, folks, I didn't need to see the deficit pushed to 17 to be ready to throw in the towel on this one. Todd Mayo's three-pointer 5 minutes into the second half, which put Marquette up 16, made me about ready to quit. It seemed like there was nothing the Blue and Gray could do to stop these guys. We were playing high school defense and could get no sort of rhythm offensively. But, as the Hoyas have done all season, they surprised me yet again and pulled of one of the ballsiest, gutsiest, grittiest, toughest, and all out impressive comebacks I have ever seen. JTIII may not exactly be the greatest at lighting a fire under someone's ass, but these kids want to win, and they want to win badly.
Transition Defense - One major reason Georgetown ended up giving up so many points in the first half was their inability to get back on defense. The transition defense was so bad that Marquette was getting fast break layups off our MADE baskets! In fact, 7 of Marquette's 17 first half field goals were scored within 10 seconds of Georgetown relinquishing possession of the ball. We knew coming into this one that Marquette liked to run and liked to drive the lane. You would have thought that JTIII would have prepared them a bit better for that sort of attack.
Again, Not Feeding the Hot Hand - Maybe this team is scared to give the ball to the guy who is shooting well, but I am not understanding why Hollis only had 6 shots in 30 minutes of play. He wasn't in foul trouble either. The guy was stroking it in the first 10 minutes of the game, why did he not get more shots?! Don't get me wrong, the guy got the ball in the hoop when it counted at the end, but why didn't anybody stop down and say "hey, this guy's been struggling for a while, and it seems like he's found his touch, let's milk him for all he's got tonight"? Hollis could have been a much bigger factor THROUGHOUT this game instead of being relegated to hitting the clutch shots at the end.
Henry Sims' Struggles (Kind Of) - This is the second game in a row that I've been absolutely baffled by Henry's play. Let me first say that his stat line is a significant improvement from 2-13 against Providence (5-6 with 3-4 FT tonight) and that is appreciated. The important thing to remember about this game AND the Providence game is that Henry was the biggest guy on the floor in both of those games. In the Providence game, he couldn't hit a shot to save his life. In this game, he seemed to be floating around the perimeter WAY too often! I don't know what was going on down there in the paint, maybe linebacker Davante Gardner said some mean things about his momma, but why would he be drifting so far away from the paint when he has the decided height advantage? In the end, it all worked out for Hank, as his sexy finger roll completed the Hoya comeback.
Letting Marquette into the Bonus - Marquette was into the Bonus with 13:49 left in the 2nd half. That means that it took the Hoyas barely 6 minutes to commit 7 fouls against Marquette. As if they weren't having enough problems already. Marquette is in the top 20 in free throws attempted per game and I'm pretty sure the ESPNU broadcasters threw up a stat saying Marquette has made more free throws than their opponents have even attempted. It is truly astounding that the Hoyas were able to come back after allowing Marquette to shoot free throws starting so early in the half. This is unacceptable regardless of the opposing team, though.
Three Key Plays You May Not Remember:
1) With just under four minutes left in the first half, Marquette had just scored, putting them up 8, which is still a manageable deficit. As Georgetown came down the floor to set up their offense, Jae Crowder ran into a screen from Jabril Trawick and fell to the ground. The referee called an offensive foul. Now, if you DO remember this play, you will remember how horrendous of a call it was, but this led to another Marquette basket and was sort of where the unraveling really started for the Hoyas. For the remaining 4 minutes of the half, Marquette outscored the Hoyas 10-4 and was 4 of 9 from the floor with 3 offensive rebounds.
2) Georgetown was up 1 with 9 minutes to go in the first half. With just 5 seconds left on the shot clock, Jae Crowder had to jack up a three-pointer which was well-contested by Greg Whittington. Crowder missed the three, and Georgetown had a chance to push. But wait, a foul was called on Whittington. It was a tough play to see, but it didn't look like Whittington really hit him at all and Crowder possibly just fell on Greg after the shot, but he was awarded the three shots anyway. Crowder made two of them, giving Marquette the lead, and Jason Clark's score on the next possession marked the last time Georgetown would hit a field goal until Clark scored again with just 2 minutes left in the half.
3) After Hank Sims nicely fed Otto Porter for a cutting layup to cut Marquette's lead to 5 (the smallest it had been in almost 20 minutes of game time) with 7 minutes to play, the gigantic Davante Gardner decided to attempt a shot from the top of the key, just inside the arc. Needless to say, that's not the big man's shot. Considering this, you would think that this was a perfect opportunity for the Hoyas to get a stop and further diminish the Golden Eagle lead. Well, you'd be wrong. Davante's laser shot displayed so little arc, that when it clanged off the back of the rim, it bounced right to Junior Cadougan. Darius Johnson-Odom was fouled on the resulting possession and his free throws brought the Marquette lead back up to 7. Obviously, an opportunity squandered by the Hoyas.
It Was Over When: Jae Crowder's attempt at a game-tying three-pointer from the left corner bounced off the back of the rim and out to Jason Clark, who was fouled with .7 seconds left. Clark's missed free throws wouldn't matter, as Marquette could not cleanly rebound his miss.
Now to travel to the backwaters of West Virginia to take on the Mountaineers, whose only bad loss is to Kent State.