Holy moly. One game after its signature win of the season on the road against its arch-rival, Georgetown upped the ante, giving away a business-like victory but then recovering with a last-second, comeback, double-overtime, 79-78 thriller at Connecticut. The win, the Hoyas' tenth straight, was improbable, maddening, hard-fought, occasionally just lucky, and ultimately amazing, as Georgetown scored eight straight points over the game's final two minutes to pull out the win.
Describing this game is like describing my pulse throughout: initial lulls, soaring highs, crushing lows, occasionally gasping for life. The first half was mostly a lull, as Georgetown struggled to get anything going offensively. Connecticut stuck long, athletic DeAndre Daniels on Hoya star Otto Porter, then hedged another defender at Porter every time he touched the ball. As a result, Georgetown went more than 11 minutes in the first half subsisting on just three free throws. Porter finished the first half without a field goal, and the Hoyas managed just 19 as a team.
And yet, Georgetown kept the game from getting out of hand, never trailing before the half by more than 6. The Hoyas kept things close on the other side of the floor, bottling up Connecticut star Shabazz Napier and keeping the rest of the Huskies just below boiling point. Napier found driving lanes to be occupied by extra defenders sent to limit his opportunities. As a result, despite its offensive struggles, Georgetown trailed by just three at half.
The slow first half was a prelude to second-half mania. The Hoyas' offensive struggles became a distant memory as they scored on eight straight possessions, in the process tallying one more point (20) than in the entire first half. Things began quietly, with a Markel Starks wing three. The junior guard repeated that achievement the next time down the floor, burying a corner three off a Nate Lubick inbound. Two possessions later, Lubick again in-bounded the ball, but this time to the opposite side where Porter hit an open three, his first field goal of the game. More triples followed, by D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Jabril Trawick, to build a double-digit Georgetown advantage. That lead swelled to 12 with under five minutes to play on a pair of Porter free-throws.
Just when it appeared that Georgetown would coast to a double-digit win, things really got crazy. Nine straight Connecticut points, several resulting from Georgetown mistakes, narrowed the lead to just a basket with barely a minute to play. The Hoyas appeared to be just messing with us, as a DSR steal made the lead five, and a missed Connecticut free-throw gave Georgetown the ball back, up five, with the game seemingly in hand. But a Georgetown offensive foul, a Connecticut put-back and a Markel Starks miss on the front end of the one-and-one gave the Huskies the ball with the chance to tie. Ryan Boatright sliced up the court, and found an open Omar Calhoun, who buried the game-tying three. A game that was in hand just a few minutes earlier now seemed to be slipping away.
After the wild swings of regulation, the first overtime was a near flatline, as neither team led by more than a basket, and neither team scored at all for the final two minutes-plus. A series of ugly possessions by both teams set up the second overtime.
The second extra session initially appeared to be one too many for your Hoyas. Lubick fouled out, and a series of Husky threes and free-throwsgave them a seven-point lead with just two minutes to play. A Georgetown offense that had scored just two points in five minutes seemed to have no chance.
But 9 games and 48 minutes into their winning streak, the Hoyas got back to basics, with one new twist. First, the basics, as Porter hit a three to make the deficit four. A stop on the other end begat a ball-reversal to Smith-Rivera, who hit a corner three just a moment after appearing to injure his wrist diving for the ball. Suddenly, with under a minute to play, Georgetown trailed by just one, and a stop would give Georgetown the chance to win a game it almost lost three times over.
Then, the twist: DSR, much maligned for his defense early in the season, became a defensive stopper. He had been so throughout the game, snagging the steal in the final minutes of regulation, playing several possessions of physical defense on Napier, and forcing a jump-ball early in the second overtime. With the Hoyas needing a stop, Smith-Rivera again ended up on Napier, forcing him toward he corner, into a bad jumper that he never got off as DSR and Tarwick forced a loose ball.
And finally, the payoff. The Hoya freshman grabbed the ball with just 19 seconds remaining, pushed the issue in transition, finding--who else--Porter rushing up the left flank. Otto used a pick from Mikael Hopkins to cut through at least three Connecticut defenders and finish at the rim in a beautiful act of fluidity, speed, and extension. Boatright's attempt at hero ball came up short, and the Hoyas escaped with the win.
A team doesn't win ten straight in conference without a bit of help. Wednesday, the fates swung both ways and back again. It's a testament to the Hoyas' determination that they were able to come back in the most difficult of circumstances: on the road, before a raucous crowd, against a very solid opponent, with the breaks heading the wrong way. It's also worth noting that Georgetown continues to find ways to win, shooting 55 percent from three just one game after shooting 35 percent, both wins.
There are individual accolades to be handed out. As always, there's Porter, who overcame a quiet first half to 22 points, the last five in a critical last-minute comeback that brought the Hoyas back from the brink. But credit also goes to Smith-Rivera, who balanced stout defense with 14 points, including five essential points in the clutch, after some shaky shooting early on. Starks also deserves plenty of praise, nailing four three pointers en route to 19 points, as does Lubick, who tallied a very solid 9 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists while playing some very solid help defense.
Of course, there were warts. The ugly first half with its scoring drought was overcome by a hot-shooting second half, but then Connecticut's comeback was jump-started by a Porter turnover and rushed three. Lubick's offensive foul (which, including a silly reach-in at the wrong end of the floor in double-overtime, led to his fouling out) and turnover (one of five on the evening) at the end of regulation that almost gave the game away before overtime could even start.
This was a flawed game, one Georgetown basically gave away multiple times over. But winning imperfect games is as necessary as turning in the occasional spotless performance. Credit Georgetown for maintaining its unity and poise despite those mistakes. That ability may prove useful in the increasingly high stakes weeks ahead. Tomorrow, they'll return to practice together, preparing anew for Saturday's opponent, Rutgers. Sure, they're in first place in the conference, but these Hoyas know they can't take anything for granted, whether it's a long winning streak, a double-digit lead, or the pure thrill of an unexpected win. In the meantime, get some rest, and Hoya Saxa.