Georgetown partially redeemed a difficult week by blowing the doors off of Xavier Saturday, 74-52. The Hoyas pressured, ran, and attacked their way to a one-sided win that was necessary, but not yet enough, to redeem Georgetown's NCAA Tournament hopes.
Barely 36 hours removed from their second straight blowout loss, the Hoyas surprisingly were the aggressor Saturday, scoring the game's first six points and never looking back. Georgetown pressed full court out of dead-ball situations, forcing a slew of early Xavier turnovers that fueled easy transition baskets. In all, the Hoyas generated 13 Xavier turnovers Saturday, and capitalized with 18 points off of those miscues. The full-game box score reflects those transition opportunities, as Georgetown shot a healthy 54 percent from two and earned 26 trips to the line.
Turnovers and long rebounds off of missed Xavier jumpers spurred Georgetown's transition offense. The Hoyas attacked the basket, getting four layups in the game's first four minutes. Those points in the paint opened up perimeter jumpers, which Georgetown buried as well. After 12 minutes, the Hoya lead swelled to 14 on a Markel Starks-to-Aaron Bowen alley-oop. That advantage only grew as the game wore on.
The Hoyas' defensive energy and offensive execution can in part be attributed to a lineup change, as John Thompson III reinserted Jabril Trawick into the starting lineup in place of the struggling Reggie Cameron. Trawick is a better defender and ball-handler than Cameron, both welcome attributes after defensively anemic and offensively inept losses to St. John's and Seton Hall. Since returning from injury, Trawick also has overcome some early-season shooting woes, averaging nearly one made three-pointer per game.
The junior made the most of his reinstatement, scoring 13 points, his fourth straight double-digit scoring effort, and dishing out 4 assists, with the bulk of that output coming during the decisive first-half push. Trawick also hit a pair of three-pointers, continuing his recent production from beyond the arc. The Hoyas will continue to need that perimeter pop if they harbor any hope of a strong finishing kick.
The other notable individual performance came from senior Markel Starks, who scored a game-high 22 points and handed out 4 assists. Starks's jumper was cooking, as he buried a pair of first-half three-pointers and another deep jumper. He also ignited the Hoya transition attack, finding Bowen and Trawick for finishes at the rim. After some sluggish recent performances, Starks was back to to his lively best, hustling and grinding his way to his best scoring output in five games.
The Hoya bigs also chipped in enough to get by. Nate Lubick had 9 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, and blocked a perimeter jumper that sparked a second Hoya run to push the lead to 16 points at intermission. Mikael Hopkins also was active, despite foul trouble, scoring 8 points around the basket. And Moses Ayegba even converted a couple of baskets near the rim. The output of those three was essential, if not overwhelming, and contributed to the Hoyas outworking Xavier down low.
The blowout win was relaxing, allowing for good cheer that was welcome after dispiriting road losses. The huge margin allowed JT3 to play the deep reserves at the end of the game, including Bradley Hayes, who scored his converted his first field goal as a Hoya on a solid right hook.
As convincing as it was, today's win is still just one win. It doesn't remedy the two road losses earlier in the week, nor does it guarantee victory in any of the Hoyas' last three games. Georgetown next travels to Milwaukee to play at Marquette, where they haven't won since 2008. The Golden Eagles are still scrapping to try to get into the dance, and so won't roll over for the Hoyas. The following week brings two games in which Georgetown will be substantial underdogs: a home date with the conference leader, #11 Creighton, and a road trip to #9 Villanova. Despite having lost to all three of those teams earlier in the season and despite having won just two road games all year, the Hoyas must somehow win two of these three match-ups to revive any long-shot at-large tournament hopes.
But today at least kept alive the idea that maybe, just maybe, the Hoyas can pull off a couple of improbable wins. Marquette has been plenty beatable this year, Creighton's only conference losses have come away from home, and Georgetown took Villanova to the wire in the teams' first meeting. A pair of wins is unlikely, but possible. That's more optimism than we could've mustered before today.