In a game that can be delicately described as disappointing, the Georgetown Hoyas dropped its Big East opener to the Marquette Golden Eagles by a score of 49-48 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. Davante Gardner and Vander Blue led the Golden Eagles with 12 points each, while Markel Starks led three Hoyas in double figures with 18 points and 7 assists. Georgetown (10-2, 0-1) had its seven-game winning streak snapped in its first true road game of the season.
The Hoyas entered the game having not played since defeating American on December 22nd, and the rust was evident early as the Hoyas struggled to generate anything on offense in the first half. Georgetown missed 10 of its first 12 shots from the floor and had just 10 points with four minutes to play in the first half. Thankfully, due to a strong defensive effort and a zone that forced Marquette into numerous bad looks, Marquette missed 11 of its first 13 shots and the Hoyas were able to stay within striking distance. A 9-5 run by the Hoyas to end the half which was cemented by a three by Greg Whittington at the halftime buzzer produced a 20-19 Marquette lead as the teams headed into their locker rooms.
With Hoyas fans pleased at the one point halftime deficit despite Georgetown's struggles from the field in the first half, two Markel Starks free throws early in the second gave Georgetown its first lead since the beginning of the game at 21-20. However, that lead was short lived as Marquette scored the next four points, and a seesaw battle between the two Catholic 7 defectors was on.
The Hoyas continued to struggle on offense in the second half, though again the defense kept Marquette within striking distance as Marquette led by no more than 5 points the rest of the way. The Hoyas tied the game at 46 on a Markel Starks layup with just over two minutes to play, but two free throws by Gardner after what appeared to be a flop gave Marquette a lead that it would never relinquish.
The Hoyas had plenty of chances to pull this game out, as JT3 drew up two possessions off of timeouts that produced wide open looks. The first possession was with the Hoyas down 47-46 with 20 seconds left, and an Otto Porter isolation play similar to the one used to tie the game against Indiana produced a wide open look for Jabril Trawick from three on the wing that he wasn't able to convert. After two Marquette free throws, the Hoyas had a chance to tie and Porter found Whittington open in the corner for a three with seconds left that he missed...BUT WAS FOULED!
As our memories shifted back to 2008 when Marquette's Dominic James fouled Georgetown's Jonathan Wallace in a similar scenario resulting in three makes from the line to tie the game in regulation and an eventual Hoyas win in overtime, Greg Whittington stepped to the line and calmly (and frankly surprisingly) sank his first two attempts. However, after Marquette coach Buzz Williams called a timeout to "ice" Whittington, Whittington missed the 3rd attempt off the front rim and the game was all but over.
There are a couple of ways to try to digest this game. The first and easy way is to shake it off, that it was the first Conference game being played on the road against a good team and that the Hoyas weren't expected to win anyway. Indeed, Vegas had the Hoyas as 3 point underdogs at tipoff. The second, however, is a bit more troubling, as though the Hoyas were in this game from start to finish, there still remain a few glaring issues that have yet to be corrected since this season began. Sophomore center Mikael Hopkins was not good, and that's putting it lightly. Hopkins finished with just 4 points on 2-6 shooting and barely played in the 2nd half, as it became apparent that the offense simply didn't work effectively through him at the top of the post. While we fans thought this was something that could have been worked out in practice over the past few weeks, clearly it is a lingering problem and will cause Georgetown great difficulty against similar physical teams as Marquette in the Big East. Coupled with relative ineffective play from forward Nate Lubick, Georgetown's big men brought nothing to the table in this game, putting even more pressure on Otto Porter, Greg Whittingon and Markel Starks to produce.
On a brighter note was the play of sophomore guard Jabril Trawick, who made a couple of spectacular plays defensively including blocking a fast break layup attempt by Junior Cadougan and provided a spark off the bench that Georgetown greatly needs with a short bench. Georgetown's offense worked much better as the Hoyas went "small" with Trawick in for Hopkins and that may be a look we see more of going forward.
Georgetown doesn't have much time to think about this loss, as the Big East home opener against Pittsburgh looms largely on Tuesday night. Pitt has started 0-2 in Big East play thus far, so this will be a big game for both.
See you at Verizon.