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Pregame Party: Marquette v. Georgetown

Can the Hoyas exact revenge while winning their sixth straight?

Nice vest.
Nice vest.
Gregory Shamus

Georgetown puts its five-game winning streak on the line Monday when the Hoyas return to action against Marquette. The Golden Eagles have been soaring since the last time these two teams met, rising to the top of the Big East standings. But your Hoyas are just a game behind, in a position to inch closer to first place.

It's Been So Long Since Last We Met. The Hoyas and Golden Eagles battled to a near-draw in Milwaukee five weeks ago. While that loss and the subsequent blowout by Pitt caused us to focus on Georgetown's offensive dysfunction, Marquette couldn't feel entirely settled after squeaking out two home wins (previously having dispatched Connecticut in overtime). The Golden Eagles continued their escape artist ways with an overtime win at Pitt, then edged Seton Hall at home. Aside from two defensible road defeats-an overtime loss at Cincinnati and a not-so-close loss at Louisville-Marquette has kept on winning, sweeping two match-ups with South Florida, and beating Providence and DePaul at home, winning all four games by double digits. It's hard to know what to make of that run; only the Pitt win was an unexpected result, and the odds in that game shifted once Tray Woodall when down with an injury (speaking of which, can't that man ever get injured before a Georgetown game?). But wins are wins, especially at the house of horrors in South Florida. Regardless, that run has left Marquette 18th in the AP rankings (and, at the time of this writing, just outside a ranking in the coaches' poll) and more importantly tied at the top of the Big East.

Golden Eagles to Know. When Georgetown and Marquette last played, the Golden Eagles still seemed to be figuring out their rotation, needing to replace the departed Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, integrate a transfer, and reincorporate a player who recently returned from ineligibility. The pecking order hasn't really changed since then, but seems a bit clearer now that we're deeper into the season.

The Golden Eagles still are comprised of a deep supporting cast revolving around three hubs. First is point guard Junior Cadougan (9.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.3 apg), a decent scorer but first and foremost a distributor. The points come more from the other two points of focus, guard Vander Blue (15.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 46 FG%) an all-court player who's still at his best going to the basket, and post Davante Gardner (12.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 57.4 FG%), whose wide frame makes him brutally efficient in the post but prevents him from playing more than about half the game.

Four more rotation players merit mention. Forward Jamil Wilson (8.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 39.1 3FG%) is a much more limited version of Crowder, a tweener playing power forward who makes up for a lack of size with plenty of athleticism, and who occasionally can step beyond the arc to hit the three. Wilson punished the Hoyas on the offensive boards in the first game, something they'll need to prevent this time around. Wings Todd Mayo (7.2 ppg, 33.3 3FG%) and Trent Lockett (7.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg) both have had mildly disappointing seasons, Mayo in part due to academic ineligibility followed by a mysterious benching, Lockett probably in part due to difficulty acclimating after transfer from Arizona State. Still, both are contributors and can erupt on any day. Finally, post Chris Otule (4.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg) once again is providing solid defense and not much offense, which he's been doing since he was freshman year roommates with the late, great Maurice Lucas (

When Marquette Has the Ball.

  • Three things we learned in the first game:
    • Make Cadougan shoot. On the whole, Georgetown did a decent job defending Marquette the first time around, though the Golden Eagles' 49 points were as much a sign of the game's slow pace as the Hoyas' stout defense. The Hoyas particularly forced Cadougan (1 of 10 from the field) into a bad shooting day, though the point guard still managed 6 assists.
    • Limit Gardner's touches. Marquette's other primary offensive weapons in the first game were Blue and Gardner, as they have been throughout this season. The big man made just a pair of field goals, but punished the Hoyas from the line, where he earned ten free throws and made eight, which actually is about par for the course for him. Georgetown needs to deny open entry passes to Gardner tonight. (Side note: Gardner is a junior, meaning that he'll presumably still be around next year, meaning we could see a Gardner-Josh Smith collision.)
    • Get Back in Transition. Mayo, Blue, and Lockett all are athletic wings more comfortable attacking the rim than spotting up from the perimeter. Georgetown controlled their slashing in the half court, but also needs to prevent run outs that create easy transition baskets. Marquette isn't the manic, up-and-down operation it was last season (16th in the country in pace last year; 246th this), but the Golden Eagles still can punish their opponents in the open court.
  • Two more to watch Monday:
    • Packing it in. Marquette has the league's most efficient offense, but achieves this rank almost entirely from two-point range, where the Golden Eagles shoot nearly 52 percent in league play. (Your Hoyas, No. 2 in the league, are nearly a full point lower.) Buzz Williams needs that accuracy inside the arc because his perimeter shooters have made under 27 percent of their threes in conference play, second-worst in the Big East.
    • Don't Let Blue Get Going. There wasn't much offense to speak of in the first meeting, with both teams shooting below 40 percent from the field. By those modest standards, Blue's 4-of-10 from the field were above average, as were his pair of 3s. Without Greg Whittington, Georgetown will have a harder time keeping Marquette's wings in check, but contesting Blue's looks will be necessary.

When Georgetown Has the Ball.

  • Three things we learned in the first game:
    • Scoring depth matters. In Milwaukee, Otto Porter, Markel Starks, and Whittington combined for 44 of the team's 48 points, and the Hoyas came up just short. With Whittington out of the equation, the need for additional scorers has been all the more dire. And the rest of the cast has stepped forward, averaging more than 33 points per game during the five-game winning streak.
    • Good Markel. Both Porter and Starks upped their games of late, but while Porter has been the model of consistency, Starks has been less so. Nevertheless, in the first Marquette game, and again Saturday, Starks was at his best, slicing to the rim, finding open teammates, and judiciously stretching the floor from behind the three-point arc. Cadougan is a threat to pick Markel's pocket, but Starks still should be able to generate offense for himself and the other Hoyas off the bounce.
    • Attack the rim. Georgetown memorably scored just four points in the first eight minutes against Marquette, a feat of ineptitude the Hoyas repeated three days later against Pitt. Marquette likes to guard close to the vest, but Georgetown also didn't force its way to the rim early on, instead aimlessly (and sometimes sloppily) passing the ball around the perimeter. Working the ball inside early is a must tonight.
  • Two more things to watch Monday:
    • Three-point shooting. The Hoyas continued their hot outside shooting against Rutgers, and are second in the conference in three-point percentage, making nearly 37 percent of three-point attempts.Marquette has struggled to close out on the perimeter, ranking in the bottom three in the conference in opponents' three-point percentage, opponents' three-point attempts (as a percentage of field-goal attempts), and percentage of points given up from three. Another night of hot Hoya hands from outside could open things up offensively.
    • Otto. Porter's continued brilliance has gotten short shrift in my post-game recaps. Saturday was his third double-double in Whittington's absence, raising his averages during that period above 18 points and 9 rebounds per outing. His dominance of the closing minutes, scoring 10 of the Hoyas' last 12 points, was stunning both for being seemingly unstoppable and for being so mundane, by his high standards. (That first-half dunk in traffic, though, was decidedly not mundane.)

Prediction. The last six games in this series have been won by the home team, with Marquette taking the last four in Milwaukee and Georgetown winning the last pair in the Phone Booth (plus one in the 2010 Big East Tournament). Last year's home win required an epic comeback, capped by a Hollis Thompson dagger 3. Expect a similarly narrow, if much less dramatic, win tonight. Georgetown 59, Marquette 56.