Goodness gracious that was bad. Georgetown looked in command of things midway through the second half Wednesday, leading Providence by 13 points with just under 12 minutes to play. The Hoya zone had stifled the Friar offense for seven straight possessions, keeping Providence star Kris Dunn out of the lane and forcing turnovers that led to easy transition baskets. And then everything changed, as Dunn exited the game, the Hoya defense slackened and failed to adjust, and Georgetown's offense stalled. As Providence came roaring back, Georgetown rolled over, eventually falling 74-71 in the second dispiriting home loss in as many weeks.
For much of the first 30 minutes, Georgetown actually played pretty well. The Hoyas were hitting from outside, as Tre Campbell (10 points) and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (a game-high 21 points, 4 assists, 2 steals) both connected multiple times from deep. Georgetown also operated a bit better against the Providence zone, as Isaac Copeland (10 points, 7 rebounds) slid smoothly into openings in the Friar defense.
The Hoyas' main shortcoming early in the game was their inability to stay in front of Dunn (12 points, 9 assists, 7 steals), who is both bigger and quicker than the Georgetown guards. The Providence star is long and quick enough to jump passing lanes on defense, grabbing loose balls and errant passes, and quickly changes ends of the floor, initiating transition offense for himself and his teammates. Georgetown's loose ball-handling and Providence's ability to capitalize on those mistakes kept things close into the second half.
But Georgetown began to pull away by protecting the ball on offense and keeping Providence out of the lane on defense. Campbell got into the lane for a runner, then leaked out for a fast-break lay-in off of a steal by Joshua Smith (10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks). Jabril Trawick (9 points, 5 rebounds) worked his way to the line for a pair of free throws before bullying his way into the lane for a lay-in through contact. All the while, Providence was stymied by Georgetown's zone, as 7 Friar possessions ended in 4 missed jumpers and 3 turnovers. By the time LJ Peak converted a transition and-one, Georgetown's lead swelled to 12, and the Hoyas appeared to be pulling away.
That was far from the case, as the Friars stormed back, even when Dunn hit the bench with his fourth foul. With Dunn and his menacing quickness out of the game, Georgetown should have switched back to a man-to-man defense to keep tabs on the Friars' other star, LaDontae Henton (16 points) and because the Hoyas generally have been better in man than in zone this season. And yet the Hoyas stayed in their zone for one possession after another, giving up a three to Henton, a pair of midrange jumpers in the zone's soft spots, and then turning Cameron Desrosiers (14 points) into a borderline star.
Meanwhile, Georgetown's offense flagged, as the Hoyas turned the ball over five times in as many minutes, left points on the board in the form of missed free throws, and lost the energy and activity from their first-half attack. A solitary Smith-Rivera three-pointer was Georgetown's only field goal after the under-12 timeout.
Even so, Georgetown earned enough trips to the line and made just enough of those free throws that the Hoyas were down by just one, with the ball, with 32 seconds remaining. As they had in Providence, Georgetown came up the floor with neither urgency nor a plan to generate a shot, despite needing to score to avoid losing. The ball didn't enter the paint, and no Georgetown player made a cut, screen, or any other action indicating any effort was afoot to score the ball. With the clock dwindling to low double-digits, Smith-Rivera finally found an opening in the Providence zone, but a pass to Peak caromed out of the bounds. Georgetown's ensuing baseline inbounds play was all too familiar: there was little movement, no creativity, and a turnover. Providence made both of its free throws and a Smith-Rivera desperation three rolled in and out.
To call this loss disappointing would be an understatement. Georgetown gave away a winnable game that, after last week's home embarrassment to Xavier, it had to have to stay in contention near the top of the Big East. The Hoyas now sit two games behind conference leader Villanova, with a trip to visit the Wildcats upcoming. Georgetown has righted the ship a bit on the road but beating a revenge-minded top-ten team in its building won't happen unless the Hoyas play a full 40 minutes. They didn't do so tonight, and paid the price.