Georgetown exited with a merely average NCAA Tournament loss Saturday nigh to a talented, well-coached Utah team. The 75-64 defeat was the result of the Utes' superior offensive execution, Georgetown's struggle to find points after a scorching start, and the last chapter in the Hoyas' season-long battle with foul trouble. The loss was not, however, the latest in the Hoyas' well-documented March struggles.
The game started out incredibly well for Georgetown, which ran out to a 11-point lead on the back of some hot outside shooting. Regular contributors Jabril Trawick and Isaac Copeland each took turns hitting from outside while Trawick also aggressively hunted points in the paint. The long-struggling freshman wing LJ Peak also got in on the action, dialing up a few three-pointers while also knifing his way into the lane. It was clear from Utah's early double teams of post menace Joshua Smith and the Utes' hard shows on pick-and-rolls involving star D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera that the Ute scouting report had keyed in on two Hoyas. Georgetown's remaining regulars cashed in early on the extra space.
The hot start didn't last, and Georgetown soon found itself struggling to control a fluid, balanced, and well-spaced Utah attack. Six Utes finished with 9 or more points, a testament to Utah's commitment to ball movement and ability to convert open shots. The Hoya lead vanished by the half and was basically gone for good. Smith emerged late from foul trouble to anchor some useful offense for Georgetown, but he already had ridden the pine for so much of the game that Georgetown was playing catch-up late. Smith-Rivera found open looks impossible to come by as Utah smartly prioritized running an extra defender at DSR off of every pick and cut.
Mercifully, the game was free of psychodrama. In every season since its 2007 Final Four run, Georgetown played (and usually lost to) its immediate (low-seeded) opponent, but also battled the weight of expectations, and the failure to meet them. Having exorcised those demons Thursday night in a public thrashing of pre-anointed Cinderella Eastern Washington, Georgetown was able to face just one opponent Saturday in Utah. The Utes were more than the Hoyas could handle, but that was understandable, given Utah's evident under-seeding.
Saturday was the last game at Georgetown for five seniors: Trawick, Mikael Hopkins, Smith, Aaron Bowen, and Tyler Adams. Each deserves brief mention now and a longer tribute when more time is available. As mentioned so often here and elsewhere, Trawick was the heart and soul of this Georgetown squad, the sometimes overheated core that brought urgency, passion, and purpose to a team that otherwise might have been light on leadership. The deserved focus on his emotional contributions obscures Trawick's real development as a player, both early in his career as a defender and, in his last season-plus, as a high-percentage if low-volume outside shooter and useful secondary ball-handler. Hopkins rose from a much-maligned, too-much-too-soon unskilled big man to a rim-protecting defender, competent rebounder, and consistently energetic role player who accepted relegation to the bench with grace and pride. Smith was a sometimes dominant, rarely reliable, and--ironically, given his gargantuan size--always human character, a walking tale of redemption whose progress as a player and person was visible but rarely noted. Bowen was a classic contributor and exceptional athlete, just as liable to steal a scene with a head-turning athletic play as to make an essential if little-noticed defensive stop. And Adams was the sidelined, magnanimous smile to Trawick's on-court, aggressive snarl, all enthusiasm and positivity despite the heart condition that cruelly cut short his career before it could really begin. We'll miss all of these guys.
The Hoyas that remain have plenty of reason for hope heading into next season. The talented freshman class contributed heavily this season but can be counted on for much more next year. Reinforcements will arrive on the front line to replace Smith and Hopkins, where some highly touted recruits, a promising transfer, and perhaps even recent reclamation project Bradley Hayes will all compete for lots of available playing time. And they will be led by senior year Smith-Rivera, who has grown so much each season and undoubtedly will do the same in the year to come.
We'll have much more on this game and the season gone by, but for now, Hoya Saxa.