Georgetown began 2016 much like it ended the previous year, beating an inferior Big East foe with solid, unspectacular play. Saturday, the opponent was Marquette, which the Hoyas beat 80-70 largely on the inside. Freshmen Marcus Derrickson and Jessie Govan led the charge, scoring inside while holding firm against the Golden Eagles' double-post attack. Derrickson led five Hoyas in double figures, notching a career-high 16 points. The win moves Georgetown to 2-0 in conference play, a critical if not quite perfect turnaround from the Hoyas' pre-holiday collapse.
From the outset, this had the makings of an eyesore for both teams. Georgetown and Marquette both like to go big, both try to gum up opponents' offenses inside, and both suffer through their own offensive lapses as they struggle to generate easy touches for their big men and open perimeter shots.
But for the first twenty-plus minutes, the Hoyas largely were unburdened offensively. The Hoyas scored a season-high 49 first-half points, shooting just under 60 percent from the field. Georgetown worked the ball inside time and again, first to Bradley Hayes, then to Derrickson, then to Govan, the last of whom came off the bench but earned the lion's share of center minutes with strong play on both ends of the floor. When the Hoyas weren't working the ball inside to their bigs, they were sniffing out early offense in transition, where perimeter jumpers and lanes to the basket were equally open. Against a Marquette defense that likes to jump passing lanes, the Hoyas also protected the ball, committing just five turnovers before the break.
The before-the-break caveat proved to be important. After a pair of Hoya three-pointers opened the second-half scoring and pushed the lead to 19 points, Georgetown went dry offensively. The Hoyas proceeded to score just 2 points over the next 10-plus minutes, wasting away much of a huge lead in the process. Some of the drought was simple regression, and some was Marquette waking up defensively. Georgetown also stopped penetrating, stopped pushing the ball in transition, and got sloppy--with ball reversals, post entries, you name it.
Marquette's offense couldn't keep pace with Georgetown before the break and struggled to catch up even when the Hoyas slowed down. In both personnel and strategy, Marquette was poorly suited to exploit the Hoyas' defensive weaknesses. The Golden Eagles lacked the quick, shifty guards who have blown by Georgetown's perimeter defense time and again this season. Instead, Marquette relies on two bigs, Henry Ellenson and Luke Fischer, who were force-fed in the post. But without much perimeter quickness, and without ball movement to compensate, Marquette couldn't convert post touches into points. A more perimeter-oriented attack unlocked the paint late, especially as Georgetown turnovers yielded fast-break points on the other end, but too late for the Golden Eagles to come back.
The biggest positive from Saturday was the play of the two Hoya freshmen bigs. Both Derrickson and Govan are works in progress but showed their impressive skill against Marquette, scoring inside, at the free-throw line, and from beyond the arc. Both acquitted themselves well on defense, where Govan blocked 4 shots and Derrickson used his wide body to hold the fort down low. They also combined with fellow freshman Kaleb Johnson to snag a cumulative 17 rebounds, leading (along with Isaac Copeland, who grabbed 8) an energetic Hoya assault on the glass.
The win wasn't perfect, as the second-half offensive lapses make clear. Two games and two wins into conference play, Georgetown looks like a team very much in between. The Hoyas haven't sustained the top-notch effort that led to near upsets of Duke and Maryland early in the season. But the Georgetown also haven't turned in the moribund performances that characterized losses to Monmouth and UNC Asheville.
The road will get harder Tuesday, when Georgetown travels to Omaha to face a gun-slinging Creighton squad in front of what will be a lively Blue Jay crowd. The Hoyas will need a more even performance to return to D.C. with a perfect record.