Georgetown lost another winnable game Saturday, botching one possession after another down the stretch to lose at Connecticut, 68-62. The Hoyas came up empty the last eight times they had the ball, failing to score thanks to a combination of poorly chosen jumpers, careless turnovers, and bad execution. A disastrous offensive drought, combined with crippling foul problems that resulted in Connecticut attempting 36 free throws, ultimately did Georgetown in. The loss to the Huskies drops the Hoyas to 12-8 on the season, narrowing Georgetown's margin for error to make the postseason.
The Hoyas came out of the gate strong, going to Bradley Hayes in the post several times early. The senior center scored four early points before setting up D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera for a corner three-pointer thanks to a quick ball reversal. The ball movement that powered Georgetown's upset win at Xavier on Tuesday continued early against Connecticut, as 8 of the Hoyas' 12 first-half field goals were assisted.
For the first half, anyway, defense was the problem. Georgetown struggled to stop Connecticut's early offense, giving up 40 points before the break. The Huskies pushed the ball off of turnovers and defensive rebounds, finding easy baskets early in the clock. When forced into the half court, Connecticut picked apart Georgetown's defense, whether that meant using versatile forward Daniel Hamilton to puncture the Hoya zone or pulling Hayes into a pick-and-roll that the Husky guards could easily exploit. The Hoyas struggled to keep up, and Connecticut entered the break up 7 points.
All of which made the second half more confusing. Despite attempting 24 free throws after the break, Connecticut scored just 28 second-half points. The Huskies made just 4 field goals in the entire second half, misfiring on one jumper on another and letting Georgetown hang around despite the Hoyas' struggles.
The one thing Connecticut did well offensively after the break was draw the whistle. The Huskies goaded Hoya defenders into leaving their feet time and again, earning easy free throws in the process. Connecticut was in the bonus with 15 minutes left in the game, and the double bonus for the bulk of that time. The Hoyas continue to foul at atrocious rates, biting on every pump fake, lunging at a ball-handler 90 feet from the basket, getting their feet out of position before a guard even makes a move at the basket. Sure, Georgetown gets called for some fouls while just playing hard defense. But too often the whistles come for really senseless mistakes.
All those free throws were tolerable while Georgetown was scoring. Before (surprise) fouling out, LJ Peak scored 12 points on strong 5-of-6 shooting, his second straight efficient double-figure effort. DSR also scored 12, including two second-half triples, although his 4-of-14 shooting on the day left something to be desired. Junior forward Reggie Cameron (13 points, 5 of 13 FG) led the team in scoring despite a similarly inefficient effort.
All three struggled down the stretch, as did everyone else who entered the game. Peak fouled out on an obvious charge, perhaps after the game was lost. Smith-Rivera missed three late jumpers. Cameron missed a pair of last-minute three-pointers, one of which would have tied the game but instead was an air ball by about a yard and a half. Hayes fumbled a post possession out of bounds. Tre Campbell missed a juicy corner 3 that would have pushed the Hoya lead to 5 in the waning minutes. Kaleb Johnson charged right through a Connecticut defender and then, a few minutes later, reached his way into a careless (and well-sold) foul on Sterling Gibbs. Jessie Govan fumbled a hand-off to Smith-Rivera with Georgetown still just one possession down, a turnover that instead resulted in the game's icing points. All of these mistakes contributed to a 4:30 scoreless stretch to end the game. The errors were individually understandable but collectively destructive.
Which sort of sums the balance of Georgetown's now-completed non-conference schedule. The loss to Connecticut wasn't bad because it was such an embarrassing result. Like narrow losses to Duke and at Maryland, the UConn defeat was bad because it was a missed opportunity to boost the Hoyas' resume with a quality win. Like the embarrassing home-court disasters against Radford, Monmouth, and UNC Asheville, today's loss was bad because it contributes to a resume that contains far more questions than statements.
Looking ahead, Georgetown has 11 regular-season games remaining. The Hoyas need to win at least 6 of those contests to go to the NCAA Tournament, although today's loss may have nudged that magic number slightly closer to 7. Squint hard enough, and you can see how that result might still be in play. A slightly home-heavy slate, two match-ups with the currently Butler and Providence, and rematches with the outright bad play St. John's and Marquette...the ingredients for a strong closing stretch are there.
But the primary, and most uncertain ingredient is still Georgetown's play. The Hoyas probably will not consistently play at the level that fueled Tuesday's road win at Xavier. But they also can't afford to play as poorly as they did for much of today's game. The insane fouling has to be curtailed. Three-pointers should not be the shoulder-shrugged heave of first resort, but rather should be set up with quick ball movement and penetration. And the energy, which thankfully has not been a problem for much of the past two games, must be there every night.
Georgetown returns to action Tuesday night when the Hoyas seek revenge at home against Creighton. The Hoyas cannot afford to let another opportunity escape then.