Georgetown played just well enough to lose closely Saturday, dropping a disappointing home game to #10 Providence, 73-69. The Hoyas trailed for nearly the entire game as Friar stars Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil dominated, combining for 52 points. The occasional run brought Georgetown back into the game, but stagnant offense, poor outside shooting, and porous defensive rebounding all kept the lead just beyond the Hoyas' grasp. In addition to exemplifying most of what's gone wrong offensively this season, the loss further shrinks Georgetown's already slim postseason hopes.
Georgetown has struggled to score in the half court for most of the season. Lacking a true point guard, the Hoyas haven't been able to penetrate, whether to score at the rim, to free up rolling big men, or to feed outside shooters in rhythm. Paint touches free up teammates all over the court, and, thanks to a roster that's short on ball-handlers, Georgetown hasn't been able to puncture opposing defenses reliably. It's too hard for these Hoyas to generate points, and the stats reflect as much: Georgetown's offense is scoring the second-fewest points per possession of the JT3 era. (The only worse offense, in 2013, was more than balanced by the nation's second-best defense.)
These offensive infirmities were as present this Saturday against Providence as they were one week ago at Connecticut and the weekend before against Villanova. Facing a capable Friar defense, Georgetown successfully force-fed the ball inside for one successful stretch in the first half, and otherwise scuffled offensively. Even those post touches only resulted in a few baskets for the Hoya bigs, and didn't unlock opportunities for anyone else. Dunn swallowed up D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera for several possessions, leaving Georgetown without enough ways to get the offense flowing. At one particularly low point early in the second half, Georgetown had just 5 assists against 13 turnovers. Baskets weren't coming easily, if at all, and the Hoyas fell behind the visiting Friars by 12.
For its part, Providence didn't play a much cleaner game than Georgetown. The teams contributed equally to a combined 34 turnovers, and wasn't exactly zipping the ball inside and outside. But the Friars were able to lean on their two stars, Dunn and Bentil, who were able to generate their own offense.
Even so, the Hoyas made their run. Four straight Georgetown stops, including three Providence turnovers, jump-started the Georgetown offense. Tre Campbell fed LJ Peak (a team-high 19 points) for three baskets on four trips, and a DSR (18 points) triple narrowed the Providence lead to just 4 points. Another Friar turnover begat a Bradley Hayes (13 points, 10 rebounds) put-back and-one that made it a one-point game.
But Georgetown couldn't get over the hump. A nearly four-point Hoya scoreless stretch allowed Providence to pad its lead, and Georgetown never had the ball with a chance to tie again. A late, spirited run almost gave the Hoyas a chance to force overtime, but Bentil's icing free throws prevented even a long shot.
As we enter February, Georgetown's weaknesses seem apparent and difficult to remedy. The offense gets stuck in the rut too often. Beyond Smith-Rivera, there isn't anyone who can create offense for others. Peak has rounded into form offensively since moving to the bench, focusing as a baseline slasher, transition finisher, and opportunistic outside shooter. But that hasn't translated into points for others. Isaac Copeland's jumper in on the side of a milk-carton, while Marcus Derrickson has a three ball is good but not automatic and doesn't go inside quite enough. Reggie Cameron shows flashes as a playmaker but they're just flashes, and Tre Campbell was dope at Xavier and nearly invisible for the rest of the season. Saddling DSR with playmaking and scoring duties is a bit too much for someone who lacks elite size or ideal speed. But there are only so many tweaks you can make with an imbalanced and limited roster. And it's only a matter of a game or two before we're back to focusing on the the slow-footed, foul-happy defense.
There is some cause for hope. This team has played hard every game for several weeks now. For all their weaknesses, the Hoyas haven't really been out of any game in conference play. Looking at the remaining schedule, only the visit to Villanova looms as an almost definite loss. But after three straight mediocre performances, the Hoyas will need to turn in something better to have any hope of the postseason.