The Georgetown Hoyas gave away 10 points in the final 30 seconds of game time, allowing Maryland to steal a 76-75 victory. After the 75-71, close-but-no-cigar, loss in the opening game of this Gavitt Games series last year, Georgetown had to make some changes if they wanted to even it up. It looked through much of the contest as though that was not only possible, but probable. Yet here we are trying to process another numbing last-second disappointment.
Melo Trimble was expected to go to the NBA after last season, but the moving parts never coalesced (that sounds familiar) and he is back in College Park for another year with a chip on his shoulder. The question of how the Hoyas would neutralize the stellar guard was expected to determine the outcome of the game, though perhaps more consideration should have been given to the Terps' cast of talented underclassmen that had an equally significant impact.
The organized, methodical offense that had people in the throes of ecstasy on Saturday was notably absent this evening. Cold shooting was the name of the game for both teams and tight officiating at both ends was disrupting whatever flow the game might develop. For the Hoyas, Isaac Copeland was a bright spot offensively, racking up 12 points on 3-6 shooting in the first half. Otherwise, the ability to finish strong at the rim translated to very few points for the Hoyas. Rodney Pryor was unable to find a shooting rhythm, aside from one early three. Scoring droughts are familiar territory though, so keeping the score close while the shots weren’t falling was promising.
The early defensive struggles are more complicated to dissect. Freshman guard Jagan Mosely was tasked with guarding Melo Trimble, a tall order for the only first-year player on the Hoyas roster. Trimble was held to very few shots in the first half, but his skill as a distributor was evident. Cowan is the type of small, quick guard that has given Georgetown fits recently and he regularly finding Justin Jackson, setting it up for the 4-star forward to reliably knock down threes from the corner. The Hoyas looked best on defense when they employed the press, while their defensive rotations were occasionally exposed as a step slow by the Terps' quick passing in halfcourt.
At halftime, the score was locked at 31-31. There were also 29 fouls called. It felt like more. The hand-check fouls and emphasis on giving your coverage his space killed any pace this game might have developed. Despite the struggles with rebounding and a few ill-advised offensive fouls, this game looked different than the performances that raised everyone's collective blood pressure last year. Intensity did not wane and no lineup looked out of place.
The new-found commitment to driving towards the basket and drawing fouls kept Georgetown in the game, as did the fact that the Hoyas made over 88% of their free throw attempts. As both benches were racking up fouls, the depth of the roster was crucial. Pryor started to settle in during the second half and hit that outside three, but he also looked out of control at times at both ends of the floor, pushing too aggressively into his matchup's space on defense and failing to hit the trailing man on what should have been an easy conversion 2-on-1.
With last game's leading scorer struggling, a pair of Juniors stepped up. Copeland’s willingness to go back in for more this year was evident, even as he was getting worked over inside by Damonte Dodd. He looked consistently engaged and earned every bit of his double-double. LJ Peak only managed 2 points in the first half, but was the Hoyas’ rock in the 2nd. He drove to the basket, finished layups with the shot clock working against him and was unflappable from the freethrow line, with all of that coming together for a 21 point performance. After a rough start to the season, Jessie Govan appeared to be getting his sea legs and was the third Hoya to have himself a double-digit outing. He sunk graceful three-pointers, made a clean block without fouling, and retained possession under pressure without sliding his pivot foot.
It appeared as though the Hoyas had the game under control, up by 7 with 1:14 left. Suddenly, as fans watched with horror, mental errors and turnovers allowed the Terps to chip away at the lead without taking any time off the clock. Frequent trips by the officials to check the clock gave Maryland bonus timeouts and prevented the team from regaining any momentum.
With 28.8 seconds left, Georgetown was up 72-66. The Hoyas appeared completely unable to prevent Melo Trimble from getting into the lane. He got to the basket at will and the Hoyas seemed largely unwilling to foul. Maryland pulled to within three, 73-70, on a three pointer from Kevin Huerter. With 18 seconds left, things started to unravel for the Hoyas. Peak threw and inbounds pass to Pryor, who was called for a travel after slipping as the caught the ball. Next, as Maryland took possession and waited to inbound, Copeland was called for a foul. Melo made them both, and the Hoyas' lead shrunk to 1.
Tre Campbell was fouled and went to the line with 17.3 remaining, nailing both after not attempting a free throw all night. Melo Trimble drove for another uncontested layup. Tre Campbell takes the inbounds and steps on the sideline, turning it over. Melo Trimble was fouled by Peak, went to the line shooting two and gave Maryland the lead, 76-75. Georgeotwn took possession with 7.6 seconds remaining. After managing to inbound successfully, Pryor passed it up to Mosely who drove towards the basket.
The layup attempt was blocked cleanly by Huerter and as time expired, the Hoyas were one point short. Game over.