Georgetown struggled and endured as long as it could against the Friars of Providence, but fell just short in a 73-69 defeat in a pivotal home matchup. LJ Peak contributed 19 points off the bench and center Bradley Hayes flexed his way to a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, but it was not enough to contain coach Ed Cooley's Friars squad. Providence guard (and future NBA lottery pick) Kris Dunn as well as big man Ben Bentil combined for 52 of Providence's 73 points, with each one scoring 26 points and making it to the free throw line for 10 attempts.
Once again, Georgetown's fouling problem cropped up. Sure, fans may see the more egregious calls and blame them on the officials (often not without reason), but to rack up 22 fouls compared to Providence's 14 requires more than just a few bad whistles from the crew in the stripes. Fouling is a problem for this team and it could be argued that there's a relationship between Hoya defenders' penchant to leave their feet on defense and the frequency of fouls called on them.
The first half saw a series of turnover-fueled runs, as the Friars went on a 9-2 run early in the first half, only to be answered shortly thereafter by a 12-2 run from the Hoyas and an 11-2 run from the Friars. Both teams were streaky in the first 20 minutes, but the extra run proved to make up much of the difference for Providence, who jumped out to a 10-point lead at the break.
Shortly before said halftime break, I streaked through the aisle of the student section, having run after piloting a three-hour van ride from a Quiz Bowl competition in Charlottesville. (For those of you who don't know, it's a general knowledge competition, not unlike Jeopardy.) (And while we're at it, shameless plug to the team for finishing 6th in a tough tournament and likely earning a bid to the National Championships. If only the success translated to basketball.)
The crowd was larger than usual as the late Saturday night start time was surprisingly conducive to student attendance. The noise ebbed and flowed depending on the moment, but it was generally on point in the second half. After LJ Peak scored the first six Hoya points of the second half, including two on a fast break slam, the crowd registered its approval. When D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera promptly stole the inbound pass and drew a foul after a Peak layup, the crowd cheered wildly for a while after the official timeout stopped play. Bradley Hayes' successful three-point play, which also included an impressive flex celebration from the big man, brought the crowd to perhaps its loudest ovation of the evening, as the Hoyas pulled within one with 13:33 in the second half.
At points in the second half, the two teams continued to trade seemingly pivotal buckets. Kris Dunn connected from behind the arc for Providence and hit a long jumper on back-to-back possessions, giving Providence a quick 5-0 run near the midpoint of the second half, but then Marcus Derrickson brought the crowd to his feet with a three-pointer of his own.
As the second half ticked away without the Hoyas regaining the lead, the crowd found new opportunities to make their presence felt. After both an iffy no-call on a Derrickson layup attempt and an ensuing foul call on Kaleb Johnson trying to intercept a high pass to Ben Bentil with 4:17 to go in the game, the crowd loudly expressed their displeasure at everybody's new favorite target, Big East referees. Then again, I'm not saying I didn't participate in it, but apart from that particularly questionable stretch, the calls did not seem too much worse than usual, although in the eyes of many, that may not be saying much at all.
Some students behind me also had some fun with Providence forward Rodney Bullock during a late-game pair of free throws. A few of them started chanting "Sandra Bullock" as he was waiting to shoot, and by the time he released his flip, quite a few other students had joined in.
While the students may have had their fun off the court, most of them did not have much fun watching the Hoyas cough up the ball for a shot clock violation with 2:54 to go and a six-point deficit to overcome. With three seconds on the shot clock and Hayes on the left block, the big man looked to pass to an outside shooter rather than attempt one of his frequent baby hook shots. The resulting pass found LJ Peak, who missed the rim on a desperation outside shot. This error could have gone unpunished, but Providence's Kyron Cartwright promptly hit a three-pointer that seemed to ice the Hoyas.
Nevertheless, Georgetown still fought back and the crowd tried to will them on a run to victory once more, as had occurred Tuesday vs. Creighton. The Hoyas were able to cut the deficit down to two late in the game thanks to some clutch plays, including an LJ Peak and-one with thirty seconds left and a DSR three-pointer with five seconds left. But despite several attempts to pressure the inbound pass, Providence consistently found someone to receive it, drew intentional fouls, and made their free throws. And just like that, another winnable game against a great team fell into the loss column. The script wrote itself.
For what it's worth, I did not hear students chanting "N-I-T," which reportedly happened according to multiple sources. This is only one fan's personal opinion, but I'll side with those who say that it was wrong to do so, particularly given the near-comeback that occurred afterward. Booing your own college's team is a pretty extreme tool that fans should only use in the bleakest of circumstances. I'm not saying fans don't have a right to do boo and jeer, but maybe doing it when your team is fighting back against the #10-ranked team in the country is not the best time to do so. Plus, we're less than one year removed from having a solid NCAA Tournament team and it looks like next season may turn out better as this quite young Hoyas squad continues to develop. This program doesn't look to be disintegrating into 2004-level chaos anytime soon. Anyway, that's all I have to say about that.
On a personal level, I'm becoming desensitized to all the home losses. Last year, I expected us to win our home games and would be angry at the possibility of a home loss. This year, though, that expectation is long gone, and honestly, it helps a student fan like me focus more on taking it all in and enjoying the games by looking at them through a bigger picture. Georgetown had been losing in this game before I arrived and never regained the lead afterward. And yet, I could still say I was enjoying myself. Just getting the chance to shout and dance and hop around like an idiot is incredibly fun and actually kind of a blessing, one that I still think student fans should take advantage of. Although that might just be the Stockholm Syndrome setting in.