A spirited effort and solid bench play weren’t enough to secure Georgetown’s first conference road win in more than one year as the Hoyas fell at #19 Xavier, 86-75. Thirty points off the pine, 23 from Rodney Pryor, and some nifty passing weren’t enough to overcome Georgetown’s continued struggles on the boards and on defense, season-long problems that reared their heads again Sunday. The loss to Xavier drops Georgetown to 1-6 in Big East play, tied for last in the conference, and just .500 overall.
It’s tempting to view this game as a close one that simply got away from Georgetown. The Hoyas played hard throughout, keeping the game within a possession and even leading for much of the first half before entering the break down just a point. After a second-half drought put Georgetown down by double figures, the Hoyas rallied back to tie the game at 58 on an 18-6 run capped by six straight points by Pryor.
There even were individual highlights to make the optimists among us feel good. Georgetown enjoyed good, energetic play from a bench mob that included Reggie Cameron (8 points), Tre Cambpell (7), and Jonathan Mulmore (8, including a pair of rainbow threes). Bradley Hayes and Jessie Govan dished out 7 points, mostly from the high post. Pryor went off, topping 20 points for the first time in 6 games. Georgetown shot 54 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3, and the Hoyas passed well, assisting on 22 of 28 made baskets.
But don’t let a silver lining let us lose track of the cloud. Georgetown’s loss was entirely consistent with its subpar play this year. KenPom, which had the Hoyas ranked 69th nationally entering today, projected them as a 10-point underdogs at Xavier. Before Georgetown began fouling as the clock dwindled, the Hoyas trailed the Musketeers by just about 10.
And this Xavier team isn’t exactly a powerhouse. The Musketeers really hasn’t looked like the contender many of us would thought they would be, losing three straight entering today and standing at just 4-3 afterward in conference, even factoring in two wins over the Hoyas. Today, Xavier really struggled to score from the field for much of the first half, at one point not making a field goal for 7-plus minutes. Point guard Edmond Sumner was clearly limited for much of the game, limiting the damage he could do. The opportunity for an upset was there, much as it was during the Hoyas’ home loss to the Musketeers.
Still, Xavier was able to stay with and then ahead of Georgetown because the Musketeers grabbed rebounds and drew fouls. They lived up to their strong reputation on the glass, out-rebounding Georgetown 24 to 1 on the Hoyas’ misses and gathering 11 Xavier misses as second chances. Added to a +5 turnover margin, Xavier enjoyed 15 extra possessions that more than made up from Georgetown’s. Those possessions turned into points when Georgetown committed 34 fouls that led to 49 Xavier free-throw attempts, yielding 36 points.
Coming off a thoroughly depressing loss to Providence and playing in a difficult environment, credit to the Hoyas for playing hard and rallying back when they fell behind. But hard play is only an element of, and not a substitute for, winning. The various losing streaks continue to mount. Today was Georgetown’s eighth straight conference loss on the road, a streak dating back more than a year, to last year’s upset win at Xavier. This game also continued the Hoyas’ losing streak against Big East opponents not named St. John’s or DePaul; that slide has reached 16 games. Georgetown’s 1-6 record is its worst start to conference play since a 1-7 beginning in the season that Big John resigned. We will see whether the Hoyas will match that all-time worst Big East start Wednesday, when Georgetown hosts Creighton.