After a pair of near-misses that had Georgetown veering back toward .500, the Hoyas enjoyed a home-court bounce Saturday, playing energetic defense and riding their big three on offense to a 80-62 victory over Marquette. The win pushes Georgetown to 14-12 overall, 5-8 in the Big East, which is not enough to change the Hoyas’ long-term projection but enough to give the faithful some hope.
Getting a rematch against a team that notably called the Hoya defense lazy earlier in the season, Georgetown’s defense was locked in today. The Hoyas switched nearly everything in man coverage and were able to stay afloat against potential mismatches. Georgetown big men Jessie Govan, Marcus Derrickson, and Akoy Agau all gamely contained Marquette guards, forcing them to give up the ball or hoist contested jumpers. Down low, LJ Peak and others fought for position against Marquette bigs.
In all, the Golden Eagles scored just 62 points on 68 possessions, a decidedly off day for one of the best offenses in the conference and the country. Some of the downturn can be attributed to the ball going out instead of in, as Marquette missed an early, open dunk and plenty of jumpers throughout the day, going just 3 of 14 from beyond the arc, where the Golden Eagles normally connect at a league-best 43 percent.
But Georgetown’s defense deserves just as much credit, as the Hoyas’ energy, activity, and attentiveness limited open looks and caused Marquette to work extra hard for any available shot. Agau deserves particular mention, as he stayed right with whichever Golden Eagle, big or small, he happened to be defending at that moment, and cleaned the glass to the tune of 11 rebounds, all defensive. Rodney Pryor, whose defensive effort has waxed and waned this season, also gathered 8 defensive rebounds, helping to hold Marquette to just two second-chance points.
On the other end of the floor, Georgetown’s familiar offensive formula involved heavy doses of Peak, Pryor and Govan. Throughout the season, when the Hoyas have had all three of those elements, they can score enough to make up for a leaky defense. When any of them is absent, Georgetown needs someone else to show up or, more likely, can’t keep up offensively. Govan in particular has been an offensive bellwether (drink) for the Hoyas, managing double figures in four of their five conference wins (as well as the Connecticut win) while languishing in single digits in seven of their eight Big East losses.
Saturday was a bounty, as all three scorers notched 20-plus points. Govan led the charge, pouring in a game-high 23 points from all over the floor. Jessie scored in the post, on the offensive glass, from midrange, and even beyond the arc. He looks increasingly comfortable in space, branching out beyond spot-up duty to pop to the midrange or make one-dribble moves to finish at the rim. Govan still occasionally ends up in situations that overextend him—like when he grabbed a steal near mid-court in the first half that he unsuccessfully tried to convert into a fast-break opportunity. And his hands are still a bit clumsy, he has the tendency to make himself small around the rim, and he racks up senseless fouls much like his fellow bigs. But the outline of a deadly offensive weapon is starting to fill in.
Farther along the developmental curve, Peak continued his rock-solid play. The junior wing has managed double figures in his last 11 games and has scored at least 20 in the bulk of those outings. Saturday, the full arsenal was on display as LJ bodied smaller Marquette guards in the post, spotted up for perimeter jumpers, and attacked the rim with abandon, at one point unleashing a vicious spin move that split a pick-and-roll and yielded an easy lay-in. In addition to hunting his own shot, Peak kept the ball moving offensively, dishing out four assists that was topped only by freshman Jagan Mosely’s six.
Finally, Rodney Pryor had 20 points and 10 rebounds, with a couple of spectacular flourishes overshadowing steady play on both ends of the court. Pryor hit his usual share of long jumpers, particularly a couple of threes, and had perhaps the highlight of the day. Leaking out in transition midway through the second half, Pryor raced up the left sideline. Mosely fed him at about the three point line and, after a dribble Hot Rod elevated, pumped once to avoid a reaching Sam Hauser, and emphatically dunked to push the Georgetown lead to 18.
So what do we make of his win, more broadly? Hard to say. This win was necessary to preserve the Hoyas’ postseason hopes and, as impressive as that win was, there are a lot more must-wins coming up. And consistency hasn’t been the Hoyas’ strong suit. Georgetown has been on a rollercoaster since conference play began, always winning or losing consecutive games. By this logic, the Hoyas should win a couple more, get our hopes up, and then lose a crusher at St. John’s before finishing just well enough to make the NIT.
To have any success the rest of the season, the Hoyas will need the defensive energy and execution that they brought today. Today, the Hoyas’ Big Three looked great, but let’s keep in mind that Marquette entered the day with the worst defense in the Big East, and exited no better. Georgetown’s formula for offensive success is too thin and unreliable to win consistently on the road, where the Hoyas play three of their last five, and to beat better defensive squads than they faced today.
Georgetown probably needs to win two of those three remaining road games—at Creighton, Seton Hall and St. John’s—and may need to pull off a home sweep of DePaul and Villanova to end up on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Today was a good start.