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Sparkle and Fade: Georgetown Loses to #4 Xavier, 89-77

Hoyas come out hot but struggle in second half

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Your fighting Georgetown Hoyas came out firing in their rematch against #4 Xavier Wednesday night. Having recently lost in overtime to the same opponent in Cincinnati, the Hoyas were primed for the rematch, executing crisply early on and taking a half-time lead. But a dry second half turned the tables, as Xavier went up by double digits and Georgetown never really recovered. Ultimately, the Hoyas fell, 89-77. The loss drops Georgetown to 15-11, 5-10 in conference.

The story from the tip was freshman Jamorko Pickett, who made three straight 3-pointers to net the Hoyas’ first nine points en route to matching a career-high 21 points. Georgetown’s play in the last month has been encouraging, none more so for the future of the program than Pickett. After going without a double-digit scoring effort for his first 7 conference games, the local freshman wing has scored 10+ in 6 of his last 8 games, rediscovering his three-point stroke to the tune of 45% from deep over the same stretch. His newfound activity has extended beyond the point column, as he’s been active on the glass and defensively as well.

Wednesday night, Pickett buried his share of open triples—6 of 7, to be exact—also connecting on a double-clutch three to close the half and a very pretty, next-level step-back three early in the second. The Xavier rematch lacked some of Pickett’s other well-rounded play of late, as he grabbed just 3 rebounds and didn’t score inside the arc. Still, going for 20+ against a top-5 accomplishment in its own right.

Another early bright spot was Jessie Govan. Xavier came out in a 1-3-1 zone, and Govan found the gaps in that defense, hitting a series of mid-range jumpers and other creative looks. At one point, the junior big man netted 8 straight Hoya points on the way to a now common double-double. The Hoyas ended up going to him a bit too often — Govan twice was given the ball, uncomfortably, on the move just before the half, and both times came up empty. But his understanding of space and quick thinking helped break down the Musketeer zone.

After the break, Georgetown hung tough for a few minutes, with Kaleb Johnson (11 points on 5-of-6 shooting) scoring on cuts to the basket, in the half court and in transition. The aforementioned Pickett step-back put the Hoyas up 3, getting the home crowd on its feed.

But the advantage wouldn’t last. After the Pickett basket, the Hoyas went scoreless for more than five minutes, giving up 12 straight Musketeer points in the process. Georgetown’s offense couldn’t gain traction once Xavier switched to man, bogging down thanks to sloppy turnovers and aimless half-court possessions. The Hoyas continued to work to get the ball into the post, often to their detriment: they found entry passes cut off or one of their bigs doubled. Of nine Hoya possessions during this stretch, eight ended in a turnover or a missed jumper. All those Hoya live-ball mistakes yielded easy Musketeer points: a pair of baskets during the Xavier run came off of turnovers, while two more buckets came in transition.

Georgetown didn’t exactly go away after its dry spell, but never quite caught up, either. The Hoyas continued to compete on both ends, rolling out a spirited if not always effective full-court press that generated turnovers but just as many open three-pointers for Xavier. On offense, Georgetown got to the line a bit, and buried the occasional deep jumper, but struggled to generate any rhythm. There were just too many empty possessions on offense, and leaky possessions on defense — a missed closeout here, a yielded offensive rebound there — for the Hoyas to truly make it a game. Closing on a top-five team, even at home, is no easy task, and Georgetown wasn’t equal to it.

This game felt winnable, between Georgetown’s early hot shooting and Xavier star Trevon Bluiett scoring measly 2 points thanks to foul trouble and a cold hand. At halftime, it seemed that surges by Bluiett and Marcus Derrickson (9 points on 4-of-10 shooting) were equally likely. Neither really happened, but Xavier’s deeper supporting cast was able to carry the Musketeers down the stretch.

It’s tough to be too upset by this loss. Georgetown has been on an upward trend over the past month. These arcs tend not to be smooth and, while the closing stretch at Xavier was disappointing, it certainly wasn’t surprising against an elite opponent. Late-game struggles aside, Georgetown’s play has been generally solid of late, a step up from the first half of Big East play.

Of course, whether tonight is a blip on the radar or more than that depends on what comes next. Georgetown has two remaining home games, against Providence and Marquette, with the chance to pull off a win in each. The Hoyas will need to play better than tonight for the full 40 minutes to beat either opponent.