Georgetown traveled to Cincinnati Wednesday night, seemingly needing a win to right the ship after a frustrating home loss to Marquette dropped the Hoyas two games below .500 in the Big East. A skeleton crew that had found identity and purpose as non-conference play closed still had NCAA Tournament hopes but a margin for error that was as slim as its bench.
That margin evaporated at Xavier, which brought purpose, plan, and desperation to its match-up with Georgetown, blowing the doors off the Hoyas early and never really letting up. Going extra big against a Georgetown squad with not much size and even less lineup versatility, Xavier set a slow pace and a physical style that frustrated the Hoyas’ fast, fluid attack. Space was scarce, and open looks were even scarcer, as the Musketeers pounded the paint early on offense and crowded inside the arc on defense.
Other than a pair of self-generated buckets from Mac McClung, Georgetown could not get any good looks early on. The Hoyas went scoreless for more than 6 minutes and without a field goal for an additional 3. Omer Yurtseven missed his first five shots before exiting with foul trouble, but he was by no means alone in bricking away. As a team, Georgetown shot just 22 percent from beyond the three-point arc, and only 43 percent from two. Even McClung, the lone Hoya to reach double figures, did so on the back of an errant 6-of-19 shooting line.
By the time Georgetown got its bearings, Xavier had built a 26-8 lead that it wouldn’t relinquish. The Hoyas chipped away here and there, whittling the deficit to single digits shortly before the half, and again a few times after intermission. Qudus Wahab had a nice stretch in the second half, contributing 9 points and 8 rebounds by answering Xavier’s physicality inside. But Georgetown couldn’t build any offensive long enough to truly threaten a comeback.
For their part, the Musketeers weren’t much better shooting from the field, making just 40 percent of their shots inside the arc and a ho-hum 8 of 25 from deep. But what the Musketeers lacked in accuracy they made up in volume, turning 16 offensive rebounds into 10 additional field goal attempts and a gaudy 21 second-chance points. Having set the tone early inside, Xavier turned to Naji Marshall and freshman KyKy Tandy (18 points apiece), who lit the Hoyas up from deep as the night wore on.
The loss drops the Hoyas to 2-5 in Big East play, and puts them in a precarious position. Georgetown conceivably could win its next four, which include three at home and one at St. John’s, to regain control of the season and push toward the dance.
But the Hoyas’ play in conference hasn’t suggested that such a two-week stretch is imminent. Georgetown’s defense currently ranks last in the conference, perhaps not a surprise for a team that, even when clicking, couldn’t consistently get stops. But against Big East foes the Hoyas’ offense also has fallen flat, rating below-average relative to their peers and turning in particularly ugly outings against Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova, and now Xavier.
Since losing four players to transfer, Georgetown has been a team with few options. Now, the Hoyas are running out of time.