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About Face: Hoyas’ early lead vanishes, drop to Marquette 64-60

Jahvon Blair (20) and Qudus Wahab (13/10) were Georgetown’s top scorers

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 23 Georgetown at Seton Hall Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Despite carrying a 16-point lead at the midway point, your Georgetown Hoyas drop to 1-4 in the BIG EAST after failing to stop a second half comeback from the Marquette Golden Eagles, coming up short by a 64-60 margin. Despite not getting the start this evening, reportedly as a “Coach’s Decision,” Jahvon Blair led the Hoyas with 20 points off the bench; Qudus Wahab picked up a double-double, contributing 13 points and 10 rebounds along with (at least) 3 blocks.

This was not a pretty basketball game, nor was it expected to be. The teams were a combined 2-6 in conference play heading into tonight’s contest, and their turnover averages are leave plenty of room for improvement. Adding to the confusion for Georgetown fans was the pregame announcement that Kobe Clark was getting his first shot at being part of the starting lineup, with Blair notably and concerningly absent from the graphic.

Things got off to an inauspicious start, wherein Georgetown turned the ball over 4 times within the first two minutes of play and failed to make (or have the opportunity to take) a single shot. Marquette had an early 4-0 lead before Dante Harris got the scoring started with a long jumper. Donald Carey and Jamal Cain traded baskets, then Koby McEwen and Jamorko Pickett did the same, with the senior bringing it up the court after collecting a rebound, then banking it hiiiiigh off the glass. The Hoyas were up 12-9. Just prior to this sequence, Theo John picked up his second foul, creating a potential opportunity for Georgetown to exploit in the paint.

At this point, things stopped short for Marquette. There was a stretch in the first half where the Golden Eagles were shooting 12% from the field. During this period the Hoyas’ lead grew, with Timothy Ighoefe rebounding strong and getting a putback, as well as an encouraging sequence from Jamari Sibley, where he made a heads-up play to corral a Wahab miss under the basket and give the Hoyas continued possession, then got the bucket on a 3rd or 4th chance shot.

Donald Carey made an outside three that gave Georgetown a double-digit advantage, 28-18, with just under three minutes remaining in the opening session. Wahab was acquitting himself well, throwing down an emphatic dunk, stymieing Justin Lewis inside, and grabbing a rebound off a FT miss to set up a three-pointer for Blair. The Hoyas carried a 36-20 advantage into the half.

After the break, Marquette remembered how to attack and shoot. It was unfortunate, really. DJ Carton and Jamal Cain, who finished the day with 25 points, were taking advantage of the porous defense both within the paint and from outside. Dawson Garcia was also making key plays inside, critical to the Golden Eagles’ rebounding dominance in the second half. While they were still missing open shots, they were getting second/third/fourth looks and forcing turnovers, allowing them to methodically chip away at the Hoyas’ margin.

There was also a period during the second half where Blair was joined on the court by TJ Berger, Sibley, Chudier Bile, and Ighoefe, a rarely-seen combo in lineup roulette. At a juncture that demanded stability, this was...not it. The team played hard, and it is fans’ knee-jerk reaction to feel (well-earned) paranoia every time a lead starts to shrink, but in this game it was more visible than usual the degree to which the players seemed back on their heels as soon as Marquette strung together baskets on consecutive possessions.

Blair tried hard to marshal a response, and Harris made a few attempts at energetic drives that could be inspirational when successful (special shoutout to the sequence where he passed it over to Sibley for a smooth transition layup), but the composure is not yet there.

With 3:19 remaining, Garcia made a free throw that gave the Golden Eagles the lead, then followed it up with a layup a minute later to extend the margin to 59-56, capping a 15-2 Marquette run. The dunk from Wahab with 1:09 remaining put the Hoyas back on top 60-59, but the excitement was short-lived. Georgetown could not convert, while a layup from Carton and corner three from Cain cemented the victory for the Golden Eagles.

Marquette could not buy a bucket in the first half; the Hoyas only scored 8 points in the last 10 minutes of play. While blown leads are always painful, the hole the Golden Eagles found themselves in was one of their own making, not due to exceptional execution by Georgetown, so it follows that they were able to extract themselves. It does not make sense to get overly worked up about anything this season, because expectations were set low to begin with and it’s sometimes difficult to believe we are even having a season. (Note: Obviously, this is sports and if you need to get apocalyptic about the state of the do what you need to do to get through the day. I won’t stop you.)

The effort is there with this group, and I am grateful for that. The composure and execution are not, at least not yet. There are procedural and coaching adjustments that would be beneficial, and should be made, but those will only take the team so far. It probably would be enough to win a game like this, though.

Georgetown has a few days to regroup before the next matchup, facing Butler at 7pm on Wednesday 1/6, airing on FS1.

Hoya Saxa.