Georgetown had something to prove entering the Big East Tournament. The Hoyas had lost five straight games in the event dating back to 2016. Patrick Ewing, who once owned this Tournament and headlined Madison Square Garden as a Knick, had yet to notch his first victory in the BET as a coach. And while the Hoyas showed late-season improvement, they faced a Marquette team Wednesday that had dealt Georgetown a bitter loss early in the year, and that had looked similarly frisky of late.
The Hoyas indeed played like they had something to prove. Georgetown outrebounded, out-defended, outshot, and generally dominated Marquette en route to a 68-49 victory. The Hoyas swarmed on defense and pounded on the glass and in the paint. Despite shooting just 32 percent before the half, Georgetown fought and ground its way to an 18-point lead at intermission. Even when Marquette perked up a bit late, senior guard Jahvon Blair, who had something to prove individually, made shot after shot to keep the game out of reach, en route to a game-high 20 points.
This one was ugly from the tip. The two teams combined for just four buckets in as many minutes before the first media timeout. Georgetown turned it over twice, and missed a pair of lay-ups, but the game plan was immediately clear: the Hoyas were going to go at the rim time and again.
That aggressiveness soon bore fruit. A Qudus Wahab (19 points) offensive rebound yielded a pair of free throws to put Georegtown ahead (for good, as it turned out). Jahvon Blair shook free in the lane to flip in a pair of floaters, then he tossed a couple of were-they-airballs-or-were-they-lobs that Timothy Ighoefe dropped into the bucket. A Chudier Bile three that put Georgetown up 19-6 also was the first Hoya points that came with both feet outside the lane.
For its part, Marquette was miserable, managing just 2 points over the same 10 minute stretch. Georgetown protected the paint defensively, and the Golden Eagles settled for one errant jumper after another. By half, Marquette had shot just 21 percent from the field.
Georgetown was hardly scorching, but its 32-14 lead wasn’t just attributable to its opponents’ horrendous shooting. The Hoyas had grabbed 11 offensive rebounds and, defying a season-long trend, had committed just 5 turnovers.
Even so, the Hoyas could hardly relax. Georgetown has squandered more than its share of early leads this season. Today, none stung more than the Hoyas’ previous game against Marquette in McDonough, when Georgetown squandered a 16-point half time lead before ultimately losing by 4.
As Marquette showed signs of life, a second disaster seemed possible, none moreso than when the Golden Eagles turned a Hoya turnover into a breakaway lay-up to close the gap to just 11 with 15 minutes to play. But the Hoyas rattled off a 7-0 run, bookended by Donald Carey finding Blair for a corner triple and then Bile setting up a flip in by Wahab, pushed the lead back to 18.
Even though Marquette was no longer threatening, the Hoyas continued to press on. Blair got into his bag, showing off an array of step-backs and floaters. Jahvon’s nifty tricks showed renewed confidence after a recent slump that coincided with his benching. Dante Harris was the biggest little man on the court, grabbing an offensive rebound under the rim and flipping it in, then swiping the ball way from D.J. Carton for the fourth of his five steals on the day. Finally, the game was put away for good when Blair returned the favor to Carey, setting the latter up for a corner 3 that put the Hoyas up 21 with just 5 minutes to play.
This was far from a perfect game. With Blair sitting in the game’s opening minutes, Georgetown still looks out of sorts offensively. Bile, Pitckett, and Harris made just 5 of 30 shots between them for the day, and the Hoyas together shot just south of 40 percent for the day. They’ll need to do better across the board to beat even a diminished Villanova squad tomorrow.
That said, the Hoyas should be proud of today’s performance. They played with real energy and intensity. They dominated the glass, grabbing 16 offensive rebounds to Marquette’s 7, and also won the turnover battle, 16-13. Their defensive effort contributed to the Golden Eagles’ first-half shooting woes, while their willingness to fight into the paint generated 22 free throws, a critical source of points in an otherwise bricky game.
For the first time in five years, the Hoyas have a quick turnaround in New York. They return to action in a mere 16 hours against top-seeded Villanova. The Wildcats have pulled out close wins against the Hoyas in both games this year, and have won three of the four Big East Tournaments while the Hoyas have struggled. That said, Nova will be without senior point guard and co-Big East Player of the Year Colin Gillespie, and probably double-digit scorer Justin Moore, tomorrow. Can the Hoyas’ revenge tour continue?