February 28, 2014 - Having battled back from a seven point deficit over the game's last 11 minutes, Georgetown seemed poised to steal a victory on the road versus Marquette. Doing so would be a return of favor, as the Golden Eagles did just that in DC versus the Hoyas in January.
The basketball gods, vibes, mojo, whatever you call it apparently weren't in agreement; within the last 10 seconds the Hoyas missed a runner and layup, sealing their doom in a 75-73, BIG EAST defeat in Milwaukee.
The first was a runner by senior Markel Starks, a shot taken after his two free throws at 1:07 remaining and team's subsequent defensive stop. With half a minute remaining the Hoyas called timeout, at which time Starks was seen whispering to head coach John Thompson III. The play then called was effectively a clear out for Starks, who went right, got into the lane and barely missed a soft runner over defenders.
Junior Marquette forward Juan Anderson was immediately fouled, making one of two from the stripe, setting up the Hoyas' second prime time shot attempt. This time sophomore guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera ended up with a point blank, potential game tying layup with three ticks remaining. The shot would again, rim off.
Smith-Rivera told the Associated Press "I felt like it was going in, but it just rolled on the rim and just didn't go my way".
He and Starks can't be faulted for the defeat, without their stellar play G'Town would not have been in contention for victory. Starks finished with 24 points, four assists, Smith-Rivera had 19 points, five rebounds and three assists. Their scoring total, added to junior swingman Jabril Trawick's 16 points would be 80.8% of the Hoyas' output.
Drastically lacking in that department was the Hoyas' frontcourt, a four man brigade producing 13 points and two players being disqualified via fouls. Senior forward Nate Lubick managed six points and four rebounds, both Hoya big highs, but only played 18 minutes before fouling out. That clock total also led G'Town's forwards/centers.
Contrast that to Marquette's senior center Davante Gardner's 26 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Gardner was particularly effective late in the game, scoring nine consecutive points in the paint. The Hoyas declined to double team him - Gardner noted "They stayed in single coverage on me so I had to go at them and score" - and he took advantage of it.
Nevertheless most troubling for Thompson was the output of senior guard Jake Thomas, Marquette's lone outside assassin. Thomas dropped a career high 22 points on 6-9 shooting from three point land, to which Thompson remarked "We just had some miscommunication and he ended up wide open. That just can't happen".
The Hoyas also suffered subpar second half shooting (7-26) and were errant overall on three pointers (30%). For the game Thompson's crew shot 39.2% from the field, Marquette managed 44.2%. The Golden Eagle's 54.5% clip from beyond the arc was impressive, all its makes and but two attempts coming from Thomas.
It gets no easier for Georgetown, now 16-12 on the season, 7-9 in the BIG EAST and seventh in that league; Creighton comes to Verizon Center this upcoming Tuesday. To earn a NCAA Tournament invite, the Hoyas likely must win several more games - Creighton and at Villanova remain in the regular season, after which the BIG EAST Tournament looms.
Trawick, who also led his team in rebounding with six and tied Starks for it's assist high mark (four), refused to be culled by the defeat, saying "We can't hang our heads. We've got to get focused. If we bring the same energy against Creighton, I have confidence we will do well".
By winning Marquette (17-11, 9-6) got a boost to its NCAA Tournament selection resume. "We control our own destiny" said Thomas to the Associated Press. "We just have to keep winning and not worry about other teams".
The Golden Eagles next face Villanova in Philadelphia, this Sunday.