WASHINGTON, D.C. – After over 39 minutes of mistake filled basketball, Coach John Thompson III’s eleventh-ranked Georgetown Hoyas had one last opportunity to get things right on Monday night.
But just as they had done 16 times earlier, Georgetown didn’t value the ball as Otto Porter stepped on the baseline as he drove towards the basket with 7.2 seconds remaining, ultimately allowing Cincinnati to pull off the 68-64 upset.
The victory was the Bearcats (13-4, 3-1) sixth straight Big East road win dating back to last season and second straight at the Verizon Center.
When asked if turnovers were the deciding factor as Georgetown (13-3, 3-2) lost their second straight game after winning their previous eleven, Coach Thompson III made no hesitation in placing total blame on his team’s 17 turnovers, including five down the stretch.
“There’s no doubt about that,” Coach Thompson II said after his team gave up 20 points off of those turnovers.
“We cannot turn the ball over like that. That was the ballgame. You have to give them credit, but then after you do that, most of our turnovers were what I call unforced turnovers. It wasn’t unrelenting pressure, or the press causing turnovers, it was just us not being good passers, not being good receivers.”
After coming up with a loose ball rebound on a Porter miss with 36 seconds remaining, the Hoyas called timeout to talk things over and set up one final play as they trailed 64-62.
The play was designed for Jason Clark to come off of a Henry Sims screen with the option of Hollis Thompson in the corner, but Cincinnati switched defenses – from man-to-man to zone – and the result was that final costly turnover.
“They switched defenses on us so we just had to play at that point,” Thompson III said. “Otto had the ball right there and just stepped out of bounds.”
When Georgetown wasn’t busy turning the ball over, the Hoyas were incredibly efficient offensively by shooting 59 percent (26-off-44) from the field. The Hoyas also snapped out of a three game shooting slump from deep by hitting on 6-of-10 from three-point range.
But for as efficient as Georgetown was from the field, they failed to ride the hot hand, not just late, but at all in the second half.
Thompson connected on all five of his first half shots, including four three-pointers – the last a running bank shot as the halftime buzzer sounded. The second half was the complete opposite as the junior forward attempted just one field goal in 18 scoreless minutes.
Clark also contributed 14 points for the Hoyas.
For the second game in a row, the Hoyas were hurt by a dynamic duo.
In Saturday’s 74-62 loss to West Virginia it was Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant that combined for 47 points. Just two days later Cincinnati was led by Sean Kilpatrick (career-high 27 points) and Dion Dixon (22 points) who accounted for 49 of the Bearcats 68 points.
Georgetown seemed to be in control after Nate Lubick (eight points, eight rebounds) tipped in a Porter miss to give the Hoyas a 59-53 lead with 6:31 remaining.
Things changed, and they changed fast as Cincinnati outscored the Hoyas 15-5 the rest of the way and held Georgetown to just one field goal during that stretch– a Markel Starks layup with just three seconds remaining with the game all but decided.
The Hoyas, with just three upperclassmen on the roster, will need some veteran leadership to navigate out of their first losing streak of the season. Clark, a senior captain who has been a starter since his sophomore season, had some ideas after the Hoyas first home loss of the season (9-1).
“We can’t fall in the rhythm of losing,” said Clark. “We can’t start pointing fingers. We know what makes us good; we have to get back to those things.”
He also agreed with his coach about the importance of valuing the ball going forward.
“When we’re good with the ball, we are a great team,” Clark said. “But when stuff happens like tonight, we don’t look so good.”