Reporting Bobby Bancroft
Georgetown’s unusually long winter break was always going to go one of two ways. The 15th-ranked Hoyas, riding a seven-game winning streak, were either going to be well rested or they were going to be rusty.
Early on, it was all rust, and in the end the Hoyas were a Greg Whittington free throw away from forcing overtime before ultimately losing a 49-48 Big East slugfest to Marquette on Saturday afternoon at the Bradley Center.
Two Davante Gardner free throws gave Marquette (11-3, 2-0) a 49-46 lead with 8.3 seconds remaining.
Without a timeout, Georgetown (10-2, 0-1) was able to race down the court where Otto Porter, Jr found Whittington in the corner for the potential game-tying three-point attempt.
The shot hit back rim but Marquette’s Trent Lockett landed on top of the sophomore forward during his follow through, giving the Hoyas one final chance to draw even and force an extra five minutes.
Whittington, a 62 percent free throw shooter on the season, calmly drained the first.
His second shot hit nothing but net in bringing the Hoyas to within just one point.
At this moment Georgetown partisans might have been feeling a bit of déjà vu.
Five years earlier, in Georgetown’s only win at the Bradley Center, then-senior Jonathan Wallace faced the same situation. Wallace buried this third shot and the Hoyas picked up the overtime victory.
Lightning would not strike twice in Milwaukee for the Hoyas as Whittington back rimmed his final attempt after Marquette coach Buzz Williams called timeout and the Golden Eagles held on for their 18th straight home win, the sixth-longest current streak in the nation.
Markel Starks (18 points), Porter, Jr (13 points) and Whittington (13 points) accounted for all but four of the Hoyas 48 points in Georgetown’s first true road game of the season. The Hoyas had previously been 2-1 away from the Verizon Center with neutral wins over Texas and UCLA going along with an overtime loss to then-No. 1 Indiana.
Many of Georgetown’s areas of concern were out in full force in Saturday’s loss – lack of depth (seven players saw action), low post scoring (zero combined points from Nate Lubick and Mikael Hopkins), free throw shooting (58 percent), and rebounding all plagued the Hoyas at one point or another.
Coach John Thompson would not be blaming the break on any of his team’s shortcomings.
“I don’t think it affected us,” Thompson III said to GoMarquette.com after the game.
“We had our opportunities today and we just didn’t convert on a few things. That’s Big East, every game is going to be like that. Every possession is important.”
Georgetown’s two-week layoff was most evident early on as the Hoyas started out by making just three of its first 19 shots from the field and took 15 minutes to reach double figures. Georgetown did recover by hitting four of its last six shots to close out the half as Whittington’s three-pointer at the buzzer brought the Hoyas to within 20-19.
Starks came to life immediately after halftime by scoring the first seven points for the Hoyas , even briefly giving Georgetown its first lead since 2-0. In all Starks went for 14 of his team high 18 points in the second half.
With seven assists, Starks either scored of assisted on 14 of Georgetown’s 18 field goals but the junior knows there is room for a lot of improvement, particularly in one area – rebounding. Marquette held a 35-26 edge on the glass.
“That’s been one of the main emphases throughout the year – us rebounding, us having more possessions. We’re going to get better at rebounding. It’s as simple as that.”
Buzz Williams, who watched his team hit fewer field goals and three-point field goals in the win, also felt the difference was rebounds.
“If I only had one answer, I would say it was on the glass,” Williams said.
“I thought we had a really strong presence on both ends of the floor – offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds.”
Locket had a career-high ten rebounds to go along with nine points while Gardner (12 points) grabbed seven rebounds.
Williams now holds a 5-3 record against Thompson III’s Hoyas and felt that the most recent performance was perhaps the best since he’s been in charge.
“We have Georgetown absolutes and those absolutes are unique and they are unique because of how they play. Of the eight games that we have played Georgetown, I thought our guys ability to absorb it, ability to understand it, to communicate it, and to execute it was as good as its been all along.”
Notes: Trawick got the second half start over an ineffective Hopkins. Thompson III is now 7-2 in Big East Openers, having lost two of his last three. Marquette outscored the Hoyas 16-0 off the bench. Marquette scored its fewest points in a win since 2000.
Up Next: Georgetown hosts No. 24 Pittsburgh on Tuesday in what could be the last scheduled meeting between the two schools in some time as the Panthers leave for the ACC after the season. Both teams will be looking to notch their first Big East win as Pits currently sits at 0-2 after a loss earlier in the day to Rutgers.