After holding a lead for most of Friday night in a raucous road environment, Georgetown found itself in the middle of some serious déjà vu against a Cincinnati squad that has held the upper hand in the series as of late.
Twice last season Georgetown led Cincinnati at the half before eventually falling late.
In the team’s second meeting – in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament – Georgetown led by 11 with just nine minutes remaining before ultimately losing in double overtime.
So after Georgetown saw its 12 point second half lead turned into a one point deficit on JaQuon Parker’s jumper with 6:53 remaining, it would have been easy for coach John Thompson III and his players to think “Here we go again” against a team they just can’t seem to beat.
Instead, Georgetown closed the game on a 12-4 run in defeating Cincinnati 62-55 for the first time in its last five tries. Markel Starks led the Hoyas (19-4, 9-3) with 17 points while Otto Porter Jr scored 16 points despite battling foul trouble for much of the contest.
“This was a very good win for us in a place where we haven’t won in a while,” Thompson III said to GoBearcats.com after his team picked up its first win at the Fifth Third Arena since the 2006-07 season.
“This is a big win,” said Starks, agreeing with his coach.
“Like Coach said, we haven’t won here in some years. It is good to come out and finally get a win here. It is a tough place to play. We are thankful that we came in and got the win.”
With a seventh straight win, Georgetown momentarily moved into sole possession of first place in the Big East, a half game ahead of Marquette and Syracuse. Feb 15 marks the latest in a season that Georgetown has occupied the top spot in the league since winning the Big East regular season crown in 2008.
Georgetown was able to build a 31-25 halftime lead largely behind a dominating defensive performance and nine of D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera’s 14 points off the bench.
An aggressive Georgetown defense held Cincinnati (19-7, 7-6) to just 30 percent shooting but it wasn’t all easy.
The Hoyas managed to escape possible disaster as all five starters ended the half with two fouls apiece. As a result, Cincinnati lived at the free throw line but manged to connect on just 8-of-17 (47 percent).
The foul trouble continued for Georgetown in the second half, forcing the Hoyas to switch out of their recently successful man-to-man defense into a zone. That’s when the Bearcats made their move, going on a 20-7 run to take their first lead since 7-6 on that Parker jumper.
Parker finished the game with game with a team-high 15 points while the Big East’s fourth leading scorer in Sean Kilpatrick was held to just 12, six below his average, on 3-of-13 shooting.
“That was a tough stretch where they were picking apart our zone. Like I said before, we were in zone because of the foul situation and were just trying to hold on. Once we went back to man-to-man we settled down a little bit.”
Mikael Hopkins fouled out on a bizarre double foul sequence while Porter, Nate Lubick, and Jabril Trawick all finished with four fouls.
“Coming down the stretch Otto and Markel [Starks] along with Nate [Lubick] are the guys that have to make plays, and tonight they did,” said Thompson III.
Starks and Porter Jr had 11 of Georgetown’s final 12 points while Lubick lead the Hoyas with seven rebounds and four assists.
Georgetown lost the rebounding battle to the league leaders 37-32 but benefited greatly by shooting better from the field (42 percent to 32 percent) and more importantly from the line (76 percent to 57 percent) despite fewer attempts (25 to 30).
Notes: Otto Porter Jr has made 18 consecutive free throws over the past three games. The Hoyas are 4-2 on the road in conference games, their fourth straight season of at least four Big East wins away from the Verizon Center. Georgetown evened its all-time Big East regular season record with Cincinnati at 5-5. Georgetown’s last win over Cincinnati came in their home finale of the 2009-10 season, 74-47.
Up Next: Georgetown returns home to the Verizon Center on Wednesday night when it hosts DePaul at 7 PM. The Hoyas are undefeated (7-0) against the Blue Demons in Big East play. DePaul is once again struggling in the Big East (1-10) but Georgetown is responsible for South Florida’s only Big East win to date.