Like Georgetown has often done in its past two seasons, it squandered a winnable game as the clock winded down Tuesday night.
Three fouls and two turnovers from the Hoyas (1-1) in the last 19 seconds were enough to send the Maryland Terrapins (2-0) surging past Georgetown and to a 76-75 victory.
To seal Maryland’s comeback win after star junior guard Melo Trimble sunk the eventual game-winning free throws, freshman guard Kevin Huerter blocked a potential buzzer-beater layup from Georgetown freshman guard Jagan Mosley. Game over.
Beyond the Hoyas’ late-game collapse, this one stings. It stings because I saw Georgetown dominate at the Verizon Center this past Saturday, in a 105-60 beat down of USC Upstate (1-1). It stings because not only did I have high hopes for this game, I also had well-founded expectations.
Being a Georgetown fan these past three years has made me quite cynical, but for the first time I was optimistic.
I probably should have known better.
For Georgetown basketball fans who have followed the team the past few years, this game felt far too familiar. Only once did Georgetown find a way to win in the final minutes in its January 26, 2016 victory over the then-unranked Creighton Blue Jays with a steal from then-freshman guard Kaleb Johnson followed by free-throws from then-senior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (COL ’16).
After a dominant win last Saturday, it was challenging for Georgetown’s fan base to not have high expectations for Tuesday’s contest. Yes, a team like USC Upstate does not compare to the likes of Maryland, but Georgetown’s high-level performance from individual players and the team as a whole created strong momentum that primed it for such a crucial early season game.
Yet, it was not enough.
Even in its collapse, it is an absolute oversimplification to say that Georgetown played badly. Four of the team’s five starters — Copeland, Peak, sophomore center Jessie Govan and graduate student guard Rodney Pryor — all scored in double figures. The Blue and Gray finished the game shooting a respectable 51.7 percent from the field in the second half, though their 25.9 percent shooting percentage from behind the arc fell quite short of Maryland’s 40 percent.
Georgetown’s depth allowed it to press for nearly the entire game, a strategy that caused three Maryland turnovers in the first three minutes. On the whole, Georgetown played well.
But, in the end, it did not even matter. Despite Georgetown holding the largest lead of the entire game with 4:25 left in the second half, the win slipped from its grasp as the clock wound down.
I could argue that the referees’ excessive calls in the final minutes cost Georgetown the game, but criticizing their calls is wholly unproductive.
Sure, good teams lose games like this all the time. Georgetown can afford some losses, and although the local rivalry holds intangible value, conference matchups play the most significant role in Georgetown’s success — and NCAA tournament résumé — this season.
Now, Georgetown enters a matchup against Arkansas State of the Sun Belt conference (1-1) at McDonough Arena on campus, where wooden bleachers fill up quickly and cheers echo throughout the relatively small venue.
Both fans and pundits generally consider playing nonconference game at home against a small-conference team an automatic win, but, now, longtime Georgetown fans like me watch these kind of games with caution.
Winning against USC Upstate marked a step in the right direction, but last season’s losses to small-conference schools like Radford (0-1), Monmouth (1-1) and UNC Asheville (0-2) have seared long-lasting memories into the minds of the Hoya faithful.
While the strength of the Hoyas’ starting lineup and overall depth make them a clear favorite for Thursday — 98-percent win probability according to KenPom — that pales in comparison to the lingering feeling of discouragement and frustration that sits in the belly of every Georgetown fan in light of Tuesday night.
For both players and fans alike, to feel morale rise higher and higher with a win seemingly on the horizon, only to, in an instant, watch it descend into freefall, is more than just a fault in the plan. It now feels like the winter of 2015.
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