It was too little, too late for the Georgetown men’s basketball team (13-9, 6-3 Big East) as it could not mount a late comeback on Saturday night at the Verizon Center, falling to No. 10 Providence (18-4, 6-3 Big East). The loss drops the Hoyas to a tie for third place in the Big East with the Friars, behind Xavier (19-2, 7-2 Big East) and Villanova (18-3, 8-1 Big East). Georgetown wasted a cold shooting start by Providence and could not overcome shooting woes of their own throughout the game.
At the under-12 minute timeout in the first half, the Hoyas were 4-of-12 from the field and had five turnovers, while the Friars weren’t much better, shooting only 6-of-13. Providence sophomore forward Ben Bentil, the leading scorer in the Big East, was unstoppable early in the game, scoring their first nine points to give the visitors a 9-7 lead. Providence junior guard Kris Dunn opened the flood gates with a three-pointer to make it 14-7 Friars, which led to an early timeout called by Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III.
Bentil and Dunn were the main source of offense for Providence against Georgetown on Saturday night. They scored 26 points each, and the star duo combined for 16-of-29 shooting and 12 rebounds.
“They have two players that are elite and they played like it,” Thompson said.
Bentil, only 6-foot-9 but playing the center position for the Friars, posed a unique challenge for the larger senior center and co-captain Bradley Hayes and freshman center Jessie Govan with his quickness and outside shooting, and the two Georgetown centers struggled to defend him in the early part of the game.
Hayes denied that Bentil’s unique skillset gave him issues but pointed to some shortcomings on Georgetown’s offensive end.
“I wouldn’t say his length bothered [me], but I think I needed to make better decisions with the ball than I did,” Hayes said.
Two free throws from freshman forward Marcus Derrickson tied the game at 17, but then Dunn made two acrobatic layups in a row to give his team the lead for good. After Providence sophomore guard Kyron Cartwright threw an alley-oop to a high-flying Kris Dunn to make it 31-24, the Friars’ defense closed out the half by allowing just four points in the final 2:41 of the half, giving them a 38-28 lead at halftime.
The Hoyas got off to a poor start in the second half, after Dunn stripped Hayes of the ball in the post, which led to Cartwright being fouled by sophomore guard L.J. Peak in transition. A layup and a steal by Bentil stretched the Friars’ lead to 12 just 2:31 into the second half.
Peak took control for the Hoyas in the second half, scoring 17 of his team-high 19 points in the second half. Two straight fast-break buckets for Peak brought the Providence lead back down to single digits again, and his aggressive playmaking helped Georgetown go on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to five with 14:55 remaining. Hayes later lowered the deficit to one point after being fouled by Providence freshman guard Ryan Fazekas while hitting the layup, before letting out a thunderous roar and flexing for the crowd.
Dunn silenced the raucous Verizon Center crowd with a three-pointer and then a jumper to up the lead to 53-45 Providence, but the Hoyas kept it close for the rest of the game, with Derrickson nailing a three to make it 53-50 with 7:54 left to go.
Cartwright delivered a crushing blow to the Hoyas’ hopes of a comeback when he hit a three-pointer from the wing to make the score 65-56 with 2:23 left to play. Peak gave Georgetown fans hope when he made the layup and was fouled by sophomore forward Rodney Bullock with 30 seconds left and the score was 67-64.
After Peak made the free throw, Georgetown tried to force a Providence turnover by assembling a full-court press, but the Friars still managed to get the ball to Bentil, the team’s best free-throw shooter, each time. Bentil was 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the last 26 seconds of the game, which allowed Providence to hold off Georgetown and secure the win. A last-second three-pointer from senior guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera with four seconds left cut the deficit to two points again, but Bentil caught the inbounds pass, was fouled, and calmly hit two more free throws to end the game.
“Anytime you play on the road, you have to be mentally tough, totally locked in, and I thought from start to finish our players were totally bought in to our game preparation, so it’s really a credit to our preparation with our staff and players,” Providence Head Coach Ed Cooley said.
Besides Dunn and Bentil, Bullock was the only other Friar in double-digit scoring with 10 points, and also had a game-high 14 rebounds.
“There’s no secret. Ben [Bentil] and Kris [Dunn] played well, but that doesn’t always guarantee us winning the game. We have to have contribution from the other guys. I thought Rodney’s [Bullock] contribution, especially on the backboard, I thought he had one of the biggest baskets of the game,” Cooley said.
For Georgetown, Smith-Rivera had 18 points, five assists, and three rebounds, while Bradley Hayes scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Isaac Copeland had a rough showing again, scoring just two points on 1-of-5 shooting, and only played six minutes in the second half.
Thompson was effusive in his praise for Dunn, a likely NBA lottery draft pick this summer, who had an impact on both ends of the court, stealing the ball four times to go along with his 26 points.
“He may be the best guard that has come through this league in a long time. And I’m talking about what he does offensively, what he can get for himself. he’s one of the best passers I’ve seen this year and he’s an elite, elite defender. He can impact the game in so many different facets at a level that not many players can do,” Thompson said.
Next, the Hoyas travel to Indianapolis to face the Butler Bulldogs (14-7, 3-6 Big East). Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
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