MEN'S BASKETBALL | Bubble Battle in Milwaukee
Published: Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 00:02
With three games remaining until the Big East tournament, Georgetown is desperate for wins in order to bolster its resume for a bid to the NCAA tournament. Coming off of a 22-point thrashing of Xavier, Georgetown (16-11, 7-8 Big East) must keep up the same intensity when it takes on Marquette (16-11, 8-6 Big East) in Milwaukee on Thursday.
In the teams’ first meeting — an 80-72 overtime victory for Marquette at Verizon Center — the Hoyas let a seven-point lead slip away in the final three minutes, and Golden Eagle junior guard Todd Mayo’s late three-pointer forced an extra period that Marquette dominated.
Now, the Hoyas are looking for revenge — a familiar tag line for many of Georgetown’s recent games. But don’t tell that to the Hoyas.
“[Beating Xavier] weight because it’s the game we’re playing right now,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “And so does it hold more weight? I don’t think so.”
Georgetown’s season has been nothing short of streaky. After a pedestrian nonconference campaign, the Hoyas dropped 6-of-7 games after losing junior center Joshua Smith for the season because of an academic issue. Georgetown then rebounded in improbable fashion, defeating then-No. 7 Michigan State at Madison Square Garden in N.Y., which set the tone for a four-game winning streak.
Then the Hoyas lost consecutive road games to St. John’s and Seton Hall by a combined 37 points before bouncing back with a 22-point thumping at home against Xavier last Saturday.
Key to Georgetown’s most recent victory was the play of junior guard Jabril Trawick, who was inserted into the starting lineup for the first time since breaking his jaw Jan. 8. Meanwhile, freshman forward Reggie Cameron — who had been starting in lieu of Trawick — received only one minute of playing time.
Trawick’s defensive tenacity is much heralded, but he has also proved to be a solid scoring threat. His 13 points came from an efficient 5-of-8 shooting, and he also dished out four assists.
“When [Trawick] is on the court, we are a better team,” Thompson said. “I liked bringing him off the bench because we were getting a fusion off the bench, but we had too many slow starts.”
Trawick knows his role on the team — he provides a certain aggression and swagger that has been a welcome sight to the starting five. More importantly, his spurts of offense have turned him into a viable scoring option. Since returning from his injury, the junior has made 7-of-16 on three-point attempts, a significant improvement from the 14 percent he shot from behind the arc previously.
“I know what I’m capable of,” Trawick said. “It’s just about being confident. I know a lot of teams will try to throw me off my game, but I just try to stay aggressive.”
Another key to Georgetown’s victory over Xavier was executing on details that had eluded it in its previous two losses. Against St. John’s and Seton Hall, Georgetown had a combined 22 turnovers and 52 fouls. But against Xavier, it recorded just three turnovers — a record low in Thompson’s career at Georgetown.
“It’s the same thing, which we didn’t do [against Seton Hall],” Thompson said. “Last game we started off [and] the first two possessions were turnovers. We can’t turn the ball over. We have to get a shot every time down the court. This group can’t have wasted possessions.”
Good discipline allowed Georgetown to take 10 more attempts from the field, and the Hoyas held the Musketeers to just 52 points — 28 points lower than the first time the teams met.
“I thought that our effort, our attention to detail, our concentration was pretty good for 40 minutes,” Thompson said. “I think we came out of the box and set the tone early. Our guys were able to sustain their effort … and communication. We didn’t have any mix-ups today.”
Georgetown must be sure to maintain its defensive intensity and discipline against Marquette, which will be sure to feast on Georgetown’s miscues as it did in their previous matchup.
Much like Georgetown, Marquette has had an uneven season, struggling to find consistency from game to game. It has had close losses to the top teams in the conference, Villanova and Creighton, but needed overtime to beat bottom-dweller DePaul on Saturday.
Although they took different paths, Marquette and Georgetown have ended up in the same position — scrunched in the middle of the conference. Both teams are fighting for the same goal: A chance to compete in the NCAA tournament. Both teams need a win Thursday to help build their cases.