MEN'S BASKETBALL | GU Prevails Over UT In Defensive Battle
Published: Saturday, December 1, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 02:12
In a gritty battle of two defensive juggernauts, it was No. 20 Georgetown’s defense that succeeded on the final play Friday night at Verizon Center, sealing a tough-to-watch 37-36 win over Tennessee.
“I don’t know whether it was pretty or ugly or what, but I know I’ve never been part of a game like that,” Head Coach John Thompson III said.
The same could be said for the Volunteers. Down one with 23 seconds left in the game, Tennessee inbounded after an errant pass went through the hands of the Hoyas’ star sophomore forward, Otto Porter Jr., leading to Georgetown’s ninth and final turnover.
Tennessee could not capitalize, however, as senior guard Skylar McBee missed a fadeaway three with five seconds to play. The Volunteers secured the rebound, but Jordan McRae missed a last-ditch attempt, which was pulled down by Whittington as the Verizon Center — packed for the first time this season at 13,656 — erupted in pandemonium.
The sloppiness on the final play was indicative of offensive struggles for both teams, a futility that marked the Blue and Gray’s fewest points in a victory since a 1984 NCAA tournament win over Southern Methodist.
Both teams went through long scoreless stretches, although none seemed longer than the last.
With 4:10 left on the clock, junior guard Markel Starks hit a jump hook on the baseline. Five missed shots, six turnovers and three fouls later, the box score remained unchanged when the final buzzer sounded. It was no surprise, then, that no player on either squad scored in double figures.
Rebounding was a sore point for the Hoyas, with the team grabbing only 29 boards, including just four on the offensive glass.
Thompson was quick to note that those blown chances — and a corresponding lack of defensive boards — led to points for the Volunteers.
"Out of that 36, I feel like 20 of those were on second shots. They got too many offensive rebounds,” Thompson said.
The rim was as unforgiving as the backboard for the Hoyas. Sophomore center Mikael Hopkins struggled to convert easy layups, shooting just 4-of-11 on the ballgame.
Porter and classmate Greg Whittington put up eight points and seven rebounds apiece, the best tallies for Georgetown.
The Blue and Gray also had to find a way to deal with the absence of junior forward Nate Lubick, who played just eight minutes — all in the first half — after sustaining an injury to his elbow, the severity of which is not yet known.
“I don’t know what happened. He hurt his elbow,” Thompson said. “We’re going to get it X-rayed when we get back to school. [There was] a tingling sensation in his fingers.”
Regardless of the prognosis, Thompson was forced to improvise in the second half. Porter Jr. moved into the post, and sophomore guard Jabril Trawick filled the gap on the wing.
Trawick, who played a season-high 30 minutes, notched seven points and grabbed four rebounds. But Starks and freshman guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera were quieter, with the junior chipping in four points and DSR notching just two.
If there was one factor the game hinged upon, however, it was shooting at the charity stripe. The Volunteers were a woeful 3-for-11 from the line. Georgetown only fared slightly better, going just for 4-for-9.
That was mostly due to Hopkins, who missed four of his eight attempts while committing four fouls, a pair of which seemed avoidable.
While connecting on all nine three throws could have padded Georgetown’s victory, Tennessee’s 27.3 percent shooting on 11 shots from the stripe would have reversed it. In fact, that free-throw mark trailed even the Volunteers’ 32.6 percent shooting from the floor.
Those were all hallmarks of a heart-pounding but truly bizarre late November slugfest for the Blue and Gray that left Thompson searching for a comparison. And at the end of his postgame press conference, he found one.
"Actually, I have been part of a game like this,” Thompson said. “I was 8, playing at St. Anthony's. Score was 13-11. I had 10. We won."
The Hoyas will return to action Tuesday when they travel to New York City to play Texas in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden. That game, which will be televised on ESPN, will tip off at 7 p.m.