MEN'S BASKETBALL | Hoyas Blow Second-Half Lead
Published: Friday, January 17, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 17, 2014 00:01
Georgetown ended its three-game road trip flat-footed on Wednesday night, letting a 17-point, second-half lead slip away in its eventual 80-67 loss to Xavier (14-4, 4-1 Big East). After a promising first half, the Georgetown offense and defense sputtered, and the Hoyas were outscored by 26 points in the second half en route to the defeat.
Georgetown (11-5, 3-2 Big East) built on the momentum from last week’s thrilling overtime victory at Butler and came out of the gate strong, once again led by impressive play from the backcourt. Senior guard Markel Starks netted 12 and five assists in the half while sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera added 12 points. Smith-Rivera hit three of his four shots from behind the arc before the break, all in a span of less than three minutes.
The Hoyas also received key contributions from Reggie Cameron, who looked far more comfortable in his second career start than his first. Coming off a disappointing 1-of-7 shooting performance, the freshman knocked down 3-of-6 three-pointers on the night. Cameron finished the game with a career high 13 points.
For the first 20 minutes at least, the Blue and Gray managed to stay out of foul trouble. With their starters able to stay on the court, the Hoyas shot an impressive 54 percent from the field including a tremendous 63 percent from three in the first half. This hot shooting, along with solid defense, propelled the Hoyas to a 13-point advantage at halftime.
Xavier began the second half on a 7-0 run that cut the Hoya lead to 42-36 and whipped the sold out Cintas Center crowd into a frenzy. Georgetown responded immediately however, as Cameron and Starks combined to hit three-pointers on three straight possessions and open the Hoya lead back up to 15.
After a timeout by the Musketeers, Georgetown began to foul. Senior forward Nate Lubick, sporting a bulky facemask to protect his injured nose, picked up two fouls in two seconds and ultimately finished the game with four personal fouls, as did junior forward Mikael Hopkins. Senior center Moses Ayegba fouled out and the Hoyas allowed Xavier to shoot 20 free throws in the second half after holding them to two in the first.
While sophomore guard Semaj Christon, one of the top players in the Big East, and senior forward Isaiah Philmore started to rally the Musketeers, Georgetown’s offense slowed to a complete halt. The Hoyas scored a measly six points in the final 9:45 minutes of the game, with four of those coming from the charity stripe. The Hoyas last points of the evening came on a Smith-Rivera field goal — a tough mid-range jumper with just over six minutes left in the game that put the Blue and Gray up 67-64.
Defensively, the Hoyas crumbled in the second half to allow 51 points. Xavier managed to break Georgetown’s 2-3 zone by placing junior center Matt Stainbrook in the middle of the zone. Although Stainbrook finished with only seven points, his six assists and eight rebounds were crucial in the Musketeers’ comeback.
Georgetown was unable to seize any of the momentum back in the last 15 minutes. Xavier’s 13-point advantage at the final buzzer was its largest of the night, as the Hoyas went out with a whimper, unable to make defensive stops or hit a shot on offense.
Without junior center Joshua Smith, who is tending to an academic issue, the Hoyas are relegated to two main offensive weapons — Starks and Smith-Rivera. Georgetown’s reliance on the guards had never been more apparent than on Wednesday night — 30 of its 67 points came from three-pointers — and the duo combined to score 37 points. Both played the entire game.
Athletic forward Aaron Bowen, whose erratic play and questionable decision-making have kept him on the bench in the past, was a bright spot of the night. The senior submitted his second straight quality performance, scoring nine points on 4-of-5 shooting.
Georgetown must receive more consistent contributions from role players like Bowen and Cameron if it hopes to make a run in the deceptively competitive Big East. The Hoyas will have a chance to start that run on Saturday when they host Seton Hall (10-7, 1-3 Big East). Tipoff is slated for noon.