MEN'S BASKETBALL | Struggling Georgetown Travels to New York
Published: Friday, January 31, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 31, 2014 00:01
As it tries to stave off its sixth straight loss, Georgetown (11-9, 3-6 Big East) faces arguably its toughest opponent yet tomorrow: No. 7 Michigan State (19-2, 8-1 Big Ten).
The Hoyas, who dropped a 65-60 decision to No. 9 Villanova on Monday, have not won since a Jan. 11 overtime victory at Butler. The losing streak now stands at five games.
In that time, they’ve been hit with the news that junior center Josh Smith is academically ineligible for the season and have dealt with short absences for junior guard Jabril Trawick and senior center Moses Ayegba.
The Hoyas’ hopes against the Spartans will rest partially on the shoulders of Trawick, who returned Monday night against the Wildcats but had not practiced before the game. Ayegba, who sat out against Villanova due to a one-game NCAA suspension, returns to the lineup Saturday.
Trawick will likely be tasked with shutting down sophomore shooting guard Gary Harris, who leads Michigan State with 18.3 points per game. The Spartans, who are coming off a 71-69 overtime victory over Iowa on Tuesday, average 79.2 points per game and are ranked sixth in the country in assists.
Like Georgetown, however, Michigan State is missing some of its best players. Senior center Adreian Payne and junior forward Branden Dawson — the Spartans’ second and fourth leading scorers, respectively — are both sidelined with injuries.
In a loss against archrival Michigan on Saturday, Michigan State relied heavily on senior point guard Keith Appling, as well as two players used to playing more sparingly: sophomore forward Matt Costello and junior guard Russell Byrd.
To counter Harris and Appling, Georgetown will need strong play from senior guard Markel Starks — who joined the Hoyas’ 1,000-point club Monday — and sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who shot poorly against Villanova.
If Starks and Smith-Rivera are firing on all cylinders, the Blue and Gray may be able make up for their scoring dearth in the post. However, Georgetown will have to avoid fouling frequently and improve its ability to draw fouls, something Head Coach John Thompson III emphasized after Monday night’s game.
The Hoyas and Spartans have met only once before, a Sweet 16 game in the 1986 NCAA tournament. Coached by Jud Heathcote, the Michigan State squad beat up on Georgetown, ultimately winning 80-68.
Many observers believe a win over the Spartans on Saturday is critical to the Blue and Gray’s NCAA tournament hopes. ESPN analyst Joe Lunardi has Georgetown currently sitting on the outside of the projected field of 68 teams.
Saturday’s game also marks the first of three trips to New York for the Hoyas this season. They will be back to Madison Square Garden on Feb. 16 to face St. John’s and again in March for the Big East Tournament.
Tipoff against Michigan State is set for 3 p.m. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.