FILE PHOTO: MICHELLE XU/THE HOYA Freshman forward L.J. Peak scored 12 points against Marquette. Peak is averaging 10.1 points per game this season.
Freshman forward L.J. Peak scored 12 points against Marquette. Peak is averaging 10.1 points per game this season.

Georgetown’s Big East matchup against Marquette on Tuesday night was a comfortable, bland affair — until it suddenly wasn’t. The Hoyas (10-4, 2-1 Big East) led all night, by as much as 11 points, but sloppy passing and missed threes allowed the Golden Eagles (9-6, 1-2 Big East) to crawl within one point with 6:17 left in the game. Georgetown warded off a Marquette comeback and overcame a lifeless second half, winning 65-59.

A layup from Marquette sophomore center Luke Fischer and a banked three pointer from redshirt freshman guard Duane Wilson cut the Hoyas’ lead to 54-53 at the 2:05 mark. Responding on the opposite end of the floor, junior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera took matters into his own hands and shot a smooth jumper that gave the Hoyas the three-point lead at 1:12 and ignited the crowd at Verizon Center.

Twice in the final 30 seconds, Georgetown made a pair of free throws only to surrender quick layups to Marquette graduate student guard Matt Carlino to keep the Golden Eagles alive. In the end, however, the free throws that kept the Hoyas in the game during a 12-minute second-half stretch without a field goal helped the Hoyas put the game on ice.

“During that stretch we did get [the ball] inside, we just missed,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said of his team scoring only two field goals in the final 16 minutes of the game. “After I watch the tape tonight I may change my tune, but I don’t feel like we were just working it around the perimeter and not getting it in there. We just weren’t producing.”

The Hoyas shot 87.5 percent from the free-throw line in the second half, compared to 50 percent in the first. Smith-Rivera, who scored a team-high 15 points, sank five free throws in the last minute of the game.

“If he can’t help us close games then we’re in trouble. He did what he’s supposed to do at the end of games,” Thompson said

Senior guard Jabril Trawick and freshman forward L.J. Peak added 13 and 12 points, respectively, while senior center Joshua Smith recorded his third double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Ten free throws and key defensive plays, including a huge block from senior forward Mikael Hopkins and a steal by Smith, allowed Georgetown to weather a 12-minute stretch in the second half devoid of any baskets from the field.

The Hoyas had 11 assists on the first half, compared to only two in the second, which Smith attributed to Marquette’s capable defense.

“They have a good zone defense and you have to work harder to find the gaps but that’s a credit to them,” Smith said.

Marquette Head Coach Steve Wojciechowski, who largely refrained from his signature floor-slapping motivational technique throughout the game, had similar praise for Georgetown’s defense.

“We had some really bad turnovers against their zone. And they are long and they play good defense and they are very physical,” he said.

Georgetown switched to a 2-3 zone defensive strategy late in the second half when Thompson felt the Golden Eagles were getting into “too much of a rhythm,” which was a move that Wojciechowski also credited with stymieing Marquette’s comeback.

Georgetown, which outrebounded Marquette 32-26, was especially dominant offensively, with seven of its 14 offensive boards coming from Smith.

Though Georgetown managed to stay out of foul trouble for the duration of the game, turnovers continued to be a problem for the Hoyas, who are averaging 13.9 per game. They committed 15 turnovers against the Golden Eagles, which resulted in 10 points, including a demoralizing dunk from Marquette sophomore guard Jajuan Johnson in the second half.

“I wasn’t seeing the floor well at that time,” Smith-Rivera said of his errors. “There were a couple of times where I could have passed it out and then gone to get the ball back, but it’s paying attention to the clock and timing and making the right play.”

The Hoyas’ next game is Saturday Jan. 10 at Providence. Tipoff is scheduled for 12 p.m.

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