Georgetown repeatedly fought back from the ropes against Marquette Wednesday, coming back from as much as 17 points down to escape with a thrilling, last-minute, 73-70 victory. The Hoyas’ eleventh straight win seemed not just in doubt but out of the question for much of the game, as Marquette built a large lead that Georgetown couldn’t winnow to single digits, let alone fully erase. But then both offense and defense clicked, and Georgetown closed the game on a dominant run, fueled by veterans on offense and youth on defense. In the end, the box score reflects the veteran scoring: Jason Clark led all scorers with 26, Thompson poured in 16 included the last-minute, game-winning 3, and Sims had a stat-stuffing 13 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals. But the defensive prowess shown by the young bucks was just as essential.
The first half was not a display of virtuosity for Georgetown. Marquette came out on fire, hitting seven of its first nine shots. While the Hoyas kept pace for a while, the Golden Eagles’ aggressive defense forced Georgetown into twelve first-half turnovers. Each team entered intermission having made about half of its shots, but the Hoyas’ carelessness meant that Marquette enjoyed several more possessions, which they used to amass a fourteen-point halftime lead.
The second half started little better: while Georgetown cut down on the offensive miscues, they still struggled to stop the Golden Eagles, who seemingly found, and hit, every open shot. Marquette guards Darius Johnson-Odom (4 three pointers; 18 points overall) and Todd Mayo (16 points including 3 3-pointers) in particular buried a few daggers in the Hoyas, with Mayo’s final trey making the advantage an embarrassing 56-39 with 13-plus minutes remaining.
But out of a timeout, the tide turned. Clark buried a three-pointer, the first of 10 points by the senior guard in an 18-6 Hoya run over the next six minutes, pulling Georgetown within five. As has been the case so many times this season, Hoya youth and length was critical: a line-up that at times included each of four freshmen locked down the Marquette offense, closing out on perimeter shooters and hawking the passing lanes. JTIII’s confidence in these freshmen, evident throughout much of the season, was never more clear than Wednesday night, when he put the quartet in when times were dire.
Porter was his usual, all-around excellent self, finishing with an impressive 8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. Whittington shadowed Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder (17 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals), preventing Marquette’s leading scorers from getting any clean looks late in the game, while Trawick was as tough and irascible as ever, prying the ball away from one Marquette player while swatting another. The ferocious Hoya defense held the Golden Eagles more than seven minutes without a field goal, allowing the Hoya rally to take hold. (Not to be forgotten, fourth frosh Mikael Hopkins helped spur the comeback offensively, scoring four points while dishing out for another basket.)
The rest of the offense was just as good during the home stretch: Sims, coming back in for Hopkins, was impeccable in the high post, feeding Porter and Clark for lay-ups, and driving the lane when given the opportunity. The senior center finished a near-perfect 5-of-6 from the field, and Thompson did one better, sinking 6 of his 7 jumpers, including four three-pointers. Georgetown took the lead twice, only to see Marquette tie the score anew. With the game tied at 70 and the clock winding down, the Hoyas turned to their upperclassmen for the final surge. Sims drove the lane then, having attracted the Marquette defense, dished to Thompson for the game-clinching three, a faint echo of his game-winner against Alabama a month ago.
Wednesday was prefect only from a dramatic standpoint. Georgetown committed sixteen turnovers, and left too many points at the free-throw line, where the Hoyas shot just 13 of 23. They also struggled on defense for the first twenty-odd minute, yielding too many open looks to Golden Eagle shooters, and struggling to keep up with Marquette in transition. All of those issues will need to be rectified if the Hoyas hope to win the teams’ March 3 rematch in Milwaukee.
That said, an eleven-game winning streak is not built on picture-perfect victories alone. Georgetown has shown over those eleven games that it can win fast, slow, pretty, and ugly. The Hoyas can win while making 60-plus percent of their shots, as they did Wednesday night, or just 30 percent, as they did against Providence on Saturday. Without further lapsing into a Seussism, the young Hoyas’ versatility is as impressive as it is reassuring to fans of a team that sometimes seemed one-dimensional in years past.
Georgetown returns to action Saturday, when it travels to Morgantown to take on West Virginia. Until then, Hoya Saxa.