Georgetown basketball looks to bounce back in return home after ‘abnormal’ loss to Xavier


Georgetown guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Coach John Thompson III went 1-2 over their season-long three-game road swing. (Al Behrman/AP)

For the first time in two weeks, the Georgetown men’s basketball team will play a home game.

The timing of the Hoyas’ return Saturday could not be better; they are coming off a three-game road swing in which they went 1-2.

The final leg was Wednesday’s 80-67 loss to Xavier in which Georgetown failed to protect a 17-point second-half lead and failed to score for the final 6 minutes 14 seconds.

Coach John Thompson III called the collapse “abnormal” given how the Hoyas have been able to play while ahead in recent weeks.

Georgetown (11-4, 3-2 Big East) held off Butler last Saturday in overtime, 70-67, and completed a 77-60 victory over St. John’s on Jan. 4, the last time the Hoyas were at home, after opening a 26-point lead at halftime.

“Obviously we didn’t come out of that three-game stretch the way we wanted to,” said senior forward Nate Lubick, who will continue to wear a protective mask after getting hit in the face against the Bulldogs. “We still have that goal of winning the Big East, and there are games that we have to win, especially at home.”

Thompson vowed to assess the circumstances that led to the collapse Wednesday at Cintas Center while Georgetown prepared for the Pirates (10-7, 1-3).

Two days after Seton Hall, Georgetown faces Marquette at Verizon Center.

Victories over its next two opponents become all the more imperative given the rugged stretch for Georgetown in the coming weeks.

Awaiting the Hoyas over that time are 20th-ranked Creighton, No. 6 Villanova and No. 4 Michigan State at Madison Square Garden the day before the Super Bowl.

“It’s great scheduling by the Big East, huh?” Thompson said. “You mention those guys that are two or three games down the road. Seton Hall is a good team. Marquette’s a good team, so we’re not worrying about getting down there, but it is important that every team, you protect your home court.”

Still, that trio of teams is worth worrying about at some point. The Bluejays have won 10 consecutive games, and the Wildcats are tied with Creighton for first place in the Big East. Michigan State has one loss and is among a handful of early favorites to make a charge into the Final Four.

Georgetown, meanwhile, is aiming to steady itself and to add quality wins to what it hopes becomes a résumé suitable for the NCAA tournament.

The Hoyas, whose RPI stands at 43, own victories over Virginia Commonwealth (RPI 44) and Kansas State (RPI 37), but a loss to Northeastern (RPI 209) will be a checkmark against them when the NCAA selection committee evaluates their body of work.

“Not thinking that far in advance,” Thompson said of the NCAA tournament. “It’s way too early to start stressing over that. We’ve got to win the next game.”

When asked when an appropriate time would be to address Georgetown’s tournament worthiness, Thompson quipped, “The Thursday before Selection Sunday.”

The Hoyas’ next opponent has lost three in a row, most recently, 67-66, at Marquette. Seton Hall’s other two losses are to Creighton and Villanova, who are a combined 9-0 in the Big East.

Sophomore guard Sterling Gibbs leads Seton Hall in scoring (15.6) and assists (4.1) and is one of five players on the team averaging at least 10.4 points.

Seton Hall ranks third in the conference in scoring offense (76.8).

“Every game we look at it as a must win,” said sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who leads Georgetown in scoring (17.3). “I haven’t looked past Seton Hall or any game down the line. I’m just focusing on Seton Hall.”

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering multiple beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He also covers Fantasy Football.
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