Georgetown men’s basketball faces Providence with chance at .500 in Big East


Markel Starks (5) and the Hoyas are very close to the .500 mark in Big East play entering a game against Providence on Monday night. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Georgetown men’s basketball Coach John Thompson III was addressing the media several weeks ago when he cut short a reporter’s query about the NCAA tournament, saying it was far too early to think about where the team stood as far as receiving a berth.

That playful exchange came during a five-game slide in which Georgetown’s aspirations to be included in the field of 68 were at best a long shot. These days, three consecutive wins have reenergized it for a push toward college basketball’s showcase event.

Georgetown can get to .500 in Big East play for the first time in more than three weeks with a victory over Providence on Monday night at Verizon Center. The Friars have dropped three of four and will be playing on the road for the second time in three days.

“Obviously the timing of it is the only timing it could be for us,” senior forward Nate Lubick said of the upswing, Georgetown’s longest since winning three in a row from Dec. 28 through Jan. 4. “At this point it’s just, let’s go on an eight-game winning streak. Three’s great, but we don’t have any losses left in us. We need to win every game we play.”

Lubick did his part to help secure Georgetown’s latest triumph, 71-63, over Butler on Saturday afternoon at Verizon Center. He scored 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting with a game-high nine rebounds to end a three-game home slide.

The Hoyas (14-9, 5-6 Big East) collectively have been more attentive to ball security of late, having had seven turnovers, their fewest in conference play, in each of the last two games. Georgetown had not been in single digits in turnovers before last Monday’s 71-59 win against DePaul since Jan. 15, when it committed nine in an 80-67 loss to Xavier.

“I think the guys, they understand what we’re looking for, and we’re not forcing anything,” Thompson said. “We had seven turnovers [against Butler], and I think five of them were in the first half. I think we had only two in the second half, but we understand, this group, we can’t turn the ball over. We realize we can’t just be careless with the ball.”

Georgetown also has been a frequent visitor to the free throw line over the last three games. The Hoyas have gone 64 for 84 (76 percent) in foul shooting over that time, including 30 for 41, a season high in attempts, against the Blue Demons. In the two games prior to that, Georgetown went to the free throw line 20 times combined.

In the first meeting between Georgetown and Providence (16-8, 6-5) on Jan. 8 at Dunkin’ Donuts Center, the Hoyas made 19 trips to the foul line but committed 15 turnovers that led to 20 points. The result was a 70-52 loss that was compounded by guard Jabril Trawick breaking his jaw.

The junior missed the next five games, and Georgetown lost four of them. With Trawick nearing full health, the Hoyas began this current winning streak by beating then-No. 7 Michigan State, 64-60, at Madison Square Garden.

Now Georgetown can validate it belongs in the conversation as perhaps the most formidable resurgent team in the Big East if it can earn its first win this season over an opponent with a winning record in conference play. The combined Big East record of Butler (twice), DePaul (twice) and St. John’s, the three teams the Hoyas have beaten in conference this season, is 8-24.

“For he and I, for us as seniors, it’s time to turn the corner,” said point guard Markel Starks, referring to Lubick as well. “There’s no tomorrow for he and I and for the other seniors. There’s no tomorrow for us, so obviously the urgent button, we all have a sense of urgency as a program.”

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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