OMAHA — The Georgetown men’s basketball team began the most unforgiving portion of its schedule fully aware it had to limit sharpshooter Doug McDermott in order to have a chance at toppling Big East leader Creighton on the road Saturday night.
The Hoyas handled that assignment just fine, but McDermott got plenty of help from his teammates. Those contributions from the supporting cast along with continued offensive woes conspired to send the Hoyas to their fourth straight loss, 76-63, in front of 18,859 at CenturyLink Center.
“Tough day at the office,” Georgetown guard Markel Starks said.
A record crowd for a Creighton basketball game witnessed McDermott, a two-time first-team all-American, score 14 points, his second-fewest this season. Four other Bluejays reached double figures, however, including senior guard Jahenns Manigat, whose NBA-range three-pointer with 8 minutes 28 seconds left in regulation expanded the lead to 58-40 and all but settled the outcome.
Georgetown (11-8, 3-5 Big East) got a game-high 21 points from Starks, 18 from sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and 14 from junior center Mikael Hopkins. Starks and Smith-Rivera each played 39 minutes, and although Thompson has tried to give them rest, Georgetown’s reserves have shown to be too great a liability.
The Hoyas’ reserves managed just two points against Creighton, and front-court starters Nate Lubick and Reggie Cameron combined to miss 6 of 10 shots and score eight points. Lubick did not score but collected 10 rebounds to match a game high.
The loss was the fifth in six games for the Hoyas. Opponents grow only more daunting from here. Georgetown draws fourth-ranked Villanova on Monday night and No. 3 Michigan State next Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Creighton (17-3, 7-1) was beginning to pull away early in the second half after consecutive three-pointers provided a 42-29 lead, but the Hoyas managed to remain within reach at least temporarily. Hopkins answered with a layup while being fouled and made the free throw before Aaron Bowen got a floater from the right baseline to rattle around the rim and drop.
But the Bluejays mounted another threat to gain the upper hand for good, scoring six of eight points. Included in that run was McDermott’s layup between two defenders for a 55-40 lead that increased the decibel level considerably in the building.
Sensing a momentum sway, Georgetown Coach Thompson III called a timeout, but Georgetown responded by missing two field goals, getting whistled for a foul and committing a turnover.
“Our defense kept us in the game at time when our offense wasn’t itself,” Bluejays Coach Greg McDermott said. “A lot of that had to do with Georgetown’s defense.”
The Hoyas were playing their first game since Thompson announced Friday afternoon that staring center Joshua Smith would be out for the remainder of the season because of an ongoing academic issue. The junior transfer is Georgetown’s third-leading scorer and No. 1 on the team in field goal percentage.
The Hoyas also are without starting guard Jabril Trawick, who broke his jaw and remains out indefinitely.
Even without those players, the Hoyas held their own for most of the first half.
Hopkins and Nate Lubick (10 rebounds) took turns guarding Doug McDermott, a national player of the year candidate. He missed 5 of 7 shots before intermission as Georgetown built a two-point lead with less than 10 minutes to play in the half. But Creighton made 6 of 8 foul shots to close the half for a 34-24 lead.
“You can’t try to get up and down with them just because they have so many offensive weapons,” Thompson said. “We can play at any pace, but the first half is where we wanted it. Then you go in [to halftime down] 10, and we missed a bunch of chippies. We make those, maybe it’s a different game.”