Georgetown vs. Xavier: Depleted Hoyas look to finish rough road swing on a high note


Mikael Hopkins and Georgetown hope to go 2-1 on their season-long three-game road swing. (Doug McSchooler/AP)

The situation was bordering on the ridiculous for the Georgetown men’s basketball team on Saturday night against Butler. Having begun the game without starters Joshua Smith and Jabril Trawick, the Hoyas had two other starters and an important reserve foul out in the final minutes of regulation while seeking their first Big East road win.

What’s more, the nearly 10,000 fans at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse had reached a fever pitch after watching the Bulldogs overcome a nine-point deficit in the second half to take a three-point lead with 25 seconds to play. Teetering on the brink of a second consecutive loss, Georgetown (11-4, 3-1 Big East) instead leaned on its experienced back court and several seldom-used reserves to forge a 70-67 victory in overtime.

With junior center Smith dealing with an ongoing academic issue and not traveling with the team and junior guard Trawick still out with a broken jaw, the Hoyas head into Wednesday night’s matchup against Xavier (13-4, 3-1) shorthanded again as they conclude a season-long three-game road swing. Smith is the Hoyas’ third-leading scorer (11.5) and is first in field goal percentage (65.5), and Trawick is fourth on the team in scoring (7.1).

“We have missed them the last several games,” Coach John Thompson III said Tuesday. “At the same time we can’t worry about that. We have a lot of guys who have been waiting for the opportunity. Now they’re going to get the opportunity. Now they better produce.”

Georgetown will have starting forward Nate Lubick, who has been cleared to play following a collision with Butler guard Alex Barlow that left the senior holding a towel over his face. The play resulted in Lubick fouling out with 4 minutes 12 seconds left in regulation.

Less than a minute later, backup center Moses Ayegba picked up his fifth personal foul. Less than two minutes after that, starting forward Mikael Hopkins logged his fifth foul, and Georgetown was down to a skeleton crew, compelling Thompson to rely on players such as Reggie Cameron, a freshman averaging 10 minutes per game, and senior reserve John Caprio, who is averaging four minutes.

The decisive sequence came courtesy of Aaron Bowen, another reserve. The senior forward deflected a pass by Barlow, leading to senior guard Markel Starks controlling the loose ball and passing back to Bowen for a fast-break dunk that gave Georgetown the lead for good with 57 seconds remaining in overtime. Starks had forced overtime by making a three-pointer with 12 seconds remaining in regulation.

The Hoyas’ bench finished with 20 points, including 11 from Bowen and six points and a team-high eight rebounds from Ayegba. Caprio contributed a foul shot with 34 seconds left in overtime to keep Georgetown in front by two points and also helped defend Bulldogs top scorer Kellen Dunham, who finished with a game-high 21 points but missed eight of his nine field goal attempts in the second half.

“It’s a big momentum-builder,” Lubick said. “The way we won that game is what moves us forward. As I said, we had some guys make some huge plays for us."

In Xavier, the Hoyas draw an opponent that is among the deeper teams in the Big East. The first-year member of the retooled conference used 11 players in its most recent game, a 95-89 road loss to Creighton.

The Musketeers had eight players log at least 12 minutes, including 39 from starting guard Semaj Christon. The sophomore from Cincinnati scored a team-high 27 points on 10-for-17 shooting and is the seventh-leading scorer in the conference.

Georgetown, meantime, has two of the top 11 scorers in the Big East. Sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is fifth (17.3), and Starks ranks 11th (15.4).

“It’s a process,” Starks said of dealing with a depleted roster. “But the same guys practice with each other every day, so one guy goes down, another guy is able to fill that spot.”

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering many local and national beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He joined The Washington Post sports department in 1990 as a member of the high school staff and worked as a copy editor and assignment editor for almost 19 years.
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