CINCINNATI — The depleted Georgetown men’s basketball team was unable to preserve a 17-point lead in the second half and failed to score for more than six minutes down the stretch in an 80-67 loss to Xavier on Wednesday night before 10,250 at Cintas Center to complete a season-high three-game road swing.
Xavier took the lead for good on reserve guard Myles Davis’s three-pointer with 4 minutes 56 seconds left. That basket completed a comeback from a 53-36 deficit early in the second half and helped send the Hoyas (11-5, 3-2 Big East) to their second loss in three games.
Senior guard Markel Starks scored a game-high 19 points for Georgetown in its first regular season meeting against Xavier, which is in its first season in the Big East following 18 productive seasons in the Atlantic 10. Sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera had 18 points, and freshman forward Reggie Cameron added 13 points.
“That’s very abnormal for our team, what happened in the second half,” Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said of the collapse. “So you don’t necessarily want to throw the baby out with the bath water, but at the same time we have to go back and look at it and figure out why.”
Georgetown went 10 for 18 from three-point range to match a season high from beyond the arc, but only three came in the second half. The Hoyas shot 47 percent overall and committed nine turnovers, their fewest in a conference game this season, but went to the foul line 14 fewer times than Xavier (14-4, 4-1).
After taking the lead with 12:34 to play in the first half, the Hoyas withstood several advances from Xavier coming out of intermission. The Musketeers scored seven points to open the second half, but Georgetown claimed that 17-point cushion on the heels of an 11-0 burst that included three consecutive three-pointers.
Xavier scored the next eight points until Smith-Rivera got a contested jumper in the lane to fall. A Smith-Rivera layup gave the Hoyas a 57-48 lead, but Xavier made two three-pointers around an Aaron Bowen layup, and five straight points drew the Musketeers to 61-59 with 8:27 left to bring the crowd to its feet at a fever pitch.
The teams went back and forth over the next two minutes, and when Smith-Rivera hit a contested jumper with 6:14 to play, the Hoyas remained in front, 67-64. But that would be the final points for the Hoyas.
Georgetown used primarily seven players and one other, Stephen Domingo, who logged just one minute.
“Just couldn’t score,” said Starks, who had seven assists and five rebounds but committed five turnovers. “I’m not going to put the blame on fatigue. Guys got to fight through it. Myself and D’Vauntes, we’ve got to fight through it regardless.”
The Musketeers closed the gap to one possession even with leading scorer Semaj Christon (team-high 18 points) on the bench. The sophomore guard picked up his fourth personal foul with 8:27 to play, and a little more than three minutes later, Xavier had starting forward Isaiah Philmore limp to the bench with an injury.
With the same starting lineup for a second straight game after using four in four games, the Hoyas played for a third straight time without center Joshua Smith, who remained in the District trying to resolve an academic issue, according to school officials.
Compounding Smith’s unavailability is an injury to junior Jabril Trawick, who had started 14 games this season before breaking his jaw in a 70-52 loss to Providence, leaving him out indefinitely.
There also was some initial concern about the availability of Nate Lubick, who wore a protective mask following a collision with Butler’s Alex Barlow in Saturday night’s 70-67 overtime win at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Lubick fouled out on the play and walked off the court with a towel covering his face but was cleared for Xavier earlier this week.
“Not only not being able to score, but they scored every way possible,” Thompson said. “You can look back at it now, and it’s easy to say fatigue, but you have to give them credit. They made a run that kept going.”