MILWAUKEE — It was little surprise that Georgetown’s shooting was rusty in Saturday’s Big East opener, given the two-week layoff that preceded it.
But the Hoyas’ zone defense kept Marquette’s lead in check all afternoon. And with 2.3 seconds remaining and trailing by three points, Georgetown had a chance to force overtime when Greg Whittington was fouled as he lofted a three-pointer that clanged off the rim.
Whittington hit the first two of his three free throws. But after Marquette Coach Buzz Williams called a timeout, his third attempt fell short, all but sealing the outcome. No. 15 Georgetown suffered its second defeat of the season, and its first to an unranked opponent, falling 49-48. The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak for Georgetown (10-2, 0-1) and extended Marquette’s string of victories at Bradley Center to 18.
Coach John Thompson III dismissed a suggestion that the extended break affected the outcome, although the statistics painted a different picture. Georgetown missed 17 of its first 20 shots, managing just four points through the first 10 minutes of play.
But the Hoyas compensated with tremendous defense, frustrating Marquette’s shooters in kind. Whittington’s long-range jumper at the buzzer trimmed Georgetown’s deficit to 20-19 at the break.
The Hoyas’ offense functioned far better in the second half, with junior guard Markel Starks, who led all players with 18 points, scoring Georgetown’s first seven points. But as the game ground on, Marquette seized the upper hand with superior rebounding, sharper free throw shooting and a deeper, more productive bench.
Marquette (11-3, 2-0) finished with 35 rebounds to Georgetown’s 26 (of those, only six were offensive boards).
As Williams sized it up, rebounding was the key to the game. But he conceded that the six extra points Marquette got at the free throw line, where the Golden Eagles made 13 of 18 attempts — compared to Georgetown’s 7 of 12 — was “gigantic.”
And Marquette’s bench contributed 16 points, with massive 6-foot-8, 290-pound junior forward Davante Gardner worth his weight in gold.
Gardner wore out the Hoyas big men, earning trip after trip to the free throw line. Known as “Auto-matic” for his skill from the stripe, he hit 8 of his 10 free throws, including the pair that gave Marquette what proved its winning margin.
Playing from behind most of the game, Thompson used only two reserves, hard-nosed Jabril Trawick, who took over for struggling Mikael Hopkins in the second half, and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. Trawick grabbed three steals and two well-timed rebounds in his 25 minutes. But neither scored.
Neither team got points easily in the paint, and it morphed into a perimeter game in the second half.
Marquette’s Jamil Wilson got hot, but Otto Porter Jr. (13 points, six rebounds), Whittington (13 points, eight rebounds) and Starks all hit three-pointers to keep the score close.
Starks got a huge strip and raced downcourt for a layup that tied it at 46 with 2 minutes 11 seconds remaining.
That’s when Marquette unveiled another weapon: A videotaped message from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose face flashed on the giant scoreboard, saying: “Hey Marquette! I can’t hear you!” The crowd of 15,433 shot to its feet and cheered for the frantic final minutes.
With Georgetown trailing 47-46 coming out of a timeout with 20 seconds remaining, the play went to Porter. Bottled up by three defenders, he dished to Trawick, whose jumper was short. Gardner grabbed the rebound and earned his final trip to the free throw line when Nate Lubick tried in vain to wrest the ball from him.
“They’re solid, they stick to what they’re doing, and they don’t let up,” Marquette’s Junior Cadougan said of Georgetown. “They play defense for 35 seconds solid. And you just have to be patient and overcome that.”