Midnight was fast approaching Thursday, and the Georgetown men’s basketball team was in no mood to dawdle in the wake of a humbling loss to Seton Hall that delivered yet another blow to the Hoyas’ fading NCAA tournament aspirations.
Coach John Thompson III and guards D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Jabril Trawick arrived at the postgame news conference at Prudential Center with uncommon alacrity, succinctly addressed the breakdowns that led to the 82-67 result and shuffled back to the locker room.
Shortly thereafter, the Hoyas boarded the team bus in Newark for the unpleasant return trip to the District, where another round of regrouping barely had time to take root after players and the coaching staff pulled onto campus in the wee hours Friday.
In its quickest turnaround this season, Georgetown faces Xavier at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Verizon Center. The Hoyas are the only team in the Big East with such a compressed period between two games, and have had more games with only one day of preparation (six) than any other team in the conference.
“It’s a tough turnaround, but we’ve had a bunch of one-day turnarounds this year with a lot of Saturday-to-Monday stuff,” senior forward Nate Lubick said. “Nothing with a 9 [p.m.] to 11:30 [a.m.], but we’re used to it at this point, and we’ll be able to sleep tomorrow.”
With limited time for film study and strategy sessions, Georgetown turned its attention to defense and more energetic play to begin games. The Hoyas have been particularly underwhelming in both during a two-game slide that has them two games below .500 in the Big East and on the outside of a bye in the conference tournament.
The top six regular season finishers receive a bye into the quarterfinals and avoid having to play potentially four games in as many days.
Georgetown (15-11, 6-8) remains mathematically in the mix for a top six seed. But the Hoyas are on the losing end of head-to-head tiebreakers against four of the six teams above them in the standings.
“At this time of the year you start looking at those things,” Thompson said. “Is it on the radar? Absolutely. Is it a focal point? No. You know what I’m going to say — let’s win the next game — and so is this the time of the year you start picking your head up and looking around and saying, ‘Where do we stand?’ Yes, but we know we’ve just got to get wins.”
Georgetown was unable to do so in the first meeting with the Musketeers on Jan. 15. In one of their more dramatic collapses, the Hoyas built a 17-point lead early in the second half but went without a point over the final 6 minutes 14 seconds in an 80-67 loss Jan. 18 at Cintas Center.
Lately though, Georgetown has had to chase rather than protect leads because of early scoring woes. The Hoyas have failed to reach 30 points in the first half of four of their last five and have been outscored by a combined 83-56 in the first half over their last two games.
Especially troubling for the Hoyas on Thursday was yielding 47 percent three-point shooting (8 for 17).
Georgetown came in as the conference’s best team in terms of defensive three-point field goal percentage (31.1), yet the Pirates made 5 of 9 from beyond the arc in the first half for a better percentage from distance than overall from the floor.
Xavier (18-8, 8-5) is the second-leading three-point shooting team in the Big East at 38 percent. The Musketeers most recently made 8 of 10 during an 83-64 victory over DePaul Wednesday in Cincinnati.
“Being at home, I think that will give us an advantage,” Trawick said. “But at the same time we have to come out, and we’ve got to set the tone. We’ve got to be the team that sets the tone, and we’ve got to be the team that’s more hungry out there.”