On a particularly poor-shooting afternoon at Verizon Center, Georgetown was fortunate to have a trio of big men — 6-foot-10 Joshua Smith, 6-9 Mikael Hopkins and 6-8 Nate Lubick — whose putbacks and rebounds bailed out the team in a close contest against Colgate.
With Smith leading the Hoyas with 14 points, Georgetown staved off a dogged effort by the country’s top three-point shooting team for a 61-55 victory that left Coach John Thompson III far from satisfied. He expressed his disappointment by declining to make any players available to reporters afterward.
“I don’t think they played well enough to earn the right to come talk to you guys,” Thompson said when asked about the absence of players in the postgame interview.
Georgetown shot just 37.5 percent from the field and made only 1 of 15 three-point attempts in the game. Its starting back court of D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks, who combined for 35 points in Thursday night’s victory over High Point, managed just two points between them in the first half and finished with only four baskets on 21 shots.
Thompson was equally aggrieved by the the Hoyas’ defense. Although Georgetown held Colgate to 32 percent shooting — well off its 53 percent average — Thompson singled out the game-high 21 points that the Raiders guard Austin Tillotson managed as a particular disappointment.
Though Georgetown never trailed, its lead was never comfortable, with Colgate pulling within five points after Hopkins (nine points, eight rebounds) fouled its leading scorer, Murphy Burnatowski, on a three-point shot with 2 minutes 31 seconds remaining. Twice in the final 60 seconds, Colgate pulled within four.
“Our group has to play a lot smarter and has to make better decisions if we want to win,” said Thompson, whose team improved to 6-2. “We did a very poor job of executing.”
Colgate (4-3) entered the game leading the nation in both three-point attempts (13.3 per game) and three-point shooting percentage (51). But against Georgetown, the Raiders missed nine from beyond the arc before making their first after nine scoreless minutes, in which they also missed a pair of free throws and turned over the ball at an alarming clip.
Georgetown’s long-range shooting was nothing to crow about, either. The Hoyas missed all nine three-pointers in the first half but compensated in the paint, where Smith did a nice job cleaning up errant shots with easy putbacks.
Still, it was an ugly shooting display at both ends of the court, and Hoyas fans couldn’t even take solace in a comfortable lead once Colgate started hitting its three-pointers.
The teams flailed away until the halftime buzzer sounded, with the Hoyas taking a 21-15 lead into the break. To that point, Georgetown was shooting 29 percent; Colgate, 19.2.
To the delight of the thrill-starved crowd of 7,966, Smith-Rivera (four points, seven rebounds) finally hit Georgetown’s first three-pointer with 17:36 remaining, making it 31-19. But Colgate hung around, reeling off nine answered points to pull within five, 47-38.
With Georgetown not exploiting its obvious advantage in height and heft, perplexed fans begged the Hoyas to push the pace and pound the ball inside. Lubick (10 points, seven rebounds) halted the Raiders’ rally, driving for layups on consecutive possessions.
Starks made just his second field goal of the game and converted the three-point play with 5:16 remaining. But on the next possession, he threw the ball directly into hands of Colgate’s Luke Roh. It amounted to a gift-wrapped Raiders three-pointer, allowing Colgate to pull within six, 51-45.
Colgate twice had a chance to pull without two, but clanged both shots off the rim, and Smith-Rivera scooped up the rebound for Georgetown both times. Starks missed back-to-back shots at the Hoyas’ end but sealed the victory with a 6-of-7 showing on the free-throw line.