MILWAUKEE — The Georgetown men’s basketball team arrived at Bradley Center on Saturday afternoon with an opportunity to earn a second-place finish in the Big East standings and, more important, a chance to claim a coveted double bye in the conference tournament.
By the time the 11th-ranked Hoyas trudged off Marquette’s home floor, though, they had slipped all the way to the No. 5 seed following an 83-69 loss to the eighth-ranked Golden Eagles. As a result, Georgetown must settle for only one bye and will open next week’s tournament at Madison Square Garden in the second round rather than the quarterfinals.
Even as it became apparent that there wouldn’t be another scintillating comeback for the Hoyas (22-7, 12-6) against Marquette, they had a chance to back into fourth place and a double bye. But Cincinnati’s 72-68 victory at Villanova gave the Bearcats (22-9, 12-6) the final pass to Thursday’s quarterfinals by virtue of tiebreakers. (Cincinnati’s win over the Hoyas on Jan. 9 was the ultimate difference.)
“In life, you have to control what you can control. We came into here with the opportunity to control where we finished. We didn’t do what were supposed to do,” Coach John Thompson III. “So we end up playing on Wednesday instead of Thursday.”
In the teams’ first meeting this season, Georgetown rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit and pulled out a 73-70 victory at Verizon Center. On Saturday, the Hoyas again found themselves down 17 points after halftime.
This time, however, Marquette forward Jae Crowder and guard Darius Johnson-Odom ensured history would not repeat on their Senior Day. Crowder scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, while Johnson-Odom had 17 points in front of 19,087, the season’s largest crowd.
“He was all over the place,” Hoyas freshman Otto Porter said of Crowder, who has averaged 24.6 points per game the past six contests. “We had a lot of mix-ups [on defense] and our communication wasn’t there today. It all comes down to communication.”
Porter finished with a career-high 19 points, matching junior Hollis Thompson’s offensive output. But it wasn’t enough to compensate for the Hoyas’ struggles on defense — in the paint and in transition — or at the free throw line.
Georgetown won its previous two games with defense, limiting Villanova and Notre Dame to 28 and 33.3 percent shooting, respectively. Marquette (25-6, 14-4) shot 48 percent, and the Golden Eagles’ point total marked the most the Hoyas yielded in conference play. They also scored 40 points in the paint and 18 off fast breaks.
The Hoyas didn’t help themselves at the free throw line, either. They missed 11 of their 25 attempts, including seven of their 13 shots in a first half that ended with Marquette leading, 39-29. The Hoyas’ free throw percentage — 56 — was their worst this season.
“It killed us,” John Thompson said. “It was front ends and that can’t happen. It can’t happen this time of year if we want to win.”
Senior Jason Clark added: “We just need to get in the gym and shoot more foul shots. They haven’t been falling lately. We have to do a better job of getting better at shooting free throws.”
Thompson also took issue with his team’s shot selection, particularly in the first half.
“That,” he said, “was probably at the root of everything.”
Marquette’s biggest lead was 48-31 after a an alley-oop dunk by Jamil Wilson, who was assessed a technical foul for hanging on the rim with 17 minutes 55 seconds remaining in a disjointed game in which the Golden Eagles attempted 20 more free throws than Georgetown.
The Hoyas cut their deficit to eight points on three occasions, the final time coming on a layup by Thompson with 2:24 remaining. But 73-65 was as close as they could get, as Marquette scored seven of the game’s next nine points.
As disappointed as Thompson was in his team’s performance, he also considered it a lesson, given what the Hoyas will face in the coming weeks.
“It’s a lesson that’s got to be learned,” he said. “The playoffs started today. Fortunately, unlike the NCAA tournament, it doesn’t mean the season is over. [But] we have to do a lot of things differently as we go forward.”