MILWAUKEE — The Georgetown men’s basketball team’s case for belonging in the NCAA tournament took another hit Thursday night, when the Hoyas pushed the issue down the stretch but were unable to overtake Marquette in a 75-73 loss in front of 14,874 at Bradley Center.
Trailing virtually the entire second half, the Hoyas came back three times from seven-point deficits and had multiple chances to go ahead or tie in the final minute, including a missed layup just before the buzzer by sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera.
Moments earlier, senior point guard Markel Starks missed a floating one-hander off the glass that would have put Georgetown in front by a point. Juan Anderson made 1 of 2 free throws to give Marquette its two-point margin and set the stage for Smith-Rivera’s final attempt.
“We fought. We scrapped,” Hoyas Coach John Thompson III said. “You’re not going to beat good teams on the road if you don’t completely execute at both ends, and we had some lapses. It hurts, it hurts, but we have to find something to take from this.”
Starks finished with a team-high 24 points, and Smith-Rivera added 19 for the Hoyas, who fell two games below .500 in the Big East Conference and lost for the third time in four games. With two games left in the regular season, Georgetown remains on the outside of the top six in the conference standings, meaning it would not receive a first-round by in the Big East tournament.
Georgetown (16-12, 7-9 Big East) continued to be plagued by inadequate bench scoring, this time on the short end by a staggering 40-3. It also missed 9 of 10 three-pointers in the second half and surrendered 6 for 11 shooting (55 percent) from beyond the arc overall after coming in as the top-ranked team in the Big East in three-point field goal defense.
Marquette (17-11, 9-6) won for the 24th time in 26 home games thanks in part to a game-high 26 points from reserve forward Davante Gardner and 22 from starting guard Jake Thomas, who made 6 of 9 from three-point range.
“I’m proud of my team and the effort we put out today,” said Hoyas junior forward Jabril Trawick, who missed an 80-72 overtime loss to Marquette on Jan. 20 at Verizon Center with a broken jaw. “We let them get a little lead in the second half, but we did what we needed to do to get back in the game. We can’t hang out heads.”
Foul trouble plagued the Hoyas for much of the game and most notably early in the second half, when backup center Moses Ayegba fouled out with 16 minutes 41 seconds to go. The senior picked up his fifth personal contesting a drive by Derrick Wilson, who made 1 of 2 free throws to give the Golden Eagles a 42-40 lead.
Less than two minutes earlier, Mikael Hopkins was assessed his fourth personal and had gone to the bench. The absence of Hopkins and Ayegba left Georgetown with only Nate Lubick as a front-court presence, and the senior forward was operating somewhat cautiously himself with three fouls, then picking up his fourth with 11:59 to play.
When Lubick fouled out 30 seconds later, Thompson inserted seldom used center Bradley Hayes for extended work. The sophomore had not played more than three minutes in any game this season but held up well when Georgetown was trying to claw back.
Hayes was defending when Gardner missed a layup that would have stretched the Golden Eagles’ advantage to three points with less than a minute to play. That miss came immediately before Starks got separation from his defender and had his shot carom off the rim.
The higher scoring first half featured runs from teams that entered among the top five in the Big East in scoring defense. The Hoyas landed the first blow with a 15-4 lead after scoring 10 in a row. Trawick (16 points) started and ended the rush with three-pointers and made two free throws as well.
Marquette responded with an 18-7 push, including eight consecutive points, to tie the game at 22 with 10:03 to play until halftime. From there, the lead changed five times, with neither team ahead by more than four points.
“We just came up short,” Thompson said. “We fought, we competed, we just came up short.”