After Georgetown managed just 16 first-half points against Tennessee before eking out a victory on Nov. 30, Coach John Thompson III said he had never been part of a game like it, grade-school contests aside.
Saturday at Verizon Center, a mere eight days later, the Hoyas struggled just as mightily to score against Towson, a mid-major team that posted a 1-31 record just year.
The result was another misfiring nail-biter in which 15th-ranked Georgetown prevailed, 46-40, after managing only 17 points in the first half.
Hoya faithful determined to look on the bright side will take pride in the fact that Georgetown (7-1) has held its last three opponents under 42 points. Others, however, may wonder about the evolution of a Georgetown offense that hit just two of its first 24 attempts (8.3 percent) and closed the game, after making a concerted effort to get the ball inside in the second half, by shooting 29.1 percent.
Georgetown was never in command against Towson (4-5), with the lead changing hands seven times. It remained a two-point contest with less than five minutes remaining, and the final margin of victory was the Hoyas’ biggest lead all afternoon.
Georgetown got to the free throw line three times as often as Towson (24 to 8) and forced 22 turnovers while committing just eight. But with the Hoyas getting outrebounded, 38-32, and making just 2 of 16 three-point shots, Towson proved a formidable threat from tip-off until Markel Starks’s jumper with 26 seconds remaining gave Georgetown a 45-40 lead.
“Obviously our guys didn’t come down here to lose,” Towson Coach Pat Skerry said. “We try to pride ourselves on defending and rebounding. We just fell a little bit short down the stretch.”
No player attacked the game with more fire than Towson’s Jerrelle Benimon, who transferred from Georgetown following the 2010-11 season. The 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward was the only player to manage a double-double (11 points, 16 rebounds) and played as fiercely on defense as he did offense.
“I was pretty pumped up coming back to Verizon Center,” said Benimon, one of three former Big East players on the Tigers’ roster, along with Bilal Dixon, who transferred from Providence, and Mike Burwell, who played at South Florida.
Georgetown was led by sophomore forward Greg Whittington, who had 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting. Otto Porter Jr., Nate Lubick and Mikael Hopkins added 10 points each.
With the outcome in the balance throughout, Thompson didn’t have the luxury to give his bench much seasoning. He played just seven players, with Jabril Trawick (four rebounds, two steals) and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (one point, three rebounds) in the mix for 20 and 17 minutes, respectively.
“You’ve got to play the game that’s in front of you,” Thompson said, asked about the learning curve facing the Hoyas’ reserves with Georgetown’s Big East opener looming Jan. 5. “Those guys have got to get work in practice.”
As for his team’s overall shooting woes, Thompson professed no particular concern.
“You shoot 29 percent for the game and 12 percent from three [-point range], so is that a concern?” he said. “It’s obviously something we have to look into and figure out. But we have good offensive players.”
A crowd of 8,322 was on hand to watch Georgetown’s flurry of air balls and shots that rimmed out or hit the side of the backboard in the early going. Porter was the only Hoya to make a field goal through the first 12 minutes.
A dunk by Whittington roused the crowd and gave Georgetown a 17-15 halftime lead.
Sophomore center Hopkins hit his first field goal with 5 minutes 52 seconds remaining to put Georgetown ahead, 38-35. A dunk by Whittington extended the lead to 42-37.
Benimon answered with a three-pointer to pull Towson within two before Starks’s jumper all but secured the ugly victory.