Recap: Over the course of an entire season, some games automatically take on greater importance. Thursday's matchup at Marquette was a big one for Georgetown. Despite another scoring display from their backcourt, the Hoyas came up short. Now their NCAA Tournament might as well.
Markel Starks scored 24 points and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera had 19 in Georgetown's 75-73 loss at Marquette. Both guards helped the Hoyas (16-12, 7-9 Big East) rally from seven points down in the second half, but both missed shots inside the final 13 seconds including Smith-Rivera's potential game-tying driving layup with four seconds left.
Jabril Trawick matched his career-high with 16 points, his fifth straight game in double digits. Those three scored 26 of Georgetown's final 28 points. They had little choice as the Hoyas' big men options once again dealt with foul trouble throughout as the Hoyas were dealt their third loss in four games.
That's because burly Davante Gardner dominated the paint for Marquette (17-11, 9-6), finishing with 26 points on 10 of 12 free throws. Jake Thomas took care of the perimeter game with six 3-pointers for 22 points. The Golden Eagles swept the season series and improved their March Madness hopes by winning for the fifth time in six games.
Marquette led by seven on multiple occasions during the second half including 63-56 with 8:21 remaining. Georgetown fought back and did so with small-ball --and seldom-used center Bradley Hayes in the lineup. Trawick's dunk off a Starks steal cut the Marquette lead to 72-71 with 2:26 remaining.
After each side swapped free throws and Gardner missed a jumper, Georgetown took possession with 30 seconds left. Following a timeout, Starks ran the clock down before driving for an attempted running back. Marquette's Juan Anderson grabbed the rebound and split a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left, missing the second.
Trawick rebounded the errant foul shot and handed the ball to Smith-Rivera. With no timeouts left, he raced the length of the court, getting all the way to the rim against two defenders. Despite contact he nearly sank the layup, but the ball tantalizing rolled across the rim, throwing off Hayes' timing for a potential tip-in.
Key stretch: Georgetown shot 52 percent from the field in the first half and entered halftime with a 40-37 lead. With 14:54 left in the game the Hoyas trailed 45-40, having missed all seven of their field goal attempts in that span. By that point Moses Ayegba had already fouled out. Nate Lubick would soon join him. Georgetown never regained the lead, shooting 7 of 26 (26.9%) in the second half including 1 of 10 from beyond the arc.
House of Horrors: Georgetown has lost five straight road games in this series with its last win at Marquette coming during the 2007-08 season.
No contest: Led by Gardner, the Golden Eagles had a 40-3 bench scoring advantage
Fouls, fouls, fouls: Mikael Hopkins picked up two fouls inside the opening two minutes of the first half. His fourth came less than two minutes into the second half. Ayegba fouled out with 16 minutes fouled out of the game. Lubick's fifth foul came with 11:31 remaining. The fast and furious nature of the calls was outside the norm. Picking up so many fouls is not. Hopkins has received at least four in seven straight games, fouling out in three.
Perhaps one sign of hope from this scenario was the play of Hayes. The 7-foot sophomore looked far steadier on both ends during his 11-minute stint than at any previous time in his two seasons, though like his fellow Hoyas was no match for Gardner inside.
Big picture: The loss dropped Georgetown two games under .500 with two games remaining in the regular season. To even their mark, the Hoyas must defeat Creighton on Tuesday, and then win at Villanova on March 8. To reach the NCAA Tournament as an at-large squad, same scenario applies. Those teams rank ninth and eight respectively in the latest AP top-25 poll.
On deck: The Hoyas are off until Tuesday when they host Creighton, led by national Player of the Year frontrunner Doug McDermott.