Hoyas withstand Brooks’ barrage, hold off Providence

February 5, 2011

It’s not often that a player scores 43 points in a college basketball game and can’t lead his team to victory. It’s also not common for a team with an 18-point second half lead to have a chance to lose the game on the final possession. The latter was the case for Georgetown, but fortunately for the Hoyas they managed to stop Providence’s Marshon Brooks the one time they needed to.

The Hoyas (18-5, 7-4 Big East) won their sixth in a row, defeating the Friars (14-10, 3-8 Big East) 83-81. It was the third straight game for Georgetown that was decided by one possession.

Brooks, the Big East’s second leading scorer, did everything he could to keep Providence in the game. The senior guard played all 40 minutes, getting his 43 points on 17-for-28 shooting while also grabbing 10 rebounds.

“He’s a special player who had a special day,” head coach John Thompson III said. “When you get in those situations, I think what we try to focus on is, ‘OK, he’s getting his’—not to say we’re going to give him his, but he’s getting his—now let’s see if we can take everyone else away.”

Georgetown was mostly successful in that area, holding all but one Providence player below their scoring average. The Friars’ second leading scorer, sophomore guard Vincent Council, had just three points and was held without a field goal on ten attempts.

Meanwhile, while the Hoyas had no one answer for Brooks, their vaunted backcourt trio had their best collective game of the conference season. Chris Wright had 16 points, Jason Clark scored 18, and Austin Freeman led the way with 23.

At the beginning of the game it seemed like those three were destined to be the stars of the day, with Freeman, Wright, and Clark hitting three-pointers in succession on the Hoyas first three possessions. Brooks would have something to say about that, however, scoring Providence’s first seven points and never looking back.

“When I made my first three shots, I knew,” Brooks said. “It was one of those nights. When Chris Wright was on me I was just thinking I’m going to get where I want to get and just try to raise up. And then when the big guys were on me I was just trying to take them off the dribble.”

Despite Brooks’ best efforts, Georgetown was still in control throughout the first half, taking a 46-34 lead into the locker room. They would quickly extend that margin in the second, jumping out to a 6-0 run.

After that, however, the wheels began to come off for the Hoyas. Despite holding Brooks without a point for the first eight minutes of the second half, the Friars began to climb back while the Hoyas went cold. When Providence called a timeout with just over 12 minutes remaining, they were still very much in the game.

“It seemed like there was an eternity left,” Providence head coach Keno Davis said. “The way the game was being played, if we could get on a run and knock down some shots and try to use some of our pressure defense—which I think helped us as well—we could get some momentum.”

That momentum came when Brooks scored the first of his 19 second half points with 11:12 left in the game. That helped start a 12-1 run to bring the Friars within two.

The difference in the second half was simple: the Hoyas’ shots weren’t falling. After shooting over 50 percent in the first half, Georgetown went 0-for-11 from beyond the arc in the second. The Hoyas couldn’t even catch a break at the free throw line, shooting 52.4 percent from the stripe after halftime.

“It got to a point in the second half where I thought they were making a conscious effort to take away our threes,” Thompson said. “That means usually our cuts are going to be open or we’re going to have one-on-one in the post. Julian [Vaughn] made a few good moves down there because he was one-on-one with no help and everyone was spread out. He was very effective.”

Vaughn was a key player down the stretch, making up for a string of five missed free throws with a number of clutch shots and rebounds in the closing minutes. The senior forward finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists.

The Hoyas needed every contribution they could get, because there was no margin for error at the end of the game. Twelve points were scored in the final minutes, as the Friars continued to make baskets as the Hoyas tried to stave them off from the free throw line.

Up by three with nine seconds left, Thompson said the Hoyas decided to intentionally foul to avoid a potential game-tying three. Brooks got to the line and made both free throws, and after a quick foul Wright couldn’t respond in kind, making just one of his two shots. That left five seconds for Providence to go the length of the court.

Unsurprisingly, Brooks took the ball up the court, but he would not have a chance for the game-winner. Wright made up for his missed free throw with a game-saving strip at half court, diving on the ball as time expired.

After an abysmal start to its conference slate, Georgetown has finally righted the ship, even if they’ve been keeping it interesting to the end. Their due for what will surely be their biggest test since starting their win streak, traveling to Syracuse on Wednesday to face the rival Orange.

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