A seemingly hopeless season just changed its tune.
The Georgetown men’s basketball team (12-7, 5-2 Big East) finally notched a signature victory, knocking off No. 5 Xavier (16-2, 4-2 Big East) 81-72 Tuesday night at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati.
Sophomore guard Tre Campbell led the Hoyas with a career-high 21 points, including 17 in the first half, and senior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera added 20. Sophomore guard Trevon Bluiett scored 18 points for the Musketeers, who struggled shooting all night, finishing the game at 36 percent.
In a fairly chippy game, Georgetown was able to overcome foul trouble that afflicted members of the Hoya frontcourt, including senior forward Bradley Hayes and junior guard Reggie Cameron. Freshman Jessie Govan gave the team quality minutes off the bench, recording 13 points and 6 rebounds while Hayes sat. Govan also provided solid rim protection, as the Hoyas as a team harassed the four-guard Xavier lineup into missing a number of shots at the rim.
Sophomore guard LJ Peak gave a spark off the bench with 13 points and 10 rebounds, recording several hustle plays and recovering 50-50 balls created by long rebounds or Xavier’s defensive pressure. Little-used sophomore forward Trey Mourning also saw spot minutes, recording a block and some crisp passes in his time on the court.
Georgetown took the lead for good on a Campbell three with 2:39 remaining in the first half and went into the halftime break with a 39-33 edge. Despite some late turnovers, the Hoyas were able to efficiently attack the suffocating Xavier defense, which came into the game ranked ninth in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency. When the Hoyas were not able to find a good shot early in the possession, they drew fouls late in the shot clock.
The Hoyas trailed for much of the first half before the Campbell three, struggling to establish a rhythm inside against quick hands by the Musketeers on defense. Campbell’s outside shooting helped the Hoyas spread the floor and provided Govan and Hayes room to operate inside, while also freeing some drives to the hoop against the zone by Peak.
After the Hoyas opened up a 51-41 lead after two Peak free throws with 14:08 to go in the second half, the Musketeers countered with an 8-0 run, capped off by a Bluiett three pointer. However, the Hoyas would quickly erase any further thoughts of a Xavier lead, as Smith-Rivera buried a deep three as the shot clock ran down. After a Hayes made shot and a Xavier free throw, Peak provided a sequence true to his name, nailing a three before blocking a jumper that led to a run-out dunk with 9:40 to go.
From there, the Hoyas controlled the clock and lived at the stripe, knocking down 11 of 14 free throws down the stretch. Xavier cut the lead down to six with 1:50 to go and had a chance to make a single-possession game following a Peak turnover, but were unable to convert on the other end.
Breaking the press, a problem spot for the Hoyas in close games this season, came back to rear its ugly head in the closing minutes, as Georgetown committed four turnovers in the final two minutes of the game. However, the Musketeers were unable to buy a bucket off of the Hoya miscues, failing to turn any of the extra possessions into points.
Next up for the Hoyas is a matchup at Connecticut on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 12:00 p.m. and will be televised on CBS.