The Georgetown men’s basketball team (15-14, 5-11 Big East) lost its fourth straight game Sunday afternoon, falling to Xavier (19-10, 8-8 Big East) 66-63 in a heartbreaker that was close until the final buzzer. A 3-pointer from junior forward Naji Marshall was the game-winning bucket, as the Musketeers moved to .500 in conference play. Meanwhile, the Hoyas’ struggles continued without sophomore guard Mac McClung and senior center Omer Yurtseven. The game became a sloppy, physical battle as the two sides combined for 43 turnovers, but Xavier came out on top in large part due to the play of their forward combo of Marshall and senior Tyrique Jones, who combined for 48 points.
“We didn’t get some key stops, especially down the stretch,” Head Coach Patrick Ewing said. “Key rebounds too. Those hurt.”
Following an Xavier airball on the first possession, freshman center Qudus Wahab got inside for a short hook shot to open the scoring. The game was close at the outset and after a short layup off the glass from Musketeers freshman forward Zach Freemantle, the score was knotted at five points. From that point, the Hoya offense went cold and Xavier went on an 11-0 run up through the under-12 media timeout that included back-to-back 3-pointers off the bench for freshman guard Kyky Tandy. Graduate student guard Terrell Allen knocked down a three from the left corner to finally put an end to the run, but a minute later, the lead was back to 11 after a 3-pointer from junior guard Paul Scruggs.
Towards the end of the first half, both offenses struggled to make their shots, and the teams finished the half combining for just 18-of-57 from the field. Ewing decided to temporarily switch into a full-court press which worked to an extent as the Hoyas went on a 7-0 run over three minutes to get back into the game. A 3-pointer from Marshall put an end to Xavier’s lengthy scoring drought, but junior guard Jahvon Blair immediately responded with a floater on the other end. Marshall would convert once again, this time from inside the arc to bring the half to a close with the Musketeers on top, 28-22.
“Even though we weren’t scoring, they weren’t scoring either,” Ewing said of the first half. “We were doing a pretty good job on the defensive end. We just could not make shots.”
Georgetown came out of the intermission strong with a corner 3-pointer from junior forward Jamorko Pickett and a layup from senior guard Jagan Mosely quickly pulling the Hoyas back within one. After the team’s exchanged buckets, Xavier went on a 7-0 run highlighted by Scruggs’ second 3-pointer of the afternoon. Four minutes later, Jones muscled his way inside for a layup, but taunted the defense costing his squad two points after the technical foul. With eight minutes to go, Jones made another layup and continued to create problems for the Hoyas inside with back-to-back dunks a couple minutes later.
“[Jones] got it going in the second half for us,” Xavier Head Coach Travis Steele said of his big man who finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds. “I think when he gets going, he is the heart and soul of our team. I think he’s the best big man in the Big East.”
Despite their interior defensive problems and the game’s increased intensity, the Hoyas remained steady and Blair calmly knocked down his third 3-pointer of the afternoon to shrink the lead to 52-49. Georgetown continued to struggle to contain Jones and Marshall, but after back-to-back threes from Pickett and Blair, the Hoyas knotted the game at 61 points with a minute to go.
After a shooting foul by Pickett, Marshall converted on a pair of free throws to put his team back up two, but freshman center Timothy Ighoefe responded with a tap-in layup on the other end. With time running out, the ball came to Marshall at the top of the key and he knocked down the clutch triple to put Xavier up three with 4.5 seconds remaining.
“I’m going to ride and die with Naji [Marshall],” Steele said. “Naji’s a big-time player and he’s ready for that moment and he knocked it in.”
Needing to dribble the length of the floor, Allen pulled up for a highly contested 3-pointer but missed the potential game-tying attempt.
“The tough part about it is that the same shot that [Marshall] hit, Jahvon Blair hit and they called traveling on it, so it’s a hard pill to swallow,” Ewing said of Marshall’s final shot. “Can’t cry over spilled milk.”
Next up for the Hoyas is their final road matchup of the season as they travel to Omaha, NE for a game against Creighton (22-7, 11-5 Big East). Tip-off is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday. For live stats and a stream, go to guhoyas.com. For continued coverage of all Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.
Image Credits: John Picker/The Georgetown Voice