Wrecked By Ralphie: Colorado Blows the Doors off Georgetown in Somber Return to NCAA Tournament

March 20, 2021

Photo Courtesy of GUHoyas

The Georgetown men’s basketball team was blitzed by Colorado in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, losing 96-73 at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The sweet-shooting Buffaloes (23-8, 14-6 Pac-12) made it look all too easy on their way to the Round of 32, knocking down 16 of 25 three-point attempts and assisting on 27 of their 34 field goals. Georgetown (13-13, 7-9 Big East) took a series of Colorado runs on the chin in the first half and was never able to adjust defensively to tighten things up. The Hoyas had been playing with house money since the Big East Tournament quarterfinals against Villanova, but it would have been difficult to envision such a demoralizing forty minutes after the Blue & Gray’s miracle run to hoist the trophy in New York.

“The things we were doing great in the Big East Tournament, we were not doing today,” Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing said. “Right now, it’s a hard pill to swallow.”

The first half started innocently enough, as a steal and lay-in from graduate forward Chudier Bile put the Hoyas on the board first, while freshman guard Dante Harris added a difficult three-pointer as the shot clock expired to knot the game at seven. Both teams established their half-court identities early, as Georgetown looked to feed sophomore center Qudus Wahab, matched up against a relatively undersized Buffaloes frontcourt, while Tad Boyle’s team spaced the floor, letting its guards drive and kick.

After the touch-and-go opening stages, Colorado seized control of the game, taking a grip that didn’t encounter nearly enough pushback from the Blue & Gray. Senior guard McKinley Wright IV pulled the strings for the Buffs, racking up four quick assists before hitting a three of his own to cap a 10-0 run immediately after the Harris three. With Wahab being spelled by sophomore center Timothy Ighoefe at 13:32, the Hoyas began playing too much iso-ball, often having to settle for contested midrange and three-point looks. 

Meanwhile, the 10-0 run was only the start of the Buffs’ offensive onslaught. Center Jabari Walker, who entered the game having attempted only 37 three-pointers all season, found himself overlooked by the Hoyas’ defensive rotations, and the freshman responded in kind. Camped on the perimeter while a guard (usually Wright or junior guard D’Shawn Schwartz) penetrated, the freshman hit three three-pointers in a two-minute span to push the score to 28-15.

The Hoyas squandered an opportunity to keep things within shouting distance when both Wright and Walker went to the bench after the under-eight timeout. Instead, Boyle reinserted the two for a final first-half push, and the Buffaloes just about wrote their name into the Round of 32 before the intermission. A lax Hoyas press ceded open looks of all shapes and sizes, allowing Schwartz to take his star turn, as the junior converted all four of his three-point tries in the last five minutes of the half. It was a dominant stretch that made the Buffs look like a Final Four contender with Georgetown serving as the backups they were scrimmaging.

“Our goal was to defend inside-out,” graduate student guard Donald Carey said. “But we didn’t get to the three-point line.”

The first half mercifully ended with Georgetown trailing 47-23 after a 16-4 Buffs run. Colorado shot 11-for-17 from behind the three-point arc, assisting on fifteen of their sixteen field goals while committing only three turnovers. The Hoyas didn’t look lost or even necessarily overmatched – they just clearly had not game-planned properly and failed to adapt even as the Buffs unleashed a barrage of threes.

“I think that was a shock to all of us,” Carey said when asked about CU’s shooting.

The second half was a track meet that the Buffaloes started with an insurmountable head start. Georgetown looked better offensively, matching their first-half point total in the first 9:18 of the final frame. Senior forward Jamorko Pickett showed assertiveness while Wahab continued to dutifully plow home buckets in the paint. Defensively, however, the Hoyas were in ruins. It was just kind of a Midas touch day for Colorado to an extent, but the Buffs deserved every ounce of their lead.

The Hoyas couldn’t outscore their poor defense and never threatened to sink the Colorado lead to single digits, and that was that. A week ago today Georgetown experienced the highest of highs when they blasted Creighton to capture the Big East Tournament championship, and today they felt the lowest of lows. This one will sting because it’s the Big Dance and the Blue & Gray were outclassed by a margin fit for the 1 vs. 16 seed matchups. After that wears off, though, it will be time to celebrate this team again. Twelve months ago and even twelve days ago, you would be right if you said Georgetown had no business being anywhere near Indianapolis this week. They were picked last in the Big East poll. They had nine newcomers and had to navigate a COVID pause just weeks into the season. The player slated to be their lead guard left for greener pastures. But sometimes funny things happen in college basketball. Stir enough of them together, and you have Coach Ewing’s famous gumbo and a whole new type of (deserved) optimism for the future of the program.

As Ewing said postgame: “our book is still being written.”

Follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter for coverage of all spring sports on the Hilltop.

Will Shanahan
is a senior in the McDonough School of Business, and former Sports Executive and Editor of The Voice. He spends his days plotting visits to downstairs Leo's when the omelet line will be short and trying to recall memories of his middling high school football career.

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