Sports

“Horrific:” Hoyas’ lethargic defense squanders winnable Xavier matchup

March 3, 2024


Photo by Daniel Rankin

Ed Cooley’s Georgetown Hoyas (9-20, 2-16 BIG EAST) crashed and burned in the second half against the visiting Xavier Musketeers (15-14, 9-9 BIG EAST) on Saturday night, giving up a total 48 points in the paint and 34 from the line and blowing a 12-point halftime lead 98-93.

After a first half that saw the Hoyas hit eight threes to take a surprising double-digit lead going into the locker room, Cooley’s men came back out without a defensive gameplan, and quickly got punished for it. Xavier head coach Sean Miller limited his team’s threes in the second half to six, instead directing them toward the paint, where they got with relative ease thanks to lax perimeter defense by the Hoya guards. Sophomore guard Desmond Claude led the charge for the Musketeers, scoring 36 with four assists and only four shots attempted outside the paint.

The Musketeers’ aggression led the Hoyas to foul early and often, a recipe that has not served them well throughout BIG EAST play this year. Xavier got into the bonus with 12 minutes to go in the second half, and ended up shooting a ridiculous 29 free throws in the period. The Hoyas, on the other hand, were afforded 22 throughout the whole game, drawing the ire of fans in the arena, though the disparity could be ascribed just as much to Georgetown’s difficulty getting into the paint as to refereeing.

Photo by Daniel Rankin

Were the product in the first half similar to the second, there would not be much to remark upon in this game. Conceding shots in the paint and preventable fouls have been recurring woes for the Hoyas. However, given how the first half went, establishing a solid lead thanks to hot shooting and great guard play from freshman Rowan Brumbaugh, it was particularly discouraging to see Georgetown fall back into the same bad habits to eventually give the game away.

Brumbaugh notched 12 points in the first half on 5/7 shooting, on his way to a career high 24 points in the game. He seemed to have improved his confidence with the ball in his fourth straight start, something that had limited his minutes early in conference play. The team shot an impressive 8 for 13 from three before the break (including 3/4 for senior guard Jay Heath off the bench), some of their best shooting this season and the main reason they were able to take a 12 point lead into halftime.

Photo by Daniel Rankin

 

The shooting cooled off in the second half, though 5/12 is still nothing to scoff at. What really killed morale was the fouling: the Hoyas built a lead from beyond the arc, then had to see it walked back down from the line thanks to their own poor decision-making. In one stretch late in the second half, Xavier closed the Hoyas’ eight point lead down to two with five straight trips to the free throw line—almost three whole minutes without a Musketeer attempted field goal. Junior guard Dontrez Styles fouled out during that stretch, kneecapping Georgetown’s offense and making a further collapse seem inevitable.

Sure enough, a further collapse soon followed. A couple Georgetown turnovers and Xavier layups later, and it was the Hoyas looking to close the gap as the clock was winding down. With 1:23 to go, Xavier’s senior guard Dayvion McKnight hit a three to extend their lead to six and prompt a desperation timeout from Cooley to essentially end the game. It was the first field goal Xavier had attempted from outside of the paint in almost seven minutes, and one of their team’s only four 3-point makes in the entire game. Saturday night was the first time in at least 20 years, likely ever, that the Hoyas allowed 98 points despite allowing fewer than five 3s.

Photo by Daniel Rankin

“You score 93 points, you’re supposed to win the game,” Cooley said in his postgame remarks, lambasting his team’s defensive performance. “Absolutely horrific, horrific attention to detail.”

“I’m tired of coming in here and repeating the same thing,” he added.

When asked what the answer was for lackadaisical defense, Cooley had a succinct answer: “Recruiting.”

The new head coach has just two more bites at the apple in regular season play before he brings his team to Madison Square Garden for the BIG EAST Tournament on March 13, having clinched a Wednesday first-round game long, long ago by failing to place in the top five of the conference. One has to imagine he’ll be having the Hoyas study intently the first half tape for what to do on offense, and burn into their minds the second half tape for what not to do on defense, before they go up against what Cooley called a “desperate” Providence team on Tuesday.

The matchup against Cooley’s former team, in which both the Friars’ last shred of bubble hopes and Georgetown’s last shred of dignity hang in the balance, will tip off at 7:00 P.M. Tuesday night at Capital One Arena and will be televised on FS1. For coverage of that game and all things Georgetown basketball, follow us on Twitter at @GUVoiceSports.


Graham Krewinghaus
Graham was the editor-in-chief for the Spring 2024 semester. He cares too much about the Boston Celtics, and the proper amount about the Georgetown Voice.


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