Marquette faces another make-or-break game in Georgetown

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Photo by Valeria Cardenas/valeria.cardenas@marquette.edu

Photo by Valeria Cardenas/valeria.cardenas@marquette.edu

The momentum is in Marquette’s favor, and now the men’s basketball team needs to capitalize on perhaps its most important week of the season.

Marquette and Georgetown meet tonight at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in the first of a critical four-game stretch for the Golden Eagles. Marquette will play its remaining games at Villanova and Providence and at home against St. John’s.

Since dropping to 4-5 in the Big East and having foggy chances of a turnaround, Marquette came to life and won four of its last five games.

The hot streak will need to continue Thursday night, not only for the sake of a favorable Big East Tournament seed, but also for postseason implications.

“It’s going to be another pivotal game, it always is,” Marquette senior Jamil Wilson said. “We’re going to get our practice, continue our worker’s mentality, continue to get better, because I feel like we are as a team.”

The Golden Eagles topped the Hoyas in overtime in the last meeting Jan. 20. Marquette junior Todd Mayo made a three-pointer with 6.3 seconds left in regulation to tie the game, and the Golden Eagles carried the momentum with a 7-0 run to start the extra period.

Georgetown enters Thursday night coming off a dominant win, clobbering Xavier 74-52 Saturday. The Hoyas are 7-8 and are in desperate need of a quality road win.

Georgetown has arguably the most difficult remaining schedule of all the Big East teams; after Marquette, the Hoyas host No. 9 Creighton and close the season at No. 8 Villanova.

Marquette coach Buzz Williams understands both teams have plenty riding on Thursday’s contest. Combining the postseason impact and Georgetown’s desire to avenge the overtime defeat will result in a recipe for an intriguing matchup.

“The antidote to all of it is to win, because if you don’t win then you’re not in the mix,” Williams said Saturday after Marquette’s win at DePaul. “Supposedly, when Georgetown got beat Thursday night (at Seton Hall) they were done, and then I look at the scores leaving the locker room and felt like they played pretty well.”

Georgetown senior Markel Starks is a difference maker on the offensive end as of late. Starks scored in double digits the past 10 games, eclipsing the 20-point barrier five times. He scored a season-high 28 points against Marquette, shooting 4-of-8 from three-point land and 10-of-21 overall.

The Hoyas and Golden Eagles are the two worst three-point shooting teams in the Big East. Marquette found a rhythm in the post Saturday and outscored DePaul 48-26 in the paint. Georgetown averages 22.2 fouls per game, good for second-most in the conference. Marquette will need to drive inside early and often to win.

The Golden Eagles travel to Villanova Sunday in what will be Marquette’s final chance to secure a truly valuable road victory. The team plays at Providence Tuesday and closes the regular season next Saturday when it hosts St. John’s.

It would be simple for a team in an upcoming make-or-break week to succumb to the accompanying tension. That won’t be in Williams’ plans; the pressure of being on the outside looking in can be less stressful than the other way around.

“It should be a fun couple of weeks,” Williams said. “How it all plays out, I don’t think anybody knows. I still think five teams from our league are going to the tournament. I think if you really study the numbers, I think they speak for themselves. I know everybody’s already discounted us out, but that’s somewhat been the story of my career and a lot of the careers of the kids that are on our team.”