Cold shooting, weak defense plague MU in loss to Georgetown

Golden Eagles fall to 0-2 in conference with matchups against 3 ranked teams looming

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Cold shooting, weak defense plague MU in loss to Georgetown

Photo by Doug Peters/douglas.peters@marquette.edu

Photo by Doug Peters/douglas.peters@marquette.edu

Photo by Doug Peters/douglas.peters@marquette.edu

Photo by Doug Peters/douglas.peters@marquette.edu

Andrew Goldstein, andrew.goldstein@mu.edu

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Limited frontcourt production, sloppy defense and overall inconsistency marred the Marquette once again in an 80-70 road loss to Georgetown Saturday night.

“I don’t know if our guys have (adjusted) to the fact that we’re playing in the best conference in the United States,” Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “You have to put in 40 minutes of amazing effort and concentration… and we’re not playing at that level. And I don’t know why we haven’t made that adjustment.”

Defensive lapses that went unpunished in Marquette’s relatively light non-conference schedule were exploited by the Hoyas. Most of those lapses occurred in the first half, a period in which Georgetown shot just under 60 percent from the field. Marquette’s interior defenders were repeatedly caught out of position and there was often a glaring lack of help-side defense, which led to Georgetown going on a 15-2 run in three-and-a-half minutes to open up a 13-point lead 10 minutes in.

“I thought we were playing very slow and lethargic on defense in the first half,” Wojciechowski said. “If you’re not really laying it on the line on the defensive end, you’re not going to get the outcomes you want.”

Game takeaways: Staff notes from Marquette’s loss to Georgetown

Wojciechowski extension: Coach signed through 2021-’22

That lethargy continued for the next 10 minutes and allowed Georgetown to go on another 11-2 run near the end of the half. The Hoyas stretched their lead to 17 before a free throw from freshman power forward Henry Ellenson and a three-pointer from redshirt sophomore guard Duane Wilson cut the halftime score to 49-36. Georgetown menaced Marquette in the post, out-rebounding the Golden Eagles 21-13 and blocking six shots.

“We did a good job paying attention and executing our scouting report defensively,” said Georgetown head coach John Thompson III. “I think our guys were attentive on both Henry (Ellenson) and (junior center Luke) Fischer.”

Marquette opened the second half by ceding two three-pointers in quick succession as Georgetown opened up a 19-point lead, its largest of the evening. However, just as it looked like Georgetown was poised to run away with the game, Marquette hunkered down on defense. The Hoyas made only one field goal in the 10 minutes following the second three-pointer. Passing and driving lanes that were wide open earlier in the evening were suddenly full of Marquette hands, which led to 12 Georgetown turnovers in the second half as opposed to only four in the first half. The Hoyas weren’t that much better when they held on to the ball; they shot a paltry 33.3 percent after the intermission.

“I thought we played harder, and if you play harder, you’re going to be more disruptive defensively,” Wojciechowski said of his second-half defense.

Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, their offense was also sluggish for prolonged stretches of the second half. After sophomore Sandy Cohen sank two free throws to cut the deficit to eight with twelve-and-a-half minutes left in the half, Marquette did not score another point until a Fischer layup with just over seven minutes to go. During that stretch, Marquette went 0-of-6 from the field. A four-point play from Georgetown junior Reggie Cameron with just over eight minutes left increased Georgetown’s lead to 61-49 and put Marquette back on the defensive.

Marquette’s troubles were only exacerbated when Georgetown guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera began to assert himself. The Hoyas’ leading scorer, content to set up his hot-shooting teammates in the first half, made a difference in the scoring column down the stretch. He scored Georgetown’s last 12 points and went 8-for-8 from the foul line. He finished the night with 15 points despite not having any points in the first half. The senior also had eight assists.

“I know this group in particular can score the ball,” Smith-Rivera said. “We have a lot of guys who can shoot and a lot guys who are quick with cuts. Offensively, we’re a really explosive team.”

This loss does not bode well for Marquette’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament. Marquette’s weak non-conference schedule – 338th strongest out of 351 Division I programs – means the team needs a strong showing in BIG EAST play. The Golden Eagles are currently 10-4 and 0-2 in conference play with three of their next four games against teams that are among the top-20 in the country. It is still relatively early in the season and Marquette has time to revive its tournament hopes, but two losses against middle-tier BIG EAST teams does not help Marquette’s resume in the slightest.

The Golden Eagles do not have a lot of time to recuperate –- they will be back in action Tuesday at No. 12 Providence. The Friars are 14-1 and 2-0 in BIG EAST play.

Game notes:

  • Five different Hoyas scored in double-figures, led by freshman forward Marcus Derrickson with 16 points. Marquette had four players with double-digit point totals, with Duane Wilson’s 17 points leading the way.
  • Henry Ellenson had another night to forget in terms of shooting. He shot 4-15 from the floor after going 3-14 against Seton Hall on Wednesday. His jumper was relatively smooth, but he struggled to finish around the hoop, especially with multiple defenders in the vicinity. Ellenson did finish with 13 points and he snagged seven rebounds.
  • Wojciechowski tried something a little bit different when he inserted freshman center Matt Heldt into the game just six minutes into the half. Previously, Heldt had only averaged five minutes per game and was usually reserved for end-of-game duty in assured victories or losses. When asked about the decision after the game, Wojo justified his decision by saying that Heldt had been practicing well and Fischer looked a little bit tired. Heldt played two minutes and recorded one rebound.