Talent hasn't been the issue. Execution and energy primarily held Georgetown back at times this season, including its two final home games of 2015. Based on their 2016 debut, the Hoyas are showing clear signs of improvement.
Marcus Derrickson scored 16 points and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera had 15 including Georgetown's last 12 points over the final 2:09 as the Hoyas fended off Marquette for an 80-70 win Saturday evening at Verizon Center.
Isaac Copeland and Jessie Govan each scored 11 points for the Hoyas (9-5, 2-0 Big East), who had lost their previous two home games. Georgetown made 22 of 23 free throws and led the Golden Eagles by 19 points with 19 minutes remaining.
With a varied and potent attack fueled by the frontcourt, Georgetown scored a season-high 49 points before halftime. The Hoyas then had their customary drought, one that lasted most of the second half until Smith-Rivera took over.
Scoreless in the first half, Smith-Rivera only had one basket and three points when Marquette pulled within 68-62 with 2:36 remaining.
He started his scoring surge with two free throws. After Marquette's heralded freshman Henry Ellenson countered with a jumper, Smith-Rivera drained a step-back jumper and made a twisting layup on Georgetown's next two possessions. He finished off the win with six more free throws. Smith-Rivera also had a career-high eight assists.
Marquette (10-4, 0-2) never mounted one furious comeback, but chipped away at Georgetown's lead throughout the second half. The Golden Eagles, coming off an 83-63 home loss against Seton Hall, shot 39 percent from the field. Duane Wilson scored 17 points.
With centers Bradley Hayes and Govan anchoring the interior defense, Georgetown held Ellenson, a projected NBA lottery pick, to 13 points on 4 of 15 shooting. Govan's physicality showed against the 6-foot-10 Ellenson and he finished with four blocks.
Georgetown shot 59.4 percent from the field for a 49-36 at halftime lead as Derrickson scored 13 points. After extending the lead to 55-36 with 18:49 remaining, the offense dried up. Georgetown scored two points over the next 10:30 before Reggie Cameron's four-point play pushed the lead to 61-49 with 8:15 left.
Georgetown opened Big East play with a 70-58 win at DePaul Wednesday, but dropped its previous two home games in surprise losses to Monmouth and UNC Asheville. The timid squad that lost to those schools and Radford didn't show in their Big East home opener.
* L.J. Peak remained in his sixth-role. Don't expect a change. The energetic sophomore had 10 points on 5 of 5 shooting.
* Georgetown outrebounded Marquette 39-28 as eight players grabbed at least three boards.
* Freshman swingman Kaleb Johnson had six rebounds in 12 minutes including three offensive. Beyond the stats, Johnson provides hustle and smarts which led to Georgetown coach John Thompson III providing an interesting comparison. "We’re only two games into conference play, but in the locker room, I told the guys, Kaleb reminded me, and has all year, if you can take the offensive component out of it, of Otto [Porter]. You would see Otto Porter running down long rebounds, you would see Otto Porter making the hustle plays and getting on the floor. Kaleb at this point is not the offensive player that Otto was, but as it related to the effort he puts out, the caring and the effect he has on the game and the energy he gives and the confidence he gives his teammates is something he’s very good at and hopefully other people will start to do that also."
* The Hoyas have won three straight over the Golden Eagles since coach Steve Wojciechowski took over last season and are 6-2 at Verizon Center in Big East play.
* The first half reminded all of the offensive potential with this roster. Even with starting guards Smith-Rivera and Tre Campbell combining for two points, the Hoyas flowed.
Derrickson, Govan and Copeland all made 3-pointers in the first half. With those types of threat in the frontcourt, the Hoyas can spread the court as modern basketball desires. Derrickson had 13 points and Copeland 11 while Peak went 4 for 4 for eight points. Those shooters opens lane for the slashing swingman whose best offensive moves involve attacking the rim.
* Considering how they labored during non-conference games, the Hoyas couldn't have asked for a better scheduling start with Big East play. Georgetown plays five games before facing any of the four teams ranked in the latest Associated Press poll -- Xavier, Villanova, Providence, Butler -- or 12-2 Seton Hall. If Georgetown can win Tuesday at Creighton, there's a good chance it can start 5-0 considering games against DePaul and at St. John's follow. The Red Storm under first-year coach Chris Mullin will challenge the Blue Demons for the conference basement. If the Hoyas keep rebuilding their confidence and defense, let's see what happens,
* Paul White did not play for a second straight game after re-aggravating a hip injury that kept him of the court for the first four games, CSNmidatlantic.com confirmed. No immediate schedule set for his return.
* Up next: At Creighton (10-5, 1-1) Tuesday.