COLLEGE PARK -- So close.
Despite foul trouble, despite playing its first road game and doing so before a raucous crowd, despite the enormity of a rivalry renewed against No. 3 Maryland, Georgetown nearly did it. The Hoyas almost pulled off the perceived upset and simultaneously erase the nasty taste of the season opening loss to Radford.
Ultimately, almost wasn't good enough.
All five Georgetown starters scored in double figures, but Maryland All-American Melo Trimble had 24 points and the Terps overcame a late seven-point deficit to down the Hoyas 75-71 in the first scheduled game between the local programs since 1993.
The Hoyas fell to 0-2 for the first time since the 1998-99 season, which was the last with John Thompson Jr. on the bench. With games later this week in New York against Wisconsin and possibly Duke, starting the season with four straight losses is in play.
"There are a lot of things we know we have to go back and work on,"Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "It's a long road."
Bradley Hayes had 16 points and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera 14 for Georgetown. The Hoyas finished with more rebounds (36-28) than the Terps. They shot 42.1 percent (8 of 19) on 3-pointers and committed a survivable 12 turnovers.
They were also walloped at the free throw line. Maryland sank 23 of 32 compared to Georgetown's 9 of 12.
Trimble made more free throws (13) than Georgetown attempted including four straight in the final 12 seconds to seal the win after Rasheed Sulimon's 3-pointer broke a 68-68 tie with 1:12 remaining.
"I just think coming down towards the end there, they hit some big threes," Thompson said, though he later added, "The free throw shooting was the difference."
Isaac Copeland and Marcus Derrickson each scored 13 points and Peak had 12 for the Hoyas. Jake Layman had 15 for the Terps (2-0), Robert Carter 12 and Sulaimon finished with 10 points.
Georgetown entered its highly anticipated matchup at Maryland nine point underdog according to the Vegas oddsmakers. Most in the DMV projected much worse for the Hoyas. The basic logic? The Big East school lost its season opener at home to Big South program Radford. Maryland, the Big Ten favorites, are NCAA Tournament title contenders.
That story-line never played out. Instead, the Hoyas showed grit even when Smith-Rivera picked up his fourth foul with 14:06 remaining. His fellow senior Hayes picked up the scoring slack until he picked up his fourth foul.
Combined with guard Tre Campbell unable to play in the second half with an undisclosed illness and Paul White (hip) missing his second straight game, Thompson used numerous unconventional lineups for chunks of the final 20 minutes. Often only one guard was on the court with L.J Peak serving as the de facto point guard.
"We didn't have a choice," the coach explained.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon did and yet bizarrely passed on pressuring Georgetown.
Using a big lineup by default, the still Hoyas found success inside. Despite those absences, the Hoyas pulled ahead 61-54 on Isaac Copeland's jumper with 5:48 remaining. Smith-Rivera and Hayes soon returned, but so did Maryland's offense. Trimble's 3-pointer with 3:55 remaining tied the game.
Then came the haymakers and counter punches with the sellout crowd oohing and aahing with each turn.
Hayes hook. Jared Nickens floater.
Layman 3-pointer. Smith-Rivera matches.
Carter drives. Derrickson free throws. Sulaimon splashes from beyond the arc.
That 3-pointer wasn't a knockout blow, but Georgetown didn't recover. Hayes' hook on the next possession rimmed out. Then came the final Trimble free throws, though the small guard put himself in position to get fouled by coming up with an offensive rebound off his own miss.
"We have to figure out how to stop people and finish out the game," Copeland said.
Thompson had not interest in discussing moral victories, but in some ways Georgetown can feel optimistic compared to the 82-80 loss in double overtime to Radford.
The Hoyas avoided another lethargic start by scoring the opening nine points starting with a Smith-Rivera 3-pointer. The lead didn't last long, but a field goal drought did. Georgetown went eight minutes and five seconds without a basket until Smith-Rivera's 3-pointer tied the game 14-14 with 9:45 remaining. Another seven-point advantage soon followed as did a Maryland rally before the teams left the court tied at 33-33.
Every coach will tell you rebounding is about desire. The Hoyas showed little against the smaller Highlanders. There were no signs of passivity against Maryland's big frontline of Robert Carter and freshman Diamond Stone. The Hoyas outrebounded Maryland 21-13 in the second half.
During one stretch in the second half, Copeland saved a loose ball with a head first slide. On the next defensive possession, Smith-Rivera took a charge from the power-packed Carter. Moments later, Copeland blocked Stone at the rim and then raced back for a putback dunk. Hayes soon added his own stuff for a 43-37 lead.
Derrickson offered little help against Radford, but he found his range at Xfinity Center. The stretch-4 made three 3-pointers.
With so many missing pieces, Thompson went deep into his bench when he turned to seldom-used forward Trey Mourning and walk-on Riyan Williams. Even with such randomness, the Hoyas nearly defied the naysayers, until they didn't.
Now Georgetown faces Wisconsin on Friday followed by either Duke or VCU.
"We have an unforgiving schedule coming up," Thompson said. "It doesn't get any easier.