The Georgetown men's basketball team, having lost its first two games of the season, is occupying rare and unwanted territory. With games against Wisconsin and possibly Duke on deck, the road to win number one isn't without obstacles -- and actually leads out of town. At least the destination is familiar.
Less than 48 hours after falling at No. 3 Maryland, the Hoyas (0-2) met with the media Thursday before trekking north for Friday's opening game of the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden. The first of two games in New York -- Georgetown will face either Duke or VCU Sunday -- provides the Hoyas a chance to avoid an 0-3 start for the first time in program history. That history began in 1906.
The Big East power shockingly lost its season opener to Radford from the Big South 82-80 in double overtime on Saturday before losing a late lead in Tuesday's 75-71 loss at Maryland.
"We have to improve on the fly," coach John Thompson III stated.
However, not all are making the trip. Sophomore guard Tre Campbell is not expected to join the team in New York due to an "undisclosed illness," Thompson said. Campbell did not play in the second half of the first regularly scheduled meeting against the Terps since 1993. He and starter D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who sat for over 10 minutes against Maryland because of foul trouble, are the only primary ball handlers on the roster.
“People have got to step up. That’s it,” Smith-Rivera said. “We know he’s down right now. When he gets back, we’ll be happy he’s back, but for right now we just need people to pick up where he left off.”
Meanwhile the status of sophomore forward Paul White, who missed the opening two games with a sore hip, remains uncertain. While Thompson said Thursday he was hopeful White would be able to face Wisconsin, the coach had similar thoughts before meeting Maryland. All of those absences forced a slew of bizarre lineups and the numerous underclassmen into spotlight roles.
All of this and the season is just one week old. The campaign will get late quick if the team doesn't start putting some W's on the board. Regardless of who takes the court against the Badgers for Friday's 5:00 p.m. tip-off, it's an all hands on deck situation, though the coach remain unpanicked.
"We just have to get better," Thompson said. "We aren't [thinking] let's not let two [losses] get to four. It's let go out and play well the next game. Let's go out and play well the next half, the next possession. If we take care of that, the big picture will take care of itself.
"Is there a sense of urgency, yeah, but there always is. I'm glad to get back on the court and they're ready to get back on the court and we'll get back on the court [Friday]."
Georgetown stepped up its game and energy against Maryland after lacking vigor versus undersized Radford. The Hoyas dominated the boards in the second half against the Terps and led 61-54 with 5:45 remaining. After a 7-0 run by Maryland, the teams traded a series of baskets until Rasheed Sulaimon's 3-pointer with over a minute remaining put the Terps up for good.
“I feel like that last game slipped away from us,” said senior center Bradley Hayes, who had 16 points and eight rebounds. “We played real hard, but we had some slip-ups, and it cost us the game, so now everybody is really hungry to get out here and get this first win.”
Wisconsin, national finalists last season, endured its own surprise season opening loss. After losing 69-67 to Western Illinois in their initial game without 2015 NBA first round picks Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, the Badgers (2-1) defeated Siena and North Dakota by at least 14 points.
Point guard and 3-point threat Bronson Koeing (19.0 ppg) along with versatile forward Nigel Hayes are among the few main pieces returning from last season's team that lost in the national title game to Duke. Coach Bo Ryan is back which means the Hoyas will face a dogged team on both ends of the court.
They will do so at their home away from home.
"It is that," Thompson said of Madison Square Garden, site of the annual Big East Tournament and a place Georgetown often plays at least once during the regular season. "When you think about Georgetown basketball...a lot of those memories are linked in with Madison Square Garden. We like going up there."
The Hoyas certainly have won many big games over the years at MSG. They certainly could use one Friday.