Georgetown's day started with news of a bad break involving center Bradley Hayes and only got worse from there against No. 20 Providence, falling behind by 26 points. That is until the Hoyas opened the second half with energy and offense, a combination that turned a blowout into an epic comeback. Yet with a big win needed to keep alive hopes of an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament, Georgetown ultimately came up short, falling 75-72 Saturday afternoon at Providence.
The Hoyas (14-12, 7-6 Big East) trailed 49-23 with 58 seconds left in the first half, but scored the final six points before halftime and that surge carried over. With Marcus Derrickson's production and L.J. Peak in attack mode, the deficit was 10 with 10 minutes left. The drama reached intense levels when a 3-pointer by Trey Mourning, one of the players stepping up with Hayes out because of a broken hand, closes the gap to 71-70 with 68 seconds left.
Meanwhile the mistake-prone Friars (19-7, 7-6) continued to implode. Leading 73-70, Providence fouled a 3-point shooter for the second time in the final minutes. Derrickson, who led the Hoyas with 18 points and nine rebounds, made all three attempts earlier in the rally. In the second instance, Isaac Copeland could only made two of three with 10 seconds left.
All of this occurred without virtually any scoring contribution from leading man D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera. His lone basket came on a 3-pointer with 2:47 left. After Providence's Ben Bentil hit two free throws with 8.1 seconds left, Smith-Rivera's game-tying 3-pointer from the right wing was blocked.
Peak and Jessie Govan each scored 13 points while Copeland added 12 and Mourning a career-high 10 for Georgetown which has now lost four of five games including two to Providence. Smith-Rivera had three points on 1 of 8 shooting.
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Providence won 73-69 at Verizon Center on Jan. 31 as standouts Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil each scored 26 points. In the rematch, the Friars' supporting cast delivered. Guard Rodney Bullock scored 18 of his 23 points in the first half and blocked Smith-Rivera's final shot. Dunn, the Big East Player of the Year favorite, finished with 20 and Bentil scored 18.
The Hoyas host Seton Hall Saturday. Georgetown lost 69-61 in the first meeting last week.
* While the Hoyas deserve credit for the second half fight, the big picture is now a fright. Outside of running the table with their five remaining regular season games, which includes matchups against No. 5 Xavier, Butler and at No. 1 Villanova, we are done viewing Georgetown as a bubble team. It's win the Big East Tournament for the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament or bust. The real question now is whether the Hoyas will even qualify for the NIT, which requires a .500 record at minimum. That means Georgetown must win at least two of its next six games, including the Big East Tournament opener. Based on opponents and location, there's a good chance the Hoyas won't be favored in any of those contests.
* There's also a good chance they won't play any of those games without Hayes. The big news pregame involved the big man as Georgetown announced the senior center underwent surgery after breaking his left hand in practice Thursday. The Hoyas' leading rebounder is out "indefinitely," but it would seem unlikely he returns before the regular season concludes March 1 at Villanova. Huge blow for the team as Hayes provided the bulk of their interior scoring, but also for a senior who made huge strides after largely sitting for three seasons.
* Georgetown went just shy of seven minutes without a point through the first half and Providence turned a 13-0 run into a 26-9 lead. Under coach John Thompson III, the Hoyas can get into bad habits of repetitive side-by-side passing rather than attacking the paint. Without Hayes inside and sans a true penetrating threat off the dribble, bad habits turned into offensive norm and resulted in zero flow during the first half The Hoyas shot 9 of 28 (32.1 percent) before halftime, but sank 53.3 percent of attempts in the second half.
* Smith-Rivera, Copeland and Peak combined for 67 points in Monday's against St John's and became the first trio of Hoyas with at least 20 points in the same game. None of three had a field goal until Copeland scored with 7:10 left in the first half.
* Govan replaced Hayes in the starting lineup, but quickly went to the bench with two fouls less than three minutes. The freshman eventually fouled out, but not before hitting 5 of 6 shot attempts. Both he and Mourning helped the offense with their perimeter shooting.
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