Commentary

Instant Analysis: G'town-Marquette

Originally Published: March 1, 2008
By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com

MILWAUKEE -- ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg provides instant analysis from Georgetown's 70-68 overtime win over Marquette on Saturday.

The Gamblers
Georgetown's win over Marquette is just the latest in a line of Hoya controversial victories. Adam Rittenberg

Game analysis


Villanova can feel Marquette's pain. The Golden Eagles had Georgetown beat before two controversial foul calls in the final 11 seconds sent the game into overtime. From there, the Hoyas took over behind Jonathan Wallace and Roy Hibbert. Conspiracy theories will continue about the team from the nation's capital, but give the Hoyas credit. They overcame unbelievably sloppy play to convert when it counted and escape with a share of the Big East lead still intact.

HOW THE GAME WAS WON: The foreshadowing at the foul line was instantly recognizable. Marquette missed free throw after free throw in the first half, allowing Georgetown to stay close. The Golden Eagles finally got things together late in the second half, but two questionable foul calls by official John Cahill allowed Georgetown to send the game into overtime by making four free throws in the final 11.2 seconds. Georgetown finished the game 21-for-28 at the line, enough for the big road victory.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: He had a great game and also a terrible game, but Georgetown's Wallace certainly will take the final result. After looking surprisingly rattled for the first 35 minutes, the senior leader came alive in crunch time. He drew a debatable foul on Dominic James with 2.8 second left in regulation and with the Bradley Center quaking, hit all three foul shots to send the game into overtime. Wallace finished with 20 points on 5-of-10 shooting and went 8-for-10 at the foul line. Finishes like that could take Georgetown a long way in the NCAA Tournament.

PLAYER OF THE GAME II: After a solid yet unspectacular performance during Marquette's five-game winning streak, guard Wesley Matthews turned in his best game of the season. The junior scored a season-high 22 points on 6-of-11 shooting. He scored 15 points in the first half, and much like backcourt mates James and Jerel McNeal, consistently got to the basket and converted against Georgetown's big men.

BEST PLAYER ON THE FLOOR: Marquette's McNeal showed why he's been the team's steadiest player this season. After Georgetown tied the game at 35-35, McNeal scored five consecutive points, including a gutsy three-point play, to give the Golden Eagles some breathing room again. The do-it-all junior finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

COMING UP EMPTY: Marquette forward Lazar Hayward, the team's second leading scorer (13.4 ppg), went scoreless for the first time this season after tallying 15 points in each of his last two games. Hayward went 0-of-8 from the floor.

STAT OF THE GAME: Georgetown matched its season high with 21 turnovers, which Marquette converted into 26 points.

WHAT IT MEANS: Before Saturday, Georgetown's road résumé looked surprisingly bare heading into the NCAA Tournament. The Hoyas had only one quality road victory in Big East play (a one-point squeaker against West Virginia on Jan. 26) but boosted their confidence away from Washington, D.C., by shocking Marquette, which was 14-1 at the Bradley Center this season. Marquette could have kept pace with Louisville as the league's hottest team, but suffered a demoralizing loss that could linger for some time. The Golden Eagles' free-throw shooting should raise a red flag heading into the NCAA Tournament.

SURPRISE STARTER: With guard Austin Freeman nursing an ankle injury suffered in Friday's practice, Patrick Ewing Jr. made his first start since Jan. 30 and just his second in Big East play. The senior forward turned in an excellent all-around effort with seven points, nine rebounds and three assists. His 3-pointer from the top of the key sparked a 9-1 Georgetown run late in the game. He fed Wallace on a backcut for a layup that put Georgetown up 56-55 with 3:32 left -- the team's first lead since the opening minutes.

BAD OMEN: When Freeman's name wasn't called in pre-game introductions, Georgetown's backcourt suddenly looked suspect. The freshman rolled his ankle in Friday's practice and didn't start for the first time since Dec. 29 against American. Though Freeman entered the game early in the first half, Georgetown never established synergy with its guards.

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS: At the first media timeout of the second half, actor and known USC fan Will Ferrell appeared on the Jumbotron and led a "We Are (clap clap) Marquette" chant. His allegiances must only apply to football. … Marquette students also held up giant cardboard cutouts of Georgetown coach John Thompson III's head. … Late in the game, Georgetown guard Jessie Sapp had to restrain Georgetown assistant coach Robert Burke from going too far onto the court as he made defensive signals.

First-half analysis


TURNING POINT: Speed overcame size as Marquette scored eight of its first 12 points on the break and surged out to a 17-12 lead, taking a 32-28 lead into the break. The Golden Eagles, who rank 16th nationally in steals (9.6 spg), flummoxed Georgetown with their mettlesome defense. Georgetown, which had seemed to put its sloppy play in the past, committed seven turnovers in the first 7:45 and finished with 12 for the half. Marquette converted those miscues into 14 points. Led by guards Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal, Marquette led for the final 14:28 and should have been up much more than its four-point advantage at halftime.

TURNING POINT II: Georgetown amazingly avoided a sizable halftime deficit thanks to its standard defensive excellence and Marquette's unconscionable free-throw shooting. The Golden Eagles, who entered the game ranked fourth in the Big East in free-throw shooting percentage (71.2), missed seven of their first eight attempts from the line. Georgetown stayed close behind reserve guard Jeremiah Rivers and put itself in position for a second-half rally.

PLAYER OF THE HALF: Matthews ignited for 15 points in the first half for Marquette, eclipsing his scoring total from the previous six games. Often overlooked in a backcourt boasting top scorer Dominic James and touted defender McNeal, Matthews took center stage, hitting 6-of-8 shots. He gave the Golden Eagles a 12-10 lead on an alley-oop slam with 14:28 left in the first half. The 6-foot-5 junior sparked a 9-3 run with two 3-pointers, then fed teammate Dan Fitzgerald for another long-distance shot. After Georgetown closed to within 29-28, Matthews put back Trevor Mbakwe's miss on the break and drew a foul with 1:06 left.

PLAYER OF THE HALF II: After Marquette played highlights of his father, Doc, during pregame introductions, Georgetown reserve guard Jeremiah Rivers silenced the crowd with six first-half points. Rivers boosted a backcourt that looked shaky without a healthy Freeman by keeping the Hoyas close.

STAT OF THE HALF: Marquette offset Georgetown's miserable ballhandling by shooting 3-for-10 from the free-throw line. Normally reliable guards James and McNeal combined to go 1-for-7 from the charity stripe.

Adam Rittenberg covers college football and college basketball for ESPN.com. He can be reached at espnritt@gmail.com

ALSO SEE