Ute-anized: Hoyas’ season ends at the hands of Utah in Third Round of NCAA Tournament
PORTLAND, OREGON — November can’t come soon enough.
The Georgetown men’s basketball team’s 2014-15 season came to an end Saturday night, as the four-seeded Hoyas (22-11, 12-6 Big East) fell to five-seed Utah (26-8, 13-5 Pac 12), 64-75, in front of 17,370 fans at the Moda Center.
A back-and-forth affair till the final few minutes, with six ties and seven lead changes, the Hoyas could not overcome the hot shooting of the Utes, who shot 58 percent from the field, including 8-of-14 from three-point range, to advance to their first Sweet 16 since 2007.
“It’s disappointing when your season comes to an end. It’s like everything. It’s sudden, it’s fast… It’s difficult.” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said during the post-game press conference following the loss.
Thompson had a simple message for his team in the locker room after the game.
“Just that I love ‘em,” Thompson said.
It was the final time seniors Jabril Trawick, Joshua Smith, Mikael Hopkins, Aaron Bowen, and Tyler Adams would ever wear a Georgetown uniform. Thompson had nothing but praise for them after loss.
“They’ve worked hard. They’ve given of themselves for the program, “ Thompson said. “I just think the important message was to thank them for the work they put in this year because it was a hard-working group that cared for each other, played for each other… I love ‘em.
In the contest, freshman forward L.J. Peak led the Hoyas, who had four players score in double-figures, with 18 points off 7-of-8 shooting tying his second-highest scoring total this season. Freshman forward Isaac Copeland scored 14 points, making 4-of-8 three-pointers, while Georgetown junior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera added 12 off 6-of-15 shooting. Smith-Rivera, however, did not make a three-pointer, 0-of-7 for the game, for just the fifth time this season.
The Hoyas came out rolling from the start, jumping out to 21-10 lead just over six minutes into the contest. The Blue and Gray made eight of their first 11 field goal attempts, including 6-of-9 from three-point range.
“We moved the ball well. Guards were getting open, cutting. Got us open a lot of the time,” said Smith-Rivera.
Trawick had all 10 of his points during the Hoyas’ first half run, showing a tremendous urgency in what turned out to be his final game, something that was difficult for him to grasp after the loss.
“I’m disappointed. But I still got my head high,” Trawick said. “I had a great time. It’s been a great experience for me.”
The Utes then tightened up defensively and answered with a run of their own, erupting for a 14-2 run over the next 2:57 to retake the lead, 24-23, at the 8:49 mark of the first half.
Georgetown and Utah, however, cooled off towards the end of the first half. The Hoyas missed their last eight field goal attempts, while the Utes only connected on two of their last eight attempts from the floor, as both teams entered halftime tied at 32.
“We went through a phase towards the end of the first half where we fell in love with shooting those jump shots and didn’t attack the rim enough and didn’t get the ball inside enough,” Thompson said.
The Hoyas’ complacency with the jump shot certainly manifested itself on the final stat sheet. The Blue and Gray only attempted nine free throws, only the second time this season the Hoyas attempted single-digit free-throws.
“At the time I remember saying, ‘we have to go inside,’” Thompson said.
The second half turned into a frame of short runs. The Utes opened the second half on a 11-4 run to take a 43-36 lead just 3:42 in, before the Hoyas responded with a quick 6-0 run to cut their deficit to one point, 43-42, at the 15:34 mark.
Utah then built their lead back up, 49-42 with a 6-0 run of their own over the next five minutes, before the Hoyas responded again by going on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 49 with 8:40 left in the contest.
Both teams played pretty evenly over the next five and a half minutes until the Utes used a 12-4 run over 3:11 to push their lead to 69-59 after a free throw from senior guard Delon Wright with 1:28 left in the game. The Hoyas were not able to recover.
Overall, the Utes had five players score in double-figures, as junior guard Brandon Taylor led the way with a team-high 14 points. Wright and freshman forward Jakob Poeltl each had 12 for Head Coach Larry Krystkowiak’s squad. The Utes’ 58 percent shooting from the floor was the highest percentage allowed by the Hoyas this season.
“We had some untimely mixups on defense, and they had some tough basketball players that made tough plays,” Thompson said. “They had key baskets when they needed them, and we didn’t get key stops.”
Although the Hoyas’ 2014-15 season concluded, they still have optimism for next year, especially Trawick, despite him graduating this coming May. The team will, in all likelihood, return Smith-Rivera, an All-Big East 1st Team selection this season, as well as the freshmen core of Copeland and Peak, both All-Big East Rookie Team selections, forward Paul White, and guard Tre Campbell.
“I think the group that they got, the guys coming back, it’s going to be a special team next year,” Trawick said.
Photo: Evan Chvotkin