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Georgetown holds on for ugly 37-36 win over Tennessee

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Sports,Brian McNally

Maybe it does not matter that Georgetown finished with 37 points. Forget about the ugly shooting percentage, the lone 3-point shot, the four made free throws. Forget that no Hoyas team had scored so few points in a game since 1984.

In the end, No. 20-ranked Georgetown was still better than Tennessee on Friday night, surviving a last-second 3-point shot by Jordan McRae to hang on for a 37-36 victory before a lively crowd at Verizon Center.

Where the Hoyas may ultimately pay for this choppy performance is in practice. They have to be better at the offensive end and Georgetown coach John Thompson III has some ammunition now to get his players' attention prior to Tuesday's game against Texas at Madison Square Garden in New York.

"That wasn't nice to watch? Some people would look at that as a thing of beauty," Thompson quipped afterwards. "I don't know that I've been part of a game like that, to tell you the truth."

Tennessee last held an opponent to fewer points in 1973 when it beat Temple in a stall ball game well before the NCAA implemented a shot clock. The Hoyas last scored 37 points in another 37-36 victory - that time in a second-round NCAA Tournament game against SMU in 1984. And yet the Volunteers (4-2) still couldn't take advantage on Friday. Hoyas guard Markel Starks hit a jumper with 4 minutes, 8 seconds left and the lead improbably held up. No one scored again.

Georgetown (5-1) wasn't much better than Tennessee at the offensive end. It shot 36.4 percent (16-for-44), was 1-of-7 from 3-point range and made just 4-of-9 free throws. The Volunteers were 15-for-46 (32.6 percent), made just 3-of-16 3-pointers and 3-of-11 free throws.

The Hoyas forced three turnovers in the final four minutes and on the last sequence hounded Tennessee shooter Skylar McBee into a contested 3-pointer that missed. On the ensuing inbounds play with under four seconds left McRae had an open shot to win it, but the ball clanged off the iron and Greg Whittington grabbed the rebound as time expired.

Thompson lamented his team's inability to score inside, especially in the first half. There were a handful of shots close to the rim that his players failed to finish. Early in the second half Georgetown opened a 31-23 lead with 12:12 to play on a Starks jumper. Part of that was an effective zone defense that made full use of the Hoyas' taller wing players.

They had trailed 18-16 at halftime after Volunteers guard Trae Golden was in position to catch a ball saved from going out-of-bounds and hit a fortunate floater in the lane at the buzzer. It didn't help that Georgetown point guard Markel Starks missed most of the first half after picking up two fouls in the first 2:11 and that Nate Lubick left after eight minutes with a painful left elbow injury. He was expected to undergo X-rays when the team returned to campus. Thompson said his junior forward had a tingling sensation in his fingers, but he didn't expect the injury to be a serious one.

"It's easy, particularly for a young team, that when you're not scoring to then not play defense, that when you're not scoring to then not focus and get stops," Thompson said. "And so - in as frustrating an offensive day that I can remember - we still got stops. We still focused on defense. That's not the worst thing in the world."

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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