The Big East looks strong again, and there won’t be any arguments about that from Marquette. Georgetown, though, is still waiting to be tested.
The Golden Eagles continue a difficult opening stretch to conference play Wednesday night when they host the No. 12 Hoyas, who were swept by Marquette last season.
The Big East had three top seeds in the NCAA tournament and two teams reach the Final Four in 2009. This season, six teams are ranked in the Top 25 and Marquette (9-5, 0-2) may have the toughest run of games to start league play with four straight against ranked opponents.
The Golden Eagles have never began 0-3 in Big East play as they try to shake off two difficult losses. They fell 63-62 on a last-second shot to then-No. 6 West Virginia on Dec. 29 and had their Big East home opener spoiled by then-No. 8 Villanova in a 74-72 loss on another late shot.
“We can get better, or we can get bitter,” coach Buzz Williams said.
Marquette has been hampered by poor late-game foul shooting in both losses. Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler each missed the front end of 1-and-1 opportunities before Da’Sean Butler’s winning basket at West Virginia.
Johnson-Odom missed a pair and Lazar Hayward made 1 of 2 down the stretch against Villanova.
“If we keep working the way we’re working, something has to give, something has to change,” Hayward said. “We can’t keep working as hard as we are, and things like this keep happening.”
Georgetown (11-1, 2-0) is having an easier start within the Big East with its first three opponents 0-6 in conference play to this point. The Hoyas are trying to sweep a two-game road trip after an easy 67-50 win over DePaul on Sunday.
Chris Wright scored 18 and Austin Freeman had 17 for the Hoyas, who had four players in double figures and shot a season-high 57.1 percent.
“We just tried to outplay them, outwork them,” Freeman said. “It was just something our whole team was focused on.”
The Hoyas went 3-6 in Big East road games a season ago as part of a 7-11 record. It was a major reason Georgetown failed to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years.
“This is the Big East. To get a road win is as good as it gets,” coach John Thompson III said. “I think we will get better and that’s part of it.”
Wright is one of the hottest players in the conference, averaging 24.3 points on 64.3 shooting during the Hoyas’ three-game win streak. Freeman is averaging 17.7 points on 56.8 percent shooting in that span.
The guards have taken the pressure off center Greg Monroe, who has been the focal point of defenses and is averaging 12.5 points through two conference games.
The Hoyas lost both meetings to the Golden Eagles last season despite shooting 53.6 percent. Marquette shot 56 free throws compared to 24 for Georgetown.