With five games left in their conference campaign, Xavier begins their touch finishing stretch with a road game in Washington against Georgetown. In the season's first meeting, the Musketeers stormed back from a 17-point second half deficit, finishing the game on a 15-0 run en route to an 80-67 victory at the Cintas Center. To win the rematch, the road team must avoid the poor 3-point defense that helped Georgetown build their lead in the first meeting.
A poor 3-point shooting team, Georgetown ranks 270th nationally behind the arc, converting 32.1% of their attempts. As has been the case with many Xavier opponents this season, Georgetown disregarded their season percentages making 10 of their first 14 triples. Whether it was a Xavier defensive adjustment or regression to the mean, the Hoyas went ice cold over the last 16:45, missing all four of their 3-point attempts.
Georgetown hasn't shot over 40% behind the arc since an 8-20 output against Marquette on January 20th. Stopping former Xavier signee D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera is the best chance to stymie the Hoya perimeter attack. At 40.7%, Smith-Rivera is the only player on Georgetown's roster that has a season percentage of over 31%. Reggie Cameron is at 30.6% but presents a matchup problem, as Xavier's front court has struggled defending stretch 4s this season.
Offensively, Xavier has done many things well in conference play this season, leading the conference in free throw rate and placing second in offensive rebounding percentage. The Musketeers have been doomed in their losses by turnovers, and rank 9th in the Big East in turnover percentage, coughing the ball up on nearly 1/5th of total possessions. In their last three losses, Xavier has exceeded the season percentage, capped by a turnover rate of 31% in a loss to Marquette in which the Musketeers still managed 1.2 points per possession. In the first meeting, Xavier turned the ball over seven times in 63 possessions (11.1% TO Rate), and will be in good position to win Saturday if they are in that range.
With Josh Smith out for the remainder of the season due to academic issues, Xavier has a large advantage in front court play. In the first meeting, Xavier outrebounded the Hoyas by 11 and outscoring Georgetown 36-22 in the paint. The Musketeers have somewhat retooled their front court since the first meeting, with Erik Stenger getting 5-10 minutes in a starter role, with Jalen Reynolds taking James Farr's minutes as the third option in the front court rotation. Xavier relies heavily on Matt Stainbrook as a scorer and distributor, and the big man should get several touches in this matchup against the smaller Hoya forwards.
An early 2.5 point underdog, it is possible that Xavier will be underdogs in each of their remaining 5 contests. At 8-5 in conference play, a 2-3 record down the stretch would likely secure an at-large bid. While a road meeting with Seton Hall seems to be the most winnable of the remaining games, the front court mismatch in this contest provides a great opportunity for Chris Mack's team. An 11:30 start coupled with a struggling home team in a large arena might suggest a weak crowd. Regardless, Xavier cannot dig themselves a hole as they did in the first meeting, as they would not have the home crowd to help maintain energy.