Markel Starks scored 16 points and Mikael Hopkins chipped in with 10 as Georgetown picked up a win they desperately needed, knocking off No. 7 Michigan State, 64-60, at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
The Hoyas have been a mess this year. They entered the game having lost five straight games and six of their last seven. The only win the Hoyas currently have in Big East play came against Butler in overtime. They lost Josh Smith for the season due to academic struggles during that stretch. Moses Ayegba was suspended for a game. Jabril Trawick broke his jaw. It was ugly.
Which is what makes this win over the Spartans so important.
Georgetown still has time to turn this thing around. Their non-conference resume now consists of wins over Kansas State and VCU in addition to the win over the Spartans, which is about as good as you are going to find on the bubble. Their next five games — at DePaul, Butler, Providence, at Seton Hall, at St. John’s — are all winnable.
What Georgetown needed more than anything was a dose of confidence. This is clearly not one of John Thompson III’s best teams since he took over the program, but it’s not like this group doesn’t have some talent. Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera make up one of the best backcourts in the conference. The rest of the roster is at least serviceable, enough so that this should, on paper, be a team that can make the NCAA tournament.
The best-case scenario for the Hoyas seems very plausible. If they can build on this win — which came in a game where Smith-Rivera shot 2-for-11 from the floor — and take care of business in their next five games, they’ll end the season with a four-game stretch that can earn them that bubble berth: Xavier, at Marquette, Creighton, at Villanova.
The margin for error is minuscule, but this win gives the Hoyas life.
As far as the Spartans are concerned, this loss isn’t all that surprising.
Michigan State is without Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne, Keith Appling is banged up and they’re playing a game in the middle of Big Ten season in New York against a team that’s desperate to get the win.
In the long-run, this game doesn’t matter for the Spartans, and they played like it didn’t for too long. When a team is apathetic, when they don’t play as hard as they should, they’re prone to getting upset, especially when they are missing their two biggest, most athletic interior players.
This may as well have been a scrimmage for the Spartans.
But it was a season-changer for the Hoyas.
And the final score reflects that.