Staring at the stat sheet, Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson III struggled to think of a game like the one his team played against Tennessee.
Georgetown (5-1) put up just 37 points. The Hoyas shot just 36 percent from the field and 44 percent from the free throw line. They didn’t score a single basket in the final four minutes.
And they won.
On a night when baskets were hard to come by, No. 20 Georgetown defeated Tennessee 37-36 in the SEC/ BIG EAST Challenge Friday night at Verizon Center.
“I’ve never been a part of a game like this,” Thompson said, shaking his head. “I don’t there’s any way if you just look at the numbers and the stat sheets and say we won the game before the game, I’d say you’re crazy. I think it’s virtually impossible.”
Finally Thompson remembered a lower-scoring affair.
“Actually, I have been a part of a game like this …” Thompson paused. “I think I was eight playing on St. Anthony’s. The game ended 13 to 11.”
“I had 10,” he added with a laugh.
That was more than could be said for any player on either team. Not a single player broke double digits.
Sophomore forwards Otto Porter and Greg Whittington led the Hoyas with eight points and seven rebounds each. Mikael Hopkins added eight points and six rebounds.
“The shots are going to fall,” said Porter. “As long as we’re taking good shots. I think we don’t have a problem with that.”
The Volunteers (4-2) fared even worse, shooting 33 percent from the field and 27 percent from the free throw line. Georgetown switched from man to zone defense late in the first half, putting even more pressure on Volunteers to shoot well from beyond the arc.
“At the end of the day, we knew it would be a grimy type of game, because we knew they played a zone. But for us, we wanted to get out of here with the ‘W,’ ” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. “We came up short.”
After shooting 27 percent from the field in the first half, Georgetown appeared to come out of its cold-stretch in the early second half and pulled ahead 31-23 with about 12 minutes to play. But they were held scoreless over the next four minutes as Tennessee guard Skylar McBee took the lead for the Volunteers, 32-31.
The Hoyas and Volunteers traded the lead four times in as many minutes. Then, Markel Starks hit a jumper with 4:10 remaining to give the Hoyas a 37-36 advantage, a basket that shockingly turned out to be the game winner.
The Volunteers had two final chances to win the game, after Porter allowed a pass to slip through his hands with 20 seconds remaining. But Skylar McBee tossed an airball with about 4 seconds remaining and Jordan McRae missed a long three point as time expired for Tennessee’s 31st missed shot.
“You score 37 points and you win, a part of you says hell I’ll take that,” Thompson said. “But we know we have a long way to go. We know we are a work in progress.”