Your Georgetown Hoyas hung on to win 65-61 over the Oregon Ducks tonight, pulling off an improbable upset over the likely Pac-12 Conference Champions. The team was 4,765 miles from home in Maui and for half of today's game it looked as though all of the their psychological baggage had been left on the mainland. The Maui Invitiational is a high-level tournament that features top college teams every year. The team's first opponent on the island was niether an arsenic-laced cupcake like Arkansas State, nor a pseudo-rival like their faceoff with Maryland. The Ducks are considered to be a legitimate national contender.
Oregon is ranked #13 in the country this week, with Coach Dana Altman returning all of the key pieces from a team that was awarded a #1-seed in last year's NCAA Tournament and earned a trip to the Elite Eight. Contrast this with Georgetown, who graduated their leading scorer from a squad that only managed a sub-.500 season and has followed it up with a 1-2 start.
Unlike Thursday's effort, the Hoyas came out onto the floor playing as though they were in a 15 point hole. This should be the mindset for all 40 minutes of every contest. They kicked off the game with good energy, crisp ball motion and an elbow jumper from Pryor. The pace was quicker than we have come to expect from Georgetown, but instead of favoring Oregon, the Ducks' cold shooting allowed the Hoyas to establish a 9-1 lead by the under-16 media timeout. At this point, Georgetown's magical healing powers struck once more. Dillon Brooks returned to the Oregon lineup for the first time since undergoing foot surgery in August. He withdrew from the NBA Draft in the sping and, like Melo Trimble, is back for an unplanned extra year with something to prove. Even as a short stint, the presence of an upperclassman leader gave his team a psychological boost and the Ducks' offense gelled for the first time all night.
When a pair of offensive possessions for the Hoyas yielded no baskets and a stifling Oregon double-team forced Tre Campbell into a turnover, it looked as though things were headed downhill once again. LJ Peak responded with a defensive block at one end then snagged a pass for a step-back three at the other, staring down the defender as the ball glided through the nylon. At this point, with the momentum shifting away from his team, Chris Boucher showed why he may have been the biggest question mark in designing the Hoyas' game plan. Georgetown's bench doesn't have a clear answer to that versatile skill set of shot blocking, rebounding and three-point touch. Boucher corralled a deflection and went up for the putback dunk before Isaac Copeland even had a chance to react.
True to the up-and-down nature of this game, Tre Campbell followed up a well-decided three point make with a reckless NBA-line three point miss and the long rebound allowed Jordan Bell to convert easily in transition. JTIII was as impressed by that shot selection as the fans, so Jon Mulmore re-entered the game. He immediately drove to the basket and drew a foul. Aggressive defense by the Hoyas forced a turnover, but LJ Peak was fouled by (former Villanova Wildcat) Dylan Ennis before he could follow through on the breakaway. Georgetown wasted no time beaking towards the basket off the inbounds pass and Copeland finished at the rim with both hands, following off Jagan Mosely’s miss.
The game was halted briefly at this point. Jessie Govan solidly trapped a rebound and pivoted towards the paint before making a short hook shot over two Oregon defenders. Jordan Bell hit the floor like he'd been blindsided by an anvil, clutching his forehead. The officials went to the monitor, yet no foul was assessed. Upon viewing the replay, referees were still not 100% sure there had been contact. Either way, the pause did not derail the Hoyas' rhythm. LJ Peak was fouled shooting a three and converted the four-point play; Rodney Pryor's hot shooting stroke had him striking 8/12 from the field, capped by a buzzer-beating 30 foot basket to end the half.
No points were scored on the first 4 total possessions after the break, with Govan and Boucher trading clean blocks. Oregon's renewed commitment to swarming defense stalled the Georgetown momentum. The Ducks scored the first 8 points of the half and forced a turnover heading into the first commercial break. A 10-second violation by the Hoyas followed by a three from Payton Pritchard seemed to indicate that the quick pace had finally started to turn the tide in the Ducks' favor. A charge by LJ Peak punctuated a 14-2 Oregon run that had all but erased the 17 point halftime lead.
While Pryor couldn't get a shot to fall, he did collect a crucial rebound off the basket that might have brought Oregon to within one possession. The Hoyas' complacency looked like it was starting to reemerge. Govan tried to defend Dillon Brooks on a drive to the basket and picked up his fourth foul with 11:48 remaining. Akoy Agau was a bright spot, playing solid defense at the top of the key and pestering Brooks into taking (then missing) off-balance shots. With only two field goals by the Hoyas thus far in the second half, Oregon chipped away and took the lead with 8:35 remaining. Georgetown grabbed it right back, scoring 7 straight as Pryor converted a circus layup through traffic and Agau finished in the paint with a heads-up assist from Mosely.
The Hoyas entered the under-4 media timeout hanging onto a 50-45 lead. Oregon had led for only 21 seconds, but the impression given was that their comeback was an inevitable sign of heartbreak to come. Unlike last Tuesday, Georgetown did not fold. Agau blocked a shot from Pritchard, Govan forced a travel, and LJ Peak hit Tre Campbell off a (very slick) inbounds play for the basket and-1. This added up to a 14-2 Hoyas run since the Ducks briefly pulled ahead.
Up 58-53 with 1:06 remaining, Jagan Mosely was called for a blocking foul on Dylan Ennis, who made both free throws. The Hoyas squandered their next offensive possession, as Pryor could not manage to control a long pass and went out of bounds on the baseline. The up-and-down continued. Pryor was fouled by Casey Benson and capped off a 26 point performace with two made FTs, then Pritchard hit a well-defended jumper. LJ Peak was fouled and made 1 of 2 FTs, while Pritchard once again answered with a field goal. Casey Benson fouled out sending LJ Peak back to the stripe, as Oregon answered at the other end with a confident three-pointer from Dillon Brooks who seemed unfazed by Copeland's hand in his face.
With 3.8 seconds remaining and clinging to a 63-61 advantage, the Hoyas managed to inbound successfully. Peak went to the line for a final time, putting his 83% FT stats to good use and nailing both. Georgetown hung on to win. Exhale. Seeing as I took ManvilleHoya's advice and continually topped off my adult beverage throughout the game, I cannot offer any further explanation as to how this happened...but Bill Walton would be happy to fill you in.
The Hoyas are now in the winners' side of the bracket and will face Wisconsin in a pre-season tournament for the third time in as many years, tipping off tomorrow at 8pm on ESPN2.