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So It Begins: Georgetown Beats Jacksonville, 73-57 in First Game of the Patrick Ewing Era

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Energetic defense, sloppy play characterize Hoyas’ easy opening win.

NCAA Basketball: Jacksonville at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Your Georgetown Hoyas Are An Undefeated Powerhouse. Patrick Ewing won his first game as Georgetown’s new head coach, as the Hoyas stifled Jacksonville, 73-57, Sunday afternoon.

Junior big men Marcus Derrickson and Jessie Govan scored 20 points apiece to lead Georgetown, dominating the Dolphins with their superior size down low and smooth shooting touch from all over the floor. The Hoyas were uneven and sloppy, but their defensive energy and offensive pace were enough to maintain a comfortable lead throughout.

The story of the day was the return of Ewing, the best player in program history and newly minted head coach. Big Pat was greeted warmly in his return to game action, as friends from throughout his life in basketball showed up to witness his first big day. Former Hoya greats, including Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning, Victor Page, and Otto Porter, were in attendance, as were those from outside the Hilltop, such as Jeff Van Gundy, Scott Brooks, and Michael Jordan.

On the court, Georgetown already bore the coach’s imprint. The Hoyas defended with ferocity, hassling Jacksonville’s ball-handlers and walling off the paint. The Dolphins could barely hold onto the ball, as Georgetown forced 22 turnovers. The Hoyas jumped passing lanes, occasionally picked up their opponents full-court, and, in the half-court, suffocated the visitors into multiple shot clock violations. Even when Jacksonville held onto the ball, they didn’t find much success. Dolphin guards popped off for more than a few three-pointers, but they couldn’t hit inside the arc, making just 11 of 40 shots from two-point range.

The Hoyas’ defense was far ahead of its offense, which pushed their coach’s preferred pace to mixed results. Ewing’s starting five included just one true guard — Jonathan Mulmore — flanked by Derrickson, Govan, junior wing Kaleb Johnson and freshman forward Jamorko Pickett. That group had plenty of size and length, but less playmaking and speed. The early results showed, as Georgetown scored just 8 points on the game’s first 11 possessions. Soon enough, Ewing went smaller, bringing in sophomore guard Jagan Mosely for playmaking and defensive intensity and freshman forward Antwan Walker for energy.

As their lineups shrunk, the Hoyas got out and ran, turning long rebounds and live-ball turnovers into quick transition opportunities. Those chances did not always prove successful. Georgetown ball-handlers threw overly risky or off-target passes, and Hoyas weren’t always able to finish at the rim. The ball moved freely, yielding 18 assists on 26 made baskets, but not always accurately, as Georgetown committed an ugly 18 turnovers.

On the whole, Georgetown had the outline of Ewing’s scheme, pushing the pace to the tune of 72 possessions, but not many of the details to fill in that outline. This is to be expected for a largely new roster implementing a new coach’s plan. A high screen and roll yielded a Derrickson kick-out to a shooter in the corner, only to find that the shooter was cutting to the basket. A transition sequence yielded a quick ball-reversal, but then no action to exploit an imbalanced floor. Georgetown set up a soft early schedule to allow for some adjustment, and Sunday showed that the Hoyas will need that extra time.

Individually, Sunday was the first opportunity to see several new Hoyas. The headliner was Pickett, a rangy freshman who scored the game’s opening points on a corner three-pointer. He would make just one more basket, another triple, but impressed with his versatility on both end off the floor. Walker matched Pickett’s defensive energy, while Jahvon Blair showed a quick trigger that yielded a pair of three-pointers. On the whole, the group’s length vaguely resembled the 2011 recruiting class that included Otto Porter, Greg Whittington, Jabril Trawick, and Mikael Hopkins, although this class may come along more slowly. The final newcomer, graduate transfer Trey Dickerson, should provide speed and ball-handling off the pine.

The returnees also left their first impression of the new era. Derrickson and Govan both dominated, inside and out. The junior bigs both looked slimmed down, and moved fluidly on both ends of the court. Both were adept at defending in space and crashing the boards. Derrickson was more perimeter-oriented on offense, hitting four three-pointers, although he also banged in the post, while Govan hit from all over the floor. Judging by today’s very small sample size, Georgetown will be leaning heavily on these two on offense.

Mulmore was a defensive standout, battling through ball screens and harassing Jacksonville guards. Mosely looks like the best option at off guard, where he can bring defensive intensity and enough playmaking to help out a starting lineup that may lack creative juice. Johnson still looks a bit adrift, turning the ball over too often and committing careless fouls.

Some initial issues will bear monitoring as Georgetown eases into the season. In addition to turnovers, the Hoyas’ weaknesses on Sunday were on the boards, where Jacksonville battled them to a draw, and in committing fouls, as Georgetown got whistled 20 times, including 5 by Johnson and 4 by Mosely.

Many of these weaknesses have been around for years and weren’t resolved simply by Ewing’s arrival. He wasn’t hired to accomplish an immediate turnaround, but rather to rebuild a power to greatness. In that sense, Sunday was a test not of whether Ewing has managed any quick fixes but instead whether he has a plan and is setting about implementing it. Judged by that standard, the first game of the Ewing era was a success.

More broadly, today’s game was a happy day for a program with too many unhappy ones in recent months. Sunday featured no boos, no pumped-in music to drown out the jeers, so slumped shoulders or shaking heads. Instead, there was fresh energy and optimism for the team as a whole, and pride and appreciation for Ewing, its new head man.

Georgetown returns to action Wednesday night against Mount St. Mary’s. Until then, Hoya Saxa.