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Juiced: Georgetown Collapses Down the Stretch, Loses in Overtime to Syracuse, 86-79

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NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Georgetown Art Pittman-USA TODAY Sports

Georgetown fumbled away a 13-point second-half lead against its hated rival Syracuse Saturday, losing 86-79 in overtime. A series of turnovers against the Orange press and a shaky Georgetown zone defense gave the Canadian visitors all the opening they needed to mount a double-digit come back. Despite being hard fought and at times well-played, Georgetown’s loss hurts as it’s the first of the Patrick Ewing era, to the Hoyas’ most hated rival.

There are a lot of positives to take from today’s game. Jessie Govan played an all-around excellent game in defeat, scoring 21 points to go with 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 3 assists. The junior big man continued to show out as the Hoyas’ best player, scoring down low, from the seams in the Orange zone, and in transition, and playing a man’s game under the basket on both ends. Jagan Mosely matched a career-high with 20 points, finishing in the open court, contributing in little ways (5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, but 4 turnovers), and assuming lead ball-handling duties against the press that eventually did Georgetown in. Marcus Derrickson (14 points, 8 rebounds) also had a strong game, probing the defense’s gaps and finishing strong around the basket, before fouling out on a questionable call, and Jamorko Pickett (12 points, 4 assists, 5 turnovers) showed some flashes as well.

The showdown with the Orange didn’t start off so well for the Hoyas. Georgetown went scoreless through the game’s first four minutes, failing to penetrate into the Syracuse zone and generally looking clueless on offense. When starting point guard Jonathan Mulmore got whistled for his second foul barely 3 minutes into the game, things looked rough for Georgetown.

The Hoyas eventually got things moving in the open court, where Mosely scored 6 early points to give Georgetown its first lead at 11-10. He and freshman guard Jahvon Blair (5 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 points) made up for Mulmore’s absence on the offensive end by pushing the pace. From there, Georgetown went to work in the half court, finding Derrickson and then Govan in the short corner for easy half-court opportunities. An emphatic Mosely dunk off a feed from Blair and Kaleb Johnson runner as the clock wound down sent the Hoyas into the break up, 28-24.

The second half began as the first ended, with Georgetown rattling off a quick 8-2 push to claim the game’s first double-digit lead. Derrickson and Govan particularly began to look comfortable against the Orange zone, finding open teammates on the weak side and in the high-low for easy baskets. When Georgetown’s lead stretched to 13 with 11 minutes to play, it looked like the Hoyas were on their way to a third straight win over their rival.

But, as they tend to in this series, things changed. While Georgetown was building its double-digit advantage, freshman wing Oshae Brissett kept the Orange afloat, hitting four second-half three-pointers en route to a 25-point outing. At the same time, the Hoyas struggled against the Orange’s press. A Georgetown offense that went 14 straight minutes without a turnover suddenly couldn’t hold onto the ball, giving the ball away 9 times in the second half. These miscues came in nearly every form, including loose ball-handling, a charge, or even a five-second violation.

The Hoyas’ second-half turnovers resulted in 11 Orange points, helping along a Syracuse offense that had been ineffective outside Brissett’s heroics. When the turnovers didn’t help, Orange star Tyus Battle (a game-high 27 points did) did, hitting a pair of triples down the stretch to pull Syracuse close and then another pair in overtime that proved decisive.

As Georgetown struggled down the stretch, there were two strange, perhaps related, tactics to which coach Patrick Ewing stuck. The first was to keep Mulmore, the team’s best individual defender and ball-handler, on the bench even as the Orange heated up and the turnovers mounted. Ewing left Mulmore in at the beginning of the second half despite the guard picking up his third foul, only to later pull the guard and keep him on the pine when fouls were no longer an issue. Mosely certainly earned his playing time and then some today, but, particularly on defense down the stretch, the Hoyas could have used Mulmore.

The second decision was stick with a 2-3 zone even as Brissett and Battle heated up. The zone had some success early in the game but even then showed weaknesses on the back side. Late in the game, those weak-side gaps split wide open for the fatal Orange threes. (After the game, Ewing said that he felt the need to stick with the zone against the Orange’s size, a defensible-enough decision.)

As much as the loss to a rival strings, there were a lot of positive signs in today’s game. Having played a much-maligned easy early schedule, the Hoyas largely outplayed the Orange for most of the game. After some early bumps, Georgetown proved capable of handling a tricky Syracuse defense. Govan in particular continued to shine against similarly sized competition, while the Hoyas all appeared less reliant on their star big man and Mulmore’s point guard play to generate points. Every Hoya who logged heavy minutes had good moments, even if the result was not so great.

At the broadest level, it was good to see positive energy around a program that has lacked it, whether during the downward spiral of last season or the mostly-empty dress rehearsals against sub-300 competition early this season. Ewing’s guys came well prepared to take on a good opponent, and came within a bounce or two of pulling out the win.

Georgetown has a few days before returning to action against North Texas on Wednesday. Until then, Hoya Saxa.