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It’s How You Finish: Hoyas top Mean Green, 75-63

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Derrickson drops 17 pts, Govan collects 7th double-double

NCAA Basketball: North Texas at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Your Georgetown Hoyas overcame a lethargic and disorganized start to beat North Texas by a 12-point margin, with Patrick Ewing’s team improving to 9-1 on the season. The Hoyas allowed the Mean Green to dictate the pace and style early, trailing by as many as seven during the first half, but ultimately relied on a balanced offensive strategy to gradually put their opponent away.

There were a list of mental hurdles that the players needed to overcome heading into this game: the blown lead and overtime loss to Syracuse on Saturday, followed in quick succession by the sudden dismissal of a teammate and the last two days of final exams. On top of all this, Georgetown was facing a team on a 3-game winning streak and a man who already knows what it feels like to beat the Hoyas. Grant McCasland’s previous job was as the head coach of Arkansas State, the team that came into McDonough as underdogs and left with a win (and a piece of our souls) last November.

Marcus Derrickson opened the scoring with a long 2-point shot on the first possession, and North Texas immediately answered. When Jamorko Pickett’s next shot was off the mark, Derrickson was there to trap the rebound. The offense might have been on solid footing, but Georgetown’s defense was wholly ineffective at the start of the game. They were moving erratically, appearing dazed and allowing Mean Green players to rotate outside for open shots. Roosevelt Smart took advantage of this early, scoring North Texas’ first 5 points, before the Hoyas guards locked him down. Ryan Woolridge capitalized on this strategy througout the game, regularly rolling behind Georgetown defenders as if he were invisible.

Down seven midway through the first half, the Hoyas began to push back against the slower tempo that the Mean Green had been trying to set. Trey Dickerson hit a three and Kaleb Johnson grabbed the rebound off a Jamorko Pickett miss, getting the and-1. After a North Texas three pointer, Jahvon Blair drove and finished a layup. A pair of free throws from Jessie Govan cut the deficit to one, and Georgetown regained the lead just after the U4 on a runner from Jonathan Mulmore.

North Texas was still taking it inside on nearly every possession, collapsing the Hoyas’ defense and creating open looks outside. Except instead of answering threes with sluggish half-court sets and outside shots that were not dropping, Georgetown reverted to the strategy that had won them games earlier in the season. They attacked the basket, drew fouls and even used full-court press to force a turnover that put Johnson at the line to give the Hoyas a one-point lead with 8 seconds remaining before the break.

Woolridge opened the second half by noticing that Mulmore was cheating off his perimeter defensive assignment, and the North Texas sophomore made it look too easy as he drove for a wide open layup. The next possession featured a repeat of this performance. Once again, the Hoyas regrouped. Govan lifted one in over his left shoulder, then Derrickson added both a driving layup and a 3-pointer. The Mean Green attempted to regain their momentum with a lob from Woolridge to Allante Holston, but Dickerson answered with wide-open three.

The Hoyas tipped the balance in their favor for good as one of Govan’s six (SIX!) blocks on the day ended up in the hands of Johnson, who found Mulmore on a fast-break. North Texas hit a three; Johnson knocked down his third trey of the day. Mulmore snagged a steal and took it the length of the court, on his way to 12 points & 6 assists. Jagan Mosely played smart and aggressive, even drawing a charge near half-court. He shook off a couple of misses, banking one off the glass through contact and hitting Derrickson for one of his smoother assists so far this season.

Georgetown went on a 19-7 run after allowing Woolridge those two consecutive layups. If you were looking for major adjustments from the Hoyas in the second half, they were nowhere to be found. Instead, Coach Ewing made his players focus and carry out the game plan as it should have been done since the opening whistle. It was execution that had been missing- not effort.

Govan’s conditioning and skill along with Derrickson’s all-around utility and high-percentage shooting are going to be critical to the team’s success, as evidenced by today’s box score. However, with the departure of Chris Sodom, it is disconcerting that freshman Antwan Walker—who logged no minutes against Syracuse—did not see any playing time in today’s game.

What do the Hoyas need to work on? Free throw shooting, finishing layups and (not) telegraphing passes in such a way that it leads to live-ball turnovers. Perhaps most integral to getting wins in Big East play will be reliable execution on defense, a fundamental skill which is regularly the deciding factor in close games.

Conference USA is top-to-bottom a stronger group of teams than the MEAC opponents Georgetown has faced recently. Still, it would have been unsurprising to lose this game and chalk it up to being a “trap.” The Hoyas did not turn in their best complete performance, but they revealed to fans another facet of the team’s character - the ability to regain composure and overcome a significant, sustained deficit. They avoided picking up their second consecutive defeat by doing the opposite of, “Lie down, forever, lie down.”

The final non-conference game of this season is coming up on Saturday, December 23rd at 12:00pm against Alabama A&M, airing on FS1.

Countdown to the Big East: 7 days.