Happy Festivus, everyone! Georgetown hosted Alabama A&M today and cruised to a comfortable 40-point victory in their final non-conference game of the season. Make no mistake, this was the type of win that the team should expect over a team that started the season 0-12 and sits near the bottom of KenPom rankings.
The lack of focus and sluggish movement that plagued the Hoyas at the start of the last game disappeared much more quickly in this contest. After miscommunication led to a couple of early turnovers and a 7-7 tie at the U16, Ewing called for a full-court press and Georgetown snapped it together. The team was rebounding aggressively on both ends, with Marcus Derrickson taking the lead on the defensive boards and Kaleb Johnson creating second chances offensively. The guards began getting the ball inside to Derrickson and Jessie Govan early, a strategy that will hopefully be successful throughout the season.
The Hoyas were consistent in making it difficult for the Bulldogs to find good shots, even when they drove the ball inside hoping to contract the Georgetown defense. Alabama A&M had one shot clock violation early, and had to fall back on long 3-point shots to avoid being charged with a couple more. Active defense also caused turnovers, traveling calls and off-balance attempts.
While the Bulldogs struggled to find shots in the half-court, the Hoyas embraced a faster tempo. Jonathan Mulmore floated one in off the glass, Jamorko Pickett hit a runner from 7 feet out, and Jagan Mosely made his first shot coming in off the bench. There is an interesting visible dynamic between Mosely and Coach Ewing, as the sophomore guard regularly looks to his coach for quick directions when bringing the ball up the court, and the big guy always has something ready via hand signals. The bench continued to score at will, with Jahvon Blair adding a couple of threes (including one off a nice assist from Johnson) and a transition basket from Trey Dickerson giving the Hoyas a double-digit lead that would never be relinquished.
Up 44-21 coming out of halftime, the result of this game never felt as though it was in question. However, the Hoyas continued to play hard...and add to their personal highlight reels. Govan notched an and-1 on the offensive end then tallied multiple rebound attempts and a block at the other end of the court. Mulmore finished a circus layup. Blair, who looks more confident in his shot, hit a smooth pull-up jumper from the elbow. Solid defense from Derrickson led to a fast-break for Mosely where he faked a pass then finished the layup. Blair drove and—at full speed—found Dickerson for an outlet pass and a very fancy up & under layup.
Even up by 25+ points, Georgetown maintained intensity and continued to capitalize on the size differential. When their focus seemed to drift, Coach Ewing called timeout to give his players a gentle reminder that their break did not begin until AFTER the game. The Hoyas did not shy away from rebounding or avoid contact, and they were efficient in converting their opponents’ turnovers into scoring opportunities. The team continued to run offensive sets and play defense even as George Muresan and Ra’mond Hines entered the game with nearly four minutes remaining in the second half. Alabama A&M was well-organized and persistent, but outmatched.
Walker, who had been mysteriously (and frustratingly) absent from the lineup during the past two games, led all scorers and was perfect from the floor until a spectacular dunk attempt went awry late in the second half. The freshman forward had 16 points, four rebounds and two steals in a season-high 15 minutes of run. He had a fast-break dunk during the first half, confidently finished two runners in the second and—most encouragingly, if he’s going to reliably spell Govan and Derrickson during Big East play—dropped in a soft hook from deep in the post.
This was the last non-conference matchup for the Hoyas. Next week we get our first look at whether Coach Ewing’s strategy of soft scheduling to create momentum will pay dividends against high major opponents. Big East competition tips off next Wednesday, December 27th as the Hoyas face the Butler Bulldogs at 6:30pm, with the game airing on FS1.
Note: There is a giveaway for the next game, and the first 2,000 fans arriving at Capital One Arena through the F Steet entrance will receive this Coach Ewing bobblehead. Doors open at 5:30pm. (Students get theirs at the Villanova game on January 17th.)