YOWZA. I watched 50 minutes of panic-inducing basketball and lived to tell about it. Georgetown fought and scrapped their way to a maddening, frustrating, error-filled, inspiring, exhilarating, and exhausting win over St. John’s Saturday afternoon, prevailing 93-89 in double overtime. The Hoyas were led in regulation by freshman Jamorko Pickett, who shook off a series of poor outings to pour in a career-high 16 points, and his classmate Jahvon Blair, who kicked in 15 of his own. In the extra sessions, junior big Marcus Derrickson took over, scoring 16 of his career-high 27 points in the overtimes, including 6 points to fuel a remarkable comeback in the final minute of the first overtime. In all, this was a highly imperfect but still positive win for Georgetown, which completed the season sweep of the Red Storm to move to 3-5 in conference play.
There were signs throughout the afternoon tat Georgetown might get payback for its narrow win at St. John’s two weeks ago. Hoya junior big man Jessie Govan picked up three first-half fouls, leaving his team down by four as he went to the bench. His classmate Derrickson struggled for much of regulation with his shot, making just 1 of his first 5 shots and going just 2 of 8 after the break.
The Red Storm built a 7 point lead in each half, but neither lasted. A big reason the Hoyas hung around was the play of Pickett and Blair, who provided a necessary offensive injection with the Hoyas’ two junior mainstays struggling by hitting four three-pointers apiece. Blair took advantage of staggered weak-side screens to pop free at the top of the key on several possessions, while Pickett swung along the baseline, emerging in the corner, his preferred territory. Pickett also grabbed 9 rebounds and handed out four assists, displaying the all-around game that made him such a highly touted recruit. On one particularly impressive dish, Pickett pinged a pass that came out from Derrickson in the opposite post to Govan on the nearside for an easy finish at the rim.
The second reason St. John’s couldn’t run away with those one was, well, St. John’s. The Red Storm remain winless in Big East play, for reasons that are easy to see. They often able to find good shots, particularly thanks to the play Shamorie Ponds, who terrorized the Hoyas for 33 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals. But those open shots — often threes to a popping screen man or to a wing lurking in the weak-side corner — just don’t go in. The Red Storm hoisted 29 threes on Saturday but hit just 9, a 31 percent mark that’s on par with their season average. Their defense features a number of long-armed athletes who rack up steals and blocks but who just as often hack a shooter or leave him completely unattended.
As the game entered its apparent closing stretch, the Hoyas looked ready to pull out an unlikely home win. Derrickson hit a jumper, followed by a Govan dunk and, on the next possession, lay-in that gave the Hoyas a five-point lead with barely three minutes to play in regulation. But Ponds scored on a drive then, somehow securing an offensive rebound on a missed free-throw, flipped in a put-back to make it a one-point game. The Hoyas led for the rest of regulation but couldn’t sustain a lead, as the teams traded an almost comical series of errors: an unnecessary intentional foul by St. John’s, missed free throws by both teams, a turnovers by Georgetown. A Ponds lay-in with 13 second eventually broke the spell of futility and sent the game to overtime.
The extra session boded ill for the Hoyas. After a few back-and-forth possessions, three straight empty Georgetown trips — one thanks to two improbable missed free-throws by the normally dead-eyed Derrickson — allowed the Red Storm to built a 78-73 lead with just 24 seconds to play. But then Doc made up for his earlier mistakes in a flurry. First, he drew a foul in hoisting a three, burying all three free-throws to pull the Hoyas within two. When Ponds hit just one of two on the other end, Georgetown had a glimmer of hope. A Derrickson pick for Jagan Mosely tried to spring MD on the pop, but the junior still had a defender squarely in his face. With a ticking clock and no other choice, Derrickson rose up and fired a triple that found its mark, tying the game with 4 seconds to play.
The second overtime continued to be the Jiggy and Doc show. Derrickson scored first, to put Georgetown up, and, after a stop, Mosely hit a corner three and drew a foul in the process, converting a four-point play to put Georgetown up six. The Hoyas never trailed again, as a Derrickson jumper, a Mosely floater, and free throws from each provided enough breathing room (but just enough) for victory. In addition to a career-best scoring day, Derrickson grabbed 11 rebounds to complete the double-double, while Mosely’s overtime burst gave him 12 to go with 7 assists.
This was a genuinely fun game. Between all the losing, the end of the JT3 era, the slate of cupcakes to kick off the Ewing era, and a pair of tough overtime losses to Syracuse and Butler, it’s been a while since the Hoyas have enjoyed fun. Saturday provided that, as the many errors were more than make up for by dogged effort and late-game theatrics.
Georgetown has a chance to move within one game of .500 in Big East play when the Hoyas host DePaul on Wednesday. That will complete their season series against the only teams beneath them in the conference standings, an easy early slate that has inflated the Hoyas’ win total so far. But as Ewing noted in his post-game comments, he’s trying to build the foundation of a program, and each hard-fought win, however imperfect, counts.