If you have not read the recap and the analysis of the Georgetown Hoyas going 12 rounds with the guard-centric Illinois Fighting Illini in the high-pressure match #2 of the Gavitt Tipoff Games, be sure to check them (
and the comments) out because the pieces truly capture the feelings that have swept Hoyas fans watching this young team come alive.
It’s not like James Akinjo, Mac McClung, or Josh LeBlanc were hiding in the first two games, but retrospection seems to indicate that they, Jessie Govan, Trey Mourning, and the whole Georgetown team was playing to the competition level—and perhaps even practicing a little for the expected defensive pressure to come.
The game in Champaign, Illinois was action-packed. The guards were fearless. The bench minutes and contributions felt significant. Both teams’ defenses kept elevating. Assists were a focus on both sides of the floor. And the three-point attempts were strategic and planned.
If only I had checked the casual preview and not spent the first 15 minutes of the game watching the Big Ten Network as GUHoyas had indicated... Here are the links:
Freshman James Akinjo had 19 points, including a key 3-point play, and 7 assists, Jamorko Pickett blocked a shot in the closing seconds and #Georgetown beat #Illinois on the road Tuesday night. #Hoyas https://t.co/5hJqWHicsV— ABC 7 Sports (@ABC7Sports) November 14, 2018
Freshman James Akinjo had 19 points, including a key 3-point play, and seven assists, Jamorko Pickett blocked a shot in the closing seconds and Georgetown beat Illinois 88-80 on Tuesday night.
Akinjo sank a floater in the lane with 39 seconds left and was fouled, making the free throw to extend Georgetown’s lead to 84-80...
Freshmen were the story for Georgetown (3-0). Josh LeBlanc had 14 points and seven rebounds, and Mac McClung had a steal and reverse dunk on a breakaway to cap a 9-2 run for a 75-72 lead with just under five minutes left.
’’This game showed that our team has heart,’’ Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing said. ‘’It was a hard fought game and we could’ve easily have given up but we kept fighting `til the end.’’
Georgetown’s freshmen are up to the challenge as Hoyas top Illinois in hostile road test https://t.co/TO6qtqFJzh— Post Sports (@PostSports) November 14, 2018
This college basketball season belongs to the youths.
Okay, that’s every college basketball season. But this one has been rather pronounced...
The Georgetown freshmen did not appear in a postgame news conference because they aren’t permitted to speak to the media until their second semester. They did their talking on the court instead.
McClung’s steal and breakaway dunk exemplified the type of flashy, electrifying plays the young players — on both sides of the court — came up with all night... At one point in the first half, Akinjo snatched the ball out of an Illinois player’s hands and sent it to McClung for a slick reverse layup, displaying a chemistry they fostered during the summer. McClung fit in his requisite dunk, a two-hand reverse. LeBlanc had a one-handed dunk of his own.
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In the first two and a half minutes of the second half, the Hoyas extended their lead to seven before Illinois game back to take the lead 50-49. McClung and Govan made consecutive baskets to put Georgetown back up by three, but Dosunmu answered with his second three of the half to keep the Fighting Illini in it... Blair quickly stopped the bleeding with a three, but the Illini would continue to pressure the Hoyas, forcing head coach Patrick Ewing to call a timeout with eight minutes remaining and his team down four [NB: a really good timeout]. A three from senior guard Greg Malinowski, followed by a steal and reverse dunk from McClung put the Hoyas up by three with just over four minutes remaining and forced Illinois head coach Brad Underwood to call a timeout.
McClung finished with 12 points, four assists and three rebounds, but he wasn’t even the most impressive freshman guard for the Hoyas in their 88-80 win over the Fighting Illini. Teamate James Akinjo one-upped him by pouring in 19 points, dropping seven dimes and pulling down three rebounds. He scored seven of his 19 over the final 218 seconds, including a critical and-one to give Georgetown a cozy 84-80 lead with 39 seconds left.
#Illini @AyoDos_11 scored a game high 25 points but it was James Akinjo who left happy leading Georgetown to an 88-80 win over Illinois in a battle of two freshmen point guards. Nearly 5 minutes of coverage including a LIVE report from @craigwchoate below: https://t.co/TstYBUj5xP— WCIA 3 Sports (@WCIA3sports) November 14, 2018
Without sophomore guard Trent Frazier (concussion), the Illini (1-1) had to rely on newcomers Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Ayo Dosunmu and Andres Feliz to lead the charge. The trio combined for 50 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. When the offense needed a bucket, it was one of those three to step up for the team — especially in the second half.
In Frazier’s absence — which Illinois head coach Brad Underwood did not put a timetable on after the game, saying “We’re all mercy of that base test.” — and in front of packed house, Dosunmu shined, scoring 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting (3-of-4 from three), leading the five Illini (Kipper Nichols, Feliz, Da’Monte Williams and Bezhanishvili) who scored in double-digits.
“I’m just upset with myself because I feel like the fans gave it their all cheering,” Dosunmu said, “and I couldn’t give them the ‘W.”
NB: Frazier may have made a difference, but it’s likely Ayo and Feliz would not have played the as much, or as well.
Consensus for #Illini fans went from “Oh, we can handle Georgetown without Trent tonight they aren’t very good” to “Illinois is lucky they hung around with such a good team without their best player” really quick— A Head full of Birk (@bbirk3) November 14, 2018
Georgetown (3-0) turned the ball over 22 times, providing the Illini with 21 points off the miscues. But the Hoyas still managed to shoot 55.7 percent for the game and outscore Illinois 11-2 on second-chance points thanks to their 39-26 rebounding edge.
“I was really disappointed defensively tonight,” Underwood said. “Just simple rotations. (Georgetown) ran very little in terms of a couple of plays. It’s help side defense, being where you’re supposed to be. That’s the difference between winning and losing in college basketball.”
Akinjo, McClung and LeBlanc combined for 10 turnovers, but head coach Patrick Ewing will be impressed with the composure his freshmen showed on the road in a tough environment.
“Give Georgetown a lot of credit,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “They made every play when they needed to make it. The 50-50 balls, rebounding and some of the things they did was huge in giving them second opportunities.”
Illinois (1-1) trailed by one, 79-78, with 2:16 left in the game before a 9-2 Georgetown run sealed the game.
”I thought it was a great win to beat a very good, quality team on the road,” Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing said. “My guys showed a lot of heart and courage. It was a nip and tuck game and we were able to pull it out at the end.”
James Akinjo. Buy Stock Now.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) November 14, 2018