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Escape from Jamaica: Georgetown Narrowly Averts Disaster by Beating South Florida, 76-73

Hoyas Need Overtime to Avoid Returning Winless from Ewing’s Homecoming

NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was ugly. Georgetown turned in its second straight subpar performance in Jamaica Sunday, needing a late comeback and overtime to fend off the lowly but feisty South Florida Bulls, 76-73. Jessie Govan led all scorers with 27 points while James Akinjo went for 14 points, including a critical late three-pointer that was needed just to force the extra session.

The early signs for the Hoyas were at least cautiously optimistic. Georgetown gradually built a 10-point lead before the break thanks to six-plus scoreless minutes by South Florida. Mac McClung made a couple of plays off the bounce, while Josh LeBlanc characteristically converted energy into points. But the Hoyas couldn’t sustain much offensive rhythm, closing the half on a 1-of-6 dry spell that was exacerbated by 5 turnovers over the same stretch. A double-digit advantage had withered to 28-26 by the break.

As in Friday’s debacle against Loyola Marymount, things only got worse for Georgetown after intermission. The Hoyas managed just 4 points on their first 10 possessions after the half as South Florida built an 11-point lead of its own. Georgetown continued to fumble the ball away, turning it over 15 times on the day. At one point, the Bulls had a 20-2 advantage in points off turnovers.

To dig their way out, the Hoyas turned to Govan. The big fella went to work, hitting a three-pointer off a flare screen that Georgetown went to again and again. Jessie then set up shop down low, scoring on consecutive possessions out of the post before hitting another jumper a minute later to pull the Hoyas within five. When Georgetown hit a rough patch offensively, Govan again brought the Hoyas back, again hitting consecutive shots to make it a three-point game.

For a while, it looked like the Hoyas still were making too many errors, wasting too many possessions, to salvage victory. Rushed shots early in the shot clock turned up nothing, while missed Georgetown box-outs led to second-chance South Florida points. But then another Govan triple, followed by Akinjo setting up LeBlanc and then dialing his own number, gave the Hoyas the lead with under a minute to play.

Georgetown reclaimed the lead only to give it away again. A curious decision to have Jahvon Blair guard David Collins, USF’s best scorer, led to a four-point possession for the Bulls that put the Hoyas down three with one last chance. Amid a busted play out of a timeout, Akinjo took that chance, dribbling into a long three-pointer that knotted the game up and forced overtime.

Mercifully, Georgetown led throughout the extra session. Govan was steady as ever, converting a pair of feeds down low, while LeBlanc’s energy again created offense, including an emphatic put-back dunk. South Florida resorted to fouling, and the Hoyas made just enough free throws down the stretch to keep the game out of reach.

There’s not much good for Georgetown to take away from their trip to Jamaica. A win is better than a loss, but just barely, here. The biggest issue is offensive consistency. Georgetown’s playmaking was lacking for much of both games. Govan is capable of creating for himself and finishing set plays, while Akinjo has the bounce and vision to set up his teammates, even if his size and inexperience sometimes give him problems. After that, the Hoyas really struggle to create offense. Sophomore Jamorko Pickett, whom we all hoped would make the leap into a secondary scorer, managed just 2 points for the entire trip. McClung has his moments, but isn’t yet a consistent playmaker. Outside shooting also has been wanting, as Georgetown made just 8 of 37 three-pointers across the two Jamaica games. All of these weaknesses are heightened by infrequency with which the Hoyas appear to run set actions designed to yield open shots.

Energy and defense also have been issues. Neither Govan nor fellow big Trey Mourning provides a reliable back line defensively, while the Hoyas’ perimeter defense is hit-or-miss. And too many role players, whether Mourning, Jagan Mosely, or Blair, have been invisible for long stretches. Finally, beyond Govan, there’s precious little experienced production on the roster, as many of the upperclassmen haven’t yet advanced beyond role-player status.

Georgetown returns home for a few days off before a three-game stretch in the lead-up to a tough Syracuse trip. The Hoyas should beat each of their next three foes—Campbell, Richmond, and Liberty—but won’t do so playing like they did this weekend. They’re a young team, with rotations and minutes still to figure out. Hopefully they can do so, soon.