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Go-Go-Govan: Senior Big Man Helps Hoyas Withstand Richmond, 90-82

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Hoyas survive another subpar defensive performance thanks to Jessie’s season high 29 points

NCAA Basketball: Campbell at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

After enduring an uninspired defensive performance and emerging unscathed against Campbell Saturday afternoon, Georgetown came out with more of the same Wednesday against Richmond, with the same result. The Hoyas beat the visiting Spiders, 90-82, but no one who watched the game feels good about it.

As against Campbell, Georgetown led Richmond essentially wire to wire, but wasn’t able to create meaningful separation from the undermanned Spiders. The Hoyas’ offense clicked along well enough for most of the evening, largely thanks to Jessie Govan. The senior big man had a season-high 29 points, just one off his career best.

Govan was a versatile offensive threat against Richmond’s match-up zone. He flashed to the elbows for midrange jumpers, and posted up down low to exploit his size advantage. Jessie made 11 of his 15 shots on the evening, and all 7 of his free throws. It’s sometimes easy to forget how far Govan has come, given that his skillset is basically a refined version of what we’ve seen throughout his career. But the senior big man’s shooting stats are really remarkable: 57 percent from the field, including 44 percent from 3, good for 18-plus points per night.

Several of Govan’s high-quality finishes against Richmond were the result of deft interior passing by Govan’s teammates, as the Hoyas assisted on 24 of 32 made baskets. Georgetown moved the ball around and through Richmond’s zone far better than they did against similar defenses earlier in the season. Some of that can be chalked up to Richmond’s defense, ranked just 263rd nationally, per KenPom, and 311th in effective field goal percentage on the defensive end. But the Hoyas were quick, decisive, and efficient against the Richmond zone, taking what the Spiders gave them.

This game wasn’t a disappointment because of the Hoya attack. The problem was once again Georgetown’s defense, which couldn’t corral a Richmond squad that lacked two of its three leading scorers. Four days after enabling the nation’s leading scorer go off for 45 points, the Hoyas once again were charitable, allowing sharp-shooting freshman Jake Wojcik to pour in a career-high 20 on the strength of 6 triples. Wojcik was one of four Spiders in double figures, led by Grant Golden torturing Georgetown for 22. In all, the Spiders made 12 of 26 threes and a scorching 59 percent inside the arc. Richmond’s 82 points on 73 possessions was a season worst for the Georgetown defense.

Unlike Chris Clemons’s virtuosic scoring display on Saturday, Georgetown couldn’t explain away Wednesday night’s performance as just a talented opponent with a hot hand. The Hoyas repeatedly ducked under screens to allow Richmond shooters to roam free. Defenders failed to keep track of Spider cutters, closed out sloppily, failed to communicate switches, and generally played with neither effort nor attention. Barely a week after a trip to Jamaica appeared to expose the offense as the weaker end of the floor for Georgetown, the last two games have instead cast an unflattering light on the Hoya defense.

To some degree, this is by design for both Campbell and Richmond. Both offenses are low-turnover, high efficiency attacks. Both teams cede the offensive glass to an extreme degree (just 3 second chances for Richmond Wednesday) and the Spiders rarely get to the line (just 9 free throws attempted). Instead, the Spiders, like the Camels, have a strong offense based on protecting the ball and hunting, and making, open shots.

None of that excuses the low energy, lack of communication, and failure to execute on the defensive end by Georgetown. The Hoya freshmen understandably made errors borne of inexperience, especially Mac McClung. But it’s not all just the young guys. Govan, Trey Mourning, and other veterans caused defensive breakdowns as well. To say the least, this is a surprising turn of events for a team coached by Patrick Ewing, although a tad less surprising after last year’s Hoyas struggled more on the defensive end than on offense. Whether, and how, the Hoya defense rounds into form will in large part determine whether they can succeed as the schedule stiffens.

Before signing off, here are a few other nuggets from Wednesday night:

  • Jagan Mosely had his best game of the season, racking up a career-high 8 assists. Mosely has gone from a role player last year to nearly invisible, averaging just 3 points and relatively uninspired play in his junior season to date. Hopefully Wednesday was the confidence booster that Jagan needed.
  • Greg Malinowski had his best game as a Hoya, turning in a stat line of 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Malinowski’s shooting and ability to make the right play seemed to make him a natural candidate for more minutes against zone defenses, and he rewarded that extra time tonight.
  • Both freshman guards, James Akinjo and Mac McClung, had up and down nights that featured bright spots as well as some rough patches. Akinjo made a career-high three triples en route to 11 points to go with 6 assists. Akinjo’s speed sometimes outpaces his decision-making, but his ability to penetrate and hit outside shots will still have him in a featured role throughout this season on a team starved for playmaking. Mac really pressed for much of the first half, hunting difficult shots and generally seeming out of sorts. But he settled down a bit after the break, eventually tallying 14 points, including a pair of made three-pointers.
  • Jamorko Pickett continued to be extremely quiet, taking just 2 shots and making 1 to go with a rebound, assist, and block apiece across just 19 minutes. Pickett went through some fallow periods during last season, although none matched his current drought of 15 points in 5 games. On a team lacking in playmakers and outside shooting, the Hoyas need Pickett to snap out of it.

Georgetown has a few days off before returning to action next Monday against a frisky Liberty team. The Hoyas will need to play better than they have in the last two lackluster wins to complete an undefeated home stand.