Your Georgetown Hoyas returned to their home arena today, but the change in venue was not sufficient to elicit a change in fortune. In only the second meeting between these two teams, SMU emerged with an 8-point victory and the Hoyas head back to campus thinking about their first consecutive losses of the season. Jessie Govan turned in his consistent stat line of 17 points and 7 rebounds, while James Akinjo had made 10 of 11 from the freethrow line while adding 16 points of his own, but the lack of cohesion on the defensive end was too much for the Hoyas to overcome in the second half.
Georgetown got off to an early lead on two early baskets by Mac McClung, who was seemingly unbothered by the ‘tidal blue’ uniforms that were inexplicably subbed in for the typical home grays. During the period where the Mustangs’ shooting was cold and they were bitten by turnover bug, committing a series of traveling violations, Govan hit a jumper and Kaleb Johnson drove to the basket where he finished an off-balance floater over two defenders. Johnson was in the starting lineup in place of sophomore Jamorko Pickett, who was out of the lineup under the always-enlightening explanation of “Coach’s Decision.”
The Hoyas appeared to have the momentum as Govan nailed a wide-open three off a feed from Akinjo, who had drawn away the SMU defense. Unfortunately for Georgetown, the Mustangs began converting on their second chances and Nat Dixon answered with a triple of his own. Midway through the first half, the miscues began. Greg Malinowski attempted a long three, Govan missed off the rebound, and Josh LeBlanc’s attempt to corral the rebound saw him slip out of bounds. SMU took the lead (for good) at the 9:30 mark of the first half.
The Mustangs extended their lead courtesy of a 19-5 run. SMU was heating up while the Hoyas were getting stripped and mishandling passes. One particular instance where LeBlanc could not handle a feed from Malinowski turned into an alley-oop for Feron Hunt. Malinowski tried to find McClung to a similar play on the other end, but it was broken up by Jarrey Foster. The Mustangs were up 30-22 at the point where my cable took a brief hiatus; when it returned several minutes later, Georgetown had reduced their deficit by 75%. The teams traded baskets, as Akinjo drew the defenders to him and found Trey Mourning who made the shot and kept it a one possession game. Jahvon Blair had entered the game and he checked in on the stat sheet with a three of his own.
With less than a minute remaining, it looked as though the Hoyas were well-situated. Things change quickly. Akinjo committed the cardinal sin of fouling Jahmal McMurray as he was shooting a three, and then Malinowski turned it over with 31 seconds left, allowing SMU to control the final possession. Georgetown trailed going into the break for the first time all season, down 39-34.
The situation deteriorated quickly after halftime. Within the first two and a half minutes, McMurray and Ethan Chargois had hit threes, Foster, Chargois and Jimmy Whitt Jr. made layups, and the Hoyas were in a double-digit hole. Ewing was understandably not pleased with his team’s defense; he called a timeout. The Hoyas started to claw their way back into it, fueled by a LeBlanc jumper, a Govan triple and the freshman guards each making their pairs of freethrows.
Georgetown nearly forced a shot clock violation at one point after switching to a zone defensive look, but SMU’s precision passing allowed them to convert even when the Hoyas’ coverage did not lapse, so Ewing’s group quickly reverted back to man-to-man. In either scheme, Georgetown’s problem seems to be executing their assignments faithfully. Losing their man on screens or taking the misguided initiative to over-help led to an excess of open looks for the Mustangs. This is fixable. It should be fixed. (Pretty please, guys?)
While the defense needs serious work, the Hoyas were keeping themselves in the game by doing the other important basketball things: Jagan Mosely was forcing turnovers, LeBlanc was scrambling for loose balls, there were a series of tips & blocks, the guards were drawing fouls then making the FTs, Akinjo was amassing a half-dozen rebounds, team-wide overall smart shot selection. When Mosely found LeBlanc for a strong layup inside, then McClung got it to Govan for the finish, it was 65-63 and Georgetown had pulled within a basket.
The Hoyas could not maintain this momentum, and this is the closest it would be until the final whistle. SMU capitalized on crisp ball movement and accurate outside shooting to find an answer for any Georgetown progress. There were some painful miscues in the final minutes, when Akinjo found himself on the bench after committing a turnover, or the Hoyas got a defensive stop only to give the ball right back. There were bright spots as well, like Josh LeBlanc’s finishing slam that followed McClung’s layup attempt.
This group is committed and does not give up when they are down, but in order for that mindset to translate to wins in the Big East and beyond, it is going to have to be accompanied by better execution against the opponent’s offense. It’s a quick turnaround before the Hoyas look two end this two-game skid as they take on Appalachian State at Capital One Arena on Tuesday at 6:30pm.
Hoya Saxa, and enjoy your weekend.