Georgetown fans spent 40 minutes of game action in various states of dread, confusion, self-loathing, and simmering rage and resentment, a range of emotions not adequately reflected in the final score of a 83-73 win over Appalachian State. The Hoyas led for most of the game but the final margin was their largest, as Georgetown struggled to put away an inferior opponent. At a time when the Hoyas should and need to be rounding into form, Coach Patrick Ewing and his charges look to have more questions than answers.
Coming off of back-to-back losses to Syracuse and SMU, the Hoyas might have been expected to come out with a bit of fire in their bellies. As it turned out, Georgetown brought more of the same. A Hoya squad that struggled to get separation in home wins over Liberty and Richmond likewise couldn’t hold a substantial lead against Appalachian State, either. Sharp Mountaineer shotmaking erased one Hoya advantage, while odd lineup choices frittered away another.
Rotations have been the subject of criticism big and small as the Hoyas have scuffled through the non-conference slate, and Tuesday did nothing to quell that chatter. Jamorko Pickett returned from a one-game benching to the starting lineup. After seeing increased run in recent games, Greg Malinowski didn’t take off his warm-ups before the half, and then played the bulk of the second half. Grayson Carter played 9 minutes, more than the rest of the season to date. All these substitutions resulted in unfamiliar fivesomes, like the Mac McClung-Jahvon Blair-Jagan Mosely-Kaleb Johnson-Carter doozy that shared the court midway through the first half.
Georgetown’s inconsistent play and Ewing’s sometimes erratic lineup choices have a chicken-or-egg quality. Apart from Jessie Govan’s offensive prowess and Josh LeBlanc’s all-court brilliance, there are very few sure things on this Georgetown roster so far. That being the case, Ewing’s search for effective lineups is understandable. That said, as non-conference play draws to a close, the Hoyas’ rotations should be tightening, but the opposite seems to be occurring. Eleven Hoyas saw action Tuesday night, nine playing double-figure minutes.
Even so, Georgetown was able to pull out a win. Four different Hoyas scored on four consecutive possessions down the stretch, while consecutive stops were enough to turn a one-possession game into a ten-point margin. James Akinjo stuck a jumper off the bounce before feeding a cutting LeBlanc for an emphatic dunk. Malinowski sunk a pair of free throws, then Govan buried a dagger three that ended any remaining doubt.
There were some bright spots Tuesday night. LeBlanc, he of the seemingly limitless athleticism and energy, had 10 points and an equal number of rebounds to go with a pair of steals, a block, and three assists. That last number was perhaps most intriguing, as LeBlanc moved the ball with touch and savvy, notably hitting Akinjo for a huge corner three late in the second half. He also got the dozens of fans in attendance on their feet with a couple of highlight-reel dunks, including a borderline trademarked put-back slam. Akinjo had 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists, showing off an ability to get his own shot even as he struggled with sometimes uneven decision-making. Carter used his extended minutes to score his first points as a Hoya, and generally looked ready for the opportunity he got. And Malinowski emerged from a first-half exile to pour in 11 points, all after the break.
All in all, though, this wasn’t an impressive win. Georgetown still inconsistent on offense, and leaking on defense. Coach Ewing didn’t look close to figuring out who his core guys are. He has just two more chances before conference play starts.