Finally, some fun! After Georgetown let one inferior opponent after another hang around over the past two months, the Hoyas finally found their groove Saturday, blowing Howard out to the tune of 102-67. Joshua LeBlanc’s career-high 22 points and 11 rebounds — his third double-double in 12 college games — highlighted an offensive explosion that yielded over 100 Hoya points for the second straight game.
Saturday, Georgetown finally looked good on both sides of the ball, playing sound defense that held Howard to just 33 percent from the field. The win over the Bison closed out Georgetown’s non-conference schedule and providing a hint of optimism as the Hoyas enter Big East play.
The Hoyas didn’t look poised for another offensive breakout Saturday. Mac McClung, National Player of the Week after scoring 38 points in Georgetown’s overtime win over Little Rock last weekend, didn’t play today thanks to a reported sprained ankle. (Hoya conspiracists will note that McClung, without explanation, also didn’t attend the game in person, although Patrick Ewing said postgame that McClung was in the arena, with his ankle elevated.) And through the game’s first few minutes, Georgetown didn’t look ready to do much of anything, as Howard raced out to an early 7-0 lead and James Akinjo racked up two early fouls.
But the tide turned quickly as Georgetown rattled off a 15-0 run during which Howard went scoreless for more than 7 minutes. With Greg Malinowski playing in McClung’s place and Jagan Mosely spelling Akinjo, the Hoyas played disciplined, positionally sound defense, forcing bad shots rather than gambling for turnovers.
On offense, Georgetown ran when it could and, in the half court, pounded it inside against the undersized Bison. LeBlanc and Malinowski both rattled the rim with thunderous dunks, the latter a bit of a surprise given his reputation as an outside shooter. Five Hoyas scored during the stretch that put Georgetown ahead for good, a total that Akinjo added to when he returned from the bench midway through the half. Georgetown entered the break up 40-26, but as Hoya fans know, double-digit leads aren’t necessarily safe.
But the advantage to be perfectly secure, as the Hoyas began the second half on a 16-7 run and only built from there. Howard features one of the worst defenses in the country, and it showed Saturday. The Bison have allowed their opponents to make more than half their shots inside the arc, and the Hoyas topped that, making 68 percent from two.
As he was all day, LeBlanc headlined Georgetown’s hot shooting, making all 7 of his field goal attempts. LeBlanc has been a ball of energy since he stepped on the court at Georgetown, but recently has begun to flash glimpses of a well-rounded skillset. Against Howard, the phenom hit a face-up midrange jumper and handed out three dimes, matching his best in that department, while racking up the usual steal and block. Increasingly, LeBlanc looks like far more than an electric athlete and his ceiling goes up with every eye-popping performance.
Ewing faces a choice in the coming days, with Trey Mourning likely to return from concussion concerns, whether to revert to his trusted veteran or play the young bull who looks like his best two-way player. Almost every combination of players has been better with LeBlanc than with Mourning, and the freshman’s potential for growth also suggests he should get as many minutes as possible.
In non-LeBlanc news, Jessie Govan bounced back from a couple of relatively down games, amassing a double-double of his own that featured a game-high 23 points to go with 10 rebounds. Govan’s scoring output came thanks to a similarly scorching 9 of 12 from inside the arc, a tally that included consecutive fast-break dunks that pushed the lead beyond 30.
There were other notable performances on Saturday. Malinowski proved he’s not just a dunker, grabbing 8 rebounds, handing out 5 dimes, and swiping 3 steals to go with his 9 points. Jahvon Blair played perhaps his best game of the season, netting a season-high 15 points to go with 4 rebounds and 5 assists, albeit largely when the game was already decided. And Kaleb Johnson had a solid outing, cutting and dicing his way to 11 points, 6 rebounds, and a pair of steals.
Overall, it was an encouraging game, one that would have been more so had it not been preceded by several less emphatic home victories over lowly opponents. It remains to be seen whether Georgetown can carry over today’s success to Wednesday, when the Hoyas visit a Butler team that’s in a different league on both ends of the floor than Howard. But today, anyway, was the best Georgetown could have expected in capping a sometimes scuffling non-conference slate.