Georgetown went into tonight’s game as 14-point underdogs to the Xavier Musketeers at the sold out Cintas Center, but you never would have known it during the 45 minutes of basketball that we witnessed. After 20 lead changes and as many ties, the Hoyas ended up falling 96-91 in overtime, with late-game execution errors and Trevon Blueitt’s inability to miss keeping the elusive win just out of reach.
There were a host of positives to take away from this game, but the resilience of the backcourt as they were forced to cope with the experience of J.P. Macura, Quentin Goodin & co. was a pleasant development. The entire corps guards did an admirable job of protecting the ball during regulation and facilitating the offense, leading the Hoyas to outscore the Musketeers in the paint by a 2:1 margin through the first half. The Hoyas tallied assists on significantly more baskets than their opponent; Trey Dickerson alone had 4 before the break. Georgetown’s frontcourt also capitalized on Xavier’s strategy of double-teaming the big men in the paint. Jamorko Pickett opened the scoring by driving to the basket as Govan had drawn two defenders inside, then repeated this in a different iteration on the next possession when the defense collapsed toward Derrickson and left the freshman swingman open from beyond the arc.
Speaking of good things that happen when this team consistently gets the ball inside, the two juniors up front did not settle for being accessories to the offense. Most ecouragingly, Jessie Govan has awakened from his brief mid-winter hibernation. The big man found the ball in his hands early & often, and was able to regularly convert. His 23 points (accompanied by 9 rebounds) nearly doubled his contributions from the last two games combined.
Not to be outdone by his partner-in-crime, Marcus Derrickson notched his fifth double-double of the season, including a bailout three-pointer from 25’ outside that pulled the Hoyas to within 1 late in the game. Derrickson continued to make his case for MVP of this year’s squad, cleaning up his teammates’ misses (including one that ricocheted off Govan’s head) and showing a versatile set of post moves as he regularly created his own shot in the paint. Coach Ewing also made a smart in-game adjustment in assigning MD to cover Kerem Kanter when it became clear that Govan was struggling to properly defend the Musketeers’ towering lefty when he strayed further from the basket.
Jagan Mosely drew the unenviable task of shadowing Blueitt, and while his charge had the hot hand, very few of those shots were left uncontested. Unfortunately, Blueitt drained one of those contested threes as time expired in the first half and made another—while using an extended leg to help draw the foul—to tie it up with under a minute remaining. Mosely’s ability to distribute the ball effectively shows up in the box score when you see the 5 assists. However, his improved handle was also on display in the second half; he was regularly hounded by Blueitt or Goodin while bringing the ball up the court but did not give up any easy turnovers. One must also account for his apparent ability to make the earth tilt slightly on its axis, as this is the only explanation for how the ball managed to stop, roll, then drop through the hoop to score an improbable driving layup midway through the second half.
Jahvon Blair followed up his career-high 21 points at Creighton with a 19 point effort this evening, and his steady/accurate/lucky hands were critical during the second half. The freshman continues to shoot as though he believes he cannot possibly miss, a notion only reinforced when he banked in a desperation three from high off the glass with the shot clock expiring and the much larger Tyrique Jones flying at his face. Alas, young players giveth and they taketh away, as Blair was also responsible for a turnover when he passed it to where he believed Govan was going to be, except Jessie was already rolling toward the basket and the ball sailed out of bounds. That said, Blair has proven his worth to this team and while he is still coming off the bench, the freshman is regularly playing starter’s minutes.
After Pickett made a pair of free throws with 38 seconds left, the Hoyas were up 86-82. Fans’ hopes were dashed as Blueitt was fouled by Mosely on a closeout; the three-pointer dropped and so did the extra shot. An airballed three by Blair at the end of regulation sent it to OT; another airballed three by Pickett on a poorly executed play out of a timeout sealed it for the Musketeers at the end of the overtime period. During those extra 5 minutes of playing time Xavier had not managed to score a field goal; their 10 points came off freethrows resulting from Georgetown (guards’) head-smacking fouls.
For those who seek a simple explanation as to why this contest was so close even with the hot shooting from X, look no further than the fact that Georgetown committed only 2 turnovers in first half and a total of 8 during regulation. That is exactly half of their season average. Magic, known to others as functional basketball, happens when the team’s offensive production is not being kneecapped by turnovers.
The final result was obviously a disappointment, but it is heartening to see how well-prepared Georgetown was to face the #6 team in the country on their home court. If any one of a half-dozen mental execution mistakes break the other way, this ends with a win. (Ed. Note: I am aware that the preceding sentence describes no fewer than 4 other games throughout this season. The phrase you are looking for is “déjà vu.”)
Next up, the road trip continues as the Hoyas meet Providence for the first time this year. Tipoff at the Dunk is set for 8:30pm on Tuesday (2/6), and the game will air on FS1.