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BUZZER BEATING: Freshman Heroics and Senior Leadership as Georgetown bests Providence in 2OT

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Last-second threes from McClung & Akinjo | 33 points from Jessie Govan

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

Pulse check! Is everybody still with us? If you willingly turned off the television with five seconds remaining in regulation as your Georgetown Hoyas faced off against the Providence Friars today at Capital One Arena...first of all, shame on you. Second, you should know better. Third, you missed a lot of basketball. After facing an early 11-point deficit and trading leads with the Friars throughout the second half, the Hoyas hung on for a 96-90 win that took 2 overtime periods to decide. Both teams were desperate to come out on top today, with our opponents winless in BIG EAST play and the Hoyas looking to get back to .500 after back-to-back losses. This was Georgetown’s first victory over Providence since 2014, having lost eight consecutive games to Ed Cooley’s teams.

How did it happen?

Two key plays from the recently-reunited freshman backcourt and one huge stat line from the player who the Hoyas depend on most for consistency. With the seconds ticking down at the end of regulation, Jagan Mosely got it to Mac McClung, who banked in a three-pointed from halfcourt just before the clock ran out, tying the game at 73. Then, with less than four seconds remaining in the first overtime period, James Akinjo nailed a triple of his own and made it 86-86. Throughout all of this, senior Jessie Govan played the way you expect a senior to play, shaking off early sluggishness to execute down the stretch, finishing with 33 points and 14 rebounds on the day.


It feels as though this game began at least a fortnight ago, but let’s take a look back at how Georgetown ultimately found themselves in a position to win this game. Before tipoff, we learned that Trey Mourning was still unavailable as he recovers from a concussion, while McClung was dressed during warmups and would be part of the lineup for the first time since an ankle injury sidelined him in late December. Not only would McClung be active, it was announced that he would be a starter, shifting sharpshooter Greg Malinowski back to the 6th man role.

The freshman guard worked quickly to erase any doubts about his readiness, as he transitioned seamlessly back into a rhythm beside Akinjo and scored the Hoyas’ first five points. Govan got in the mix early as well, knocking down a three. The two teams traded baskets early, but Georgetown was unable to capitalize on the Providence defense, which is ranked 112th in the country and 10th in the BIG EAST. At the same time, the negative impact of a series of turnovers and questionable shot selection was being compouned by underwhelming defensive intensity by a certain critical member of the frontcourt. Govan was unable to neutralize Nate Watson, much as he had struggled against Xavier’s forwards in the last game.

With the Hoyas down by 11 late in the first session, Patrick Ewing elected to make a bold lineup change and insert freshman Grayson Carter. The coach’s primary intention may have been to send a message to his starter, but Carter acquitted himself extremely well during his minutes. He added 6 points on the day, going 2-2 from long range, and was instrumental in helping Georgetown pull off a 9-0 run and hold Providence scoreless in the final four minutes of the half. Another notable element during this stretch was that there was focus and intentional teamwork; six of the seven baskets the Hoyas made during this interval were assisted. Akinjo facilitated Josh LeBlanc’s dunk and Jamorko Pickett’s jumper; Kaleb Johnson got a hand from both Akinjo and Mosely. At the break, Georgetown had dug themselves out of the hole and were only down 36-34.

The second half was a hard-fought battle where neither team could claim any significant ground. Govan was back in the game, and when he found Pickett on a give-and-go with just under 18 minutes remaining, that dunk made the crowd take notice. On the next possession, McClung got out for a layup in transition to tie it up and—in retrospect—this may have been the moment where the Hoyas hit the reset button and got themselves fully back in a mode that demonstrated they were not just fighting for pride- they believed they could win.

A triple by Akinjo, a layup from Govan and Carter’s second three-pointer of the day had Georgetown up 52-46 at the 10-minute mark of the second half. However, the Hoyas were still struggling to balance their confidence with appropriate defensive vigilance. Providence went on a 9-2 run and reclaimed the lead. Poor transition D led to an and-1 for Isaiah Jackson; McClung got burned backdoor by Drew Edwards, who then followed that up with a triple at 6:45.

Twice during the next several minutes the Friars started to build a lead, only to have their advantage erased by Govan. As shown during one of FS1’s “In the Huddle” segments, Coach Ewing stressed to this team that they should not allowed themselves to be knocked off-balance by zone defense, and most importantly, that fighting for every rebound mattered. While Pickett was not scoring frequently, he was executing all of his other on-court assignments better than he has all season. He rebounded strongly and attached himself to his mark, Alpha Diallo, with unfailing energy on the defensive end. Pickett tallied his fourth block of the day after Govan had drawn the the Hoyas to within a pair with just over two minutes remaining. That stop was, in my opinion, one of the top-3 most important plays for Georgetown. (Perhaps getting bumped up because it allowed the other two to happen. We’ll get to that.)

What happened next? Govan dunked, and the Hoyas were up by two. Diallo drained a three, and Georgetown was down by one. Akinjo ignored the scripted play and jacked up an incredibly ill-advised triple that missed the mark with 10 seconds left. Malinowski picked up his fifth foul trying to slow down Jackson, who made them both, putting the Friars up by three with 3.6 seconds remaining. Then came a moment that achieved instant-legend status: Mosely inbounded the ball to Mac McClung, who heaved up a shot from just over halfcourt...and it was good!!!

The clock read 00:00. The score read 73-73. The game was going to overtime.

I’ll level with you right now...I was too busy fending off hyperventilation and text messages to truly absorb what happened during most of the first overtime period. Our freshmen guards knocked down jumpers, Providence hit a pair of threes, and suddenly there was 15 seconds on the clock. Georgetown was down, 84-80. James Akinjo had been fouled behind the arc and was at the freethrow line with the chance to make up for the questionable life basketball choices that had drawn the ire of coaches and fans alike at the end of regulation. You already know this story has a happy ending. He drained all three. A quick foul on Diallo, who made both, and the Hoyas regained possession facing a three-point deficit and a clock showing that only 10 seconds remained after the timeout.

Again, you can read this remembering that today is the day where Georgetown fans get to revel in an unthwarted redemption arc. Akinjo accepted the inbounds from Jahvon Blair, dribbled to free himself from the defender, and sunk a his own hero three-pointer from well beyond the arc. It was 86-86 and the crowd at Capital One Arena was bracing themselves for another spin on the emotional rollercoaster that is Hoyas basketball.

Despite the fact that Georgetown was the team in foul trouble, it was Providence who struggled to be sufficiently aggressive in the second overtime period. Following the advice that their coach had dictated late in the second half, the Hoyas rebounded hard. Their defense was so stifling that they forced the Friars to commit a shot clock violation with less than a minute remaining. The trio we talked about in the opening lines of this story provided the offense. Akinjo and McClung both scored; Govan made five freethrows to help his team put this one away for good. The Hoyas used a lot of fight and a lot of luck to get this win, ultimately on top by a score of 96-90.

At some point during the time it took to compose this gleeful mess of a recap, it got dark and the world around DC turned into a snow globe. Enjoy the night, enjoy the win, enjoy an adult beverage or indulgent dinner if you so choose! Celebrate however you see fit.

The Hoyas are back on the floor again for a late game on Tuesday, January 15th, set to tip off against Marquette at 8:30pm on FS1. Hoya Saxa.

WE ARE GEORGETOWN.


Bonus Content: Want to see, from the students’ perspective, how this one ended? We’ve got video.

(Editor’s Note: The alternate headline for this recap may or may not have been, “Return of the Mac,” but Akinjo & Govan deserved serious credit and I remembered how people judge cheesy openers, so I didn’t want to diminish the team’s performance with such wordplay...and why are you still even reading this semi-lucid stream-of-consciousness? Go make a celebratory snow angel.)