Game 21: Xavier Musketeers (11-10, 3-5) at Georgetown Hoyas (13-7, 3-4)
When: Thursday, 8pm
Where: Capital One Arena
Series: Xavier leads 14-4, Musketeers won last meeting 81-75 on Jan 9
TV: CBS Sports Network (Andrew Catalon & Steve Lappas)
Radio: The Team 980 (Rich Chvotkin)
KenPom Ranking: Xavier 89, Georgetown 94
NET Ranking: Xavier 84, Georgetown 89
KenPom Projection: Georgetown 78, Xavier 75 (61 percent)
Line: Georgetown -3, o/u 153
Georgetown returns home to Capital One Arena on Thursday with a chance to win back-to-back BIG EAST games for the first time this season as Xavier comes to town. After evening the series season with a win over St. John’s last Sunday, coach Patrick Ewing and the Hoyas can square things with Musketeers.
Despite a game-high 27 points from Jessie Govan, Georgetown blew a 17-point first half lead and lost its sixth straight game to Xavier on Jan 9. Xavier got double-doubles from Zach Hankins (23 & 10) and Tyrique Jones (19 & 10) while relying on a zone defense in limiting the Hoyas to just 21 percent 3-point shooting in the second half of its comeback victory.
“I think they are in the right frame of mind for this game,” Ewing said during a media availability on Wednesday.
“Xavier played a very good game considering we went out big on them but they were able to fight back. They dominated us inside and we have to do a better job of taking care of that.”
Ewing will have Trey Mourning this time around when Xavier goes big. Mourning and Mac McClung missed the first meeting earlier this month.
Speaking of McClung, the freshman guard has been on fire since returning from injury highlighted by his 25-5-5 performance in his first appearance at Madison Square Garden. Ewing thinks McClung, who is the Hoyas second leading scorer in BIG EAST games at just under 19 ppg, made the most of his time out with an injury by watching and learning.
“I think sitting out and watching, watching the things we were doing well in his absence and the coaches talking to him about the things he needed to do well when he came back, all those helped,” Ewing said.
“He’s another one that has a huge belief in himself and he’s shown it.”
Earlier in his sit-down with reporters, Ewing talked about the development of freshman guard James Akinjo, the league leader in assists in conference play.
“He’s still a freshman and he’s still learning,” Ewing said.
“There’s times when he should pass the ball and then he shoots it and he has such a belief in himself that he thinks he’s going to make every shot. I think that from the beginning of the year to where he is now he definitely has improved significantly.”
Akinjo has dished out at least seven assists in four straight games, highlighted by a career high 11 against Creighton.
HOME COURT ADVANTAGE
As weird as it might seem, Georgetown is 2-1 on the road in the league but just 1-3 at home. After Xavier, the Hoyas play three of their next four on the road so getting back on the right track is important.
Going back to last season, Ewing is just 3-10 in home BIG EAST games.
“We have to build on what we accomplished against St. John’s this weekend,” Ewing said when asked about the importance of building off the last time out.
“That’s what being a very good team is all about. We have to be able to protect at our home. We’ve been playing very well on the road and OK at home during this BIG EAST stretch. We have to do a much better job securing or taking care of our home court.”
PROTECT THE PAINT
So where did it all go wrong as Georgetown squandered that big lead in the first meeting? Well for Ewing, it started in the post as the Hoyas were outscored 48-28 down low. In putting up 81 points, Xavier connected on just three 3-pointers.
“We have to continue to keep our pace up,” Ewing said when asked about what needed to change from the first meeting.
“We got out big we were running we were hitting out shots they went to that zone and then we went back on our heel. Then they were able to dominate us in the paint. We have to do a much better job Even if they play two bigs we have to be able take advantage of our speed and our size against them. Jessie was able to get whatever he wants but everyone else has to pick their game up and he has to do a better job defensively.”
LAST HOYAS WIN
Well since I already went into detail about Georgetown’s last win in this series in the earlier Xavier preview this season, let’s focus on the Hoyas last home win in this series with the Musketeers. The date was Feb 22, 2014 and Georgetown was fighting to stay alive for postseason consideration.
In a very similar situation to this season, Georgetown had earlier lost at Xavier despite leading by as many as 17 points. Markel Starks led Georgetown with 22 points and was joined in the starting lineup by DSR, Jabril Trawick, Nate Lubick, and Mikael Hopkins as the Hoyas rolled Xavier, 74-52. It still stands as Georgetown’s only home win over Xavier since they joined the league for the 2013-14 season.
A win will put Georgetown all alone in third place at 4-4, a half game up on both Seton Hall and St. John’s, while a loss would put them in 5th place with three others.
“It’s all jumbled up, there’s a lot of parity,” Ewing said about the standings below Villanova and Marquette.
Prediction: Georgetown 86, Xavier 77
I think Georgetown gets back to .500 in the league which will instantly make the Villanova game on Sunday much, much bigger than the Super Bowl.