The Georgetown Hoyas lost to the Penn State Nittany Lions in their 2019 Gavitt Games match-up at Capital One Arena by a score of 81-66. It was hardly the statement fans were hoping for when facing another projected tournament-bubble-level team.
The Hoyas never led in this one but did feel close when they brought the lead down to 5 right after the half. Hoyas had a slow start in the first, down 25-7, and allowed an early run from some early open threes. Ewing utilized the press well to generate 20 Penn State turnovers for the game but Georgetown couldn’t capitalize and ultimately still gave up 42 points in the first half and 39 in the second.
Penn State shot 13 for 29 from three and made 28 for 63 from the field. Georgetown made only 23 of their 61 field goal attempts and made only 4 of 13 threes. They finished with 21 turnovers.
The Hoyas started James Akinjo, Omer Yurtseven, Mac McClung, and Jagan Mosely. For the first five possessions, Georgetown turned the ball over twice and had three shots blocked by the 6’9” forward Mike Watkins.
To start, Georgetown’s defense appeared to focus on PSU’s Lama Stevens, and it worked for a good portion of the game. This, however, left Myreon Jones open to score 14 points in 5 minutes and 2 seconds, with four three-pointers.
Georgetown quickly accumulated 9 turnovers and Penn State wasn’t far behind in slopiness. Penn State was converting though and Georgetown was down 25-7. It began to look like a long night. After those 9 turnovers, Georgetown battled back with a 7-0 run to make it 25-14 with 7:42 left in the half. Georgetown brought some pressure out of a timeout, leading to a Pickett steal and layup.
Georgetown had 12 turnovers prior to the 5-minute mark with a score of 27-20. They continued to press with 5-minutes left and it certainly helped to bring better energy. Still, the press can bite a team in the behind as Myles Dread hit a second wide open three with 3:52 to make it 33-24. Akinjo hit a deep 2-pointer to cut the lead to 7 with 3:14 left.
Coming out of the break, PSU beat the press from Akinjo, LeBlanc, Garndner, Alexander, and Wahab. James dribbled around and made an 8-footer. Following the bucket with another press, Georgetown got the turnover and then gave it right back up for their 14th turnover with 2:40 left. 35-28.
Myreon Jones made a pair of free throws and Curtis Jones hit a three. Wahab made two free-throws to make it 40-30 with 1:40 left before a Hoya trap led to a Penn State timeout with 1:34 left. Lamar Stevens got his first points with 52 seconds left after a lob over the press. Gardner wisely drove against Stevens to draw a second foul on PSU’s head lion with 30 seconds left, but Stevens never fouled again. After Gardner made his free throws, the press set up and PSU settled for a long baseline miss from Stevens.
The score was 42-34 at the half but the sloppy play was the story. Georgetown’s 14 turnovers led to only 26 shots (making 11, 42%). The Hoyas were 2 for 4 from three-point land with Pickett and Akinjo making their only attempts. Georgetown led in rebounds 21-18. They were still in it even after being down 25-7 earlier.
PSU was 7-14 from three and 15-33 for field goals overall at the half. They turned it over 10 times and had 12 fouls. Penn State’s big men, Watkins and Stevens, however, only had 1 and 2 fouls, respectively. Penn State had 9 steals in the half.
Even free throws were sloppy for both sides with Georgetown going 4-7 to start and 8-11 for the half. Penn State started shooting 3-7 from the charity stripe and finished 5-9 at the half.
The Hoyas started the half nicely with a missed Penn State jumper and a huge one-handed dunk by Yurtseven off the feed from Akinjo. Yurtseven made the and-one free throw to make the score 42-37. The press, with Mosely in the middle turned the Nittany Lions over but a moving screen by Pickett gave the ball right back. The momentum shifted.
PSU pushed the lead back to 10 with a three and a dish for a layup until Akinjo answered with a layup. The press worked again with Yurtseven grabbing a lob and doing a give-and-go with Akinjo for a big baseline two-handed dunk to make it 47-41 with 17:22 left.
Unfortunately Myreon Jones answered with his fifth three pointer (of 7 attempts) to make it 50-41 with 17:22. Pickett made a nice jumper over Stevens and Yurtseven got another steal and was fouled before the TV timeout at 15:43. The score was 50-43 with the Hoyas down a manageable 7 points. They had a shot again.
Then, coming out of the timeout, Pickett gets blocked at the rim and Penn State beats the Georgetown half-court defense with a pick-and-roll to an easy layup. Akinjo missed a three pointer and a layup, and the lead started to expand again. Stevens drew a foul from LeBlanc with a pump-fake and the Nittany Lion were back up 13 with 14 minutes left.
Part of this second-shift, Josh LeBlanc got a put-back layup and sunk the Hoyas’ third three-pointer of the night (9 attempts) to make the lead 10 with 12:47 left. At that point Penn State was 9-19 from beyond the arc.
After Stevens and Jahvon Blair traded buckets, Watkins drew a shooting foul on Yurtseven to make the score 62-50 after the free throws with 11:27. PSU scored 4 points in the next two minutes off a layup and alley-oop. Georgetown missed three shots but at least they didn’t add to their 18 turnovers in a bit. 66-50 with 9:31 left.
Ewing turned to a lineup with LeBlanc, Wahab, Gardner, Alexander, and Allen and the lengthy zone paid off with a three from Alexander to bring it to 13 with 8 minutes left.
Coming out of the timeout, Steven drove and was blocked by Yurtseven and the Hoyas turned over PSU. After a missed jumper by Yurtseven, Penn State ran out and Stevens hit an open three. Yurtseven answered only with a baseline two and McClung made a layup after a feed from LeBlanc. McClung missed a three and Yurtseven, fouled on the rebound, missed a front-end of a one-and-one. Akinjo was fouled starting the break after a defensive rebound and made two foul shots to bring it to 70-60 with 5:45 left. The Hoyas put on a great pressure defense, but PSU drained the clock before Stevens hit a step-back three to make the lead 13 again—he had a very quiet 14 points to this point.
A play after the announcer, Donny Marshall, told the audience that Yurtseven needs to be stronger with the basketball underneath, Omer muscled for a rebound and put-back after an Akinjo missed layup and rejected Jones at the other end after PSU beat the press. 73-62, the Hoyas faced an eleven point lead with 3:47. It was still within reach.
Then Penn State hit two threes to make it 79-62 with 3:09 left and it was over. After McClung missed a contested three at 2:27, fans saw five subs sitting at the table. Ewing pulled the definitive line-change in a game filled with strange personnel groupings.
The nice floater from Allen to get to 66 and the press causing a timeout were bright-spots in final minutes that felt done since Allen, Blair, LeBlanc, Gardner, and Wahab had checked in. The “length-lineup” (or teal lineup) may have generated a couple turnovers during the keep-away portion of the clock-drain, to finish at 20 for PSU, but it wasn’t enough. Penn State got credit for 15 steals for the night, but the Hoyas just looked disjointed.
Omer Yurtseven had another double-double with 10 rebounds and 16 points on 7 for 14 shooting. James Akinjo scored 13 points on 5 for 12 shooting, including 1-4 from three. He had only 2 assists. Mac McClung was 1 for 7 with three missed threes and no free throws for 2 points. Pickett was 3-6 with 1-2 from three for 7 points. Mosely missed the only shot he took, and three assists, and went 1-2 from the charity stripe for 1 point. The 21 team turnovers were fairly evenly dispersed, but a few key give-aways stick out.
The press helped to infuse some energy and let the fans finally see Georgetown actively generate turnovers, but the frenetic pace triggered GU’s own ball handling issues.
As predicted by many, strange lineups with multiple substitutions at a time were the hallmark of Ewing’s. Yurtseven, Akinjo, and McClung had questionable minute allocations. Whether their poor shooting was the cause of lost playing time or an effect of failing to establish a rhythm is a question for coach.
When they moved the ball well, everything looked good. When they stood around and took turns on driving, there was a block or a steal.
This is the 5th year for the Gavitt Tipoff Games between the BIG EAST and the Big Ten, under an 8-year deal. The Hoyas are now 1-3 in the Gavitt Games.