WASHINGTON — On Wednesday during a mid-week media availability, Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing said that James Akinjo had big belief in himself despite recent offensive struggles that saw the talented freshman guard stuck in a 5 for 26 shooting slump over the previous three outings.
On Thursday night in the second half of an 80-73 comeback win over Xavier, Akinjo gave reason for everyone else to believe.
Akinjo scored all 23 of his game-high points in the final 20 minutes to lead the Hoyas to their first win over Xavier since 2016, snapping a six-game slide to the Musketeers. The 6-foot point guard finished the night 6 of 10 from the field, his first game shooting better than 50 percent in league play.
“In the first half I feel like I was trying to get everybody involved” Akinjo said after going just 0 for 2.
“It was a low scoring first half so as a point guard I felt like my job was to come out and provide that boost of scoring that we kind of needed.”
The Oakland native did just that by hitting 6 of his 8 second half shots including a season-best four 3-pointers.
“He was assertive but I made a conscious effort to run some plays to get him going,” Ewing said. “Try and spread the floor a little bit more so they couldn’t use their size against them and he was able to knock down his shots, get into the paint, make some plays, and also get some and ones.”
Akinjo had all four of his assists in the second period as Georgetown rebounded from its lowest scoring half in league play with just 28 first half points to put up 52 after the break.
“I didn’t have to say anything to him,” Ewing said when asked if he had to give Akinjo a halftime talk about being more assertive.
“He believes in himself, sometimes to a fault. He thinks that he can leap tall buildings, all three of those freshman think that. The only thing I try and tell them is to make sure they make the right play – share the ball. I don’t mind being aggressive but if people are open you know make sure you make the right play.”
Georgetown improved to 2-3 in the league at home and flipped the script on Xavier from the first game in which the Musketeers trailed by as many as 17 before earning the win on Jan 9. Georgetown trailed by as many as ten in the first half on Thursday before evening the season series.
3 THAT MATTERED
Jagan Mosely – The junior point guard hit two big 3-pointers in a little over a minute during a key 8-0 second half run that saw Georgetown take its first lead of the game. Mosely had made just five 3-pointers on the season coming into Thursday night. Mosely finished with six points, three assists, and zero turnovers in 15 minutes.
Trey Mourning – It looked as though Ewing had subbed Mourning in around the nine minute mark to give Govan a breather before the eight minute media timeout. With Mourning at the foul line shooting two with 6:38 remaining, the fifth-year player missed the second and ended up staying in until 2:40 remained. During his longer than expected late stint, Mourning drained a 3-pointer to push the Hoyas lead to 70-66 as Govan watched from midcourt in front of the scorer’s table. It was just Mourning’s fourth made 3-pointer of the season.
Josh LeBlanc – With the rest of the Hoyas struggling to hit a shot early, the freshman forward kept Georgetown in the game. LeBlanc got Georgetown’s first bucket to stop a 9-0 Xaiver run to start the game. LeBlanc started 3 for 5 while the rest of the team combined to go just 1 for 12. The Baton Rouge native finished with 17 points, his most in a BIG EAST game, and has now scored in double figures in three straight games.
WHEN IT WAS OVER
Georgetown led for the final 4:56 but didn’t put the game away until Jamorko Pickett’s first and only bucket of the game with 38 seconds left. Despite getting beat up on the boards as a team, Pickett grabbed a vital late rebound on a rare missed 3-pointer from Akinjo and went right back up with it to give the Hoyas a 75-70 advantage. The game never got closer.
Afterwards Ewing called it the play of the game down the stretch.
“The biggest play to me was Jamorko Pickett,” Ewing said. “That was a huge rebound.”
It was one of six offensive rebounds for Georgetown compared to Xavier’s 12.
Both teams shot a blistering 8 for 12 from deep in the second half...Mac McClung had five assists for the second straight game – tying a season high.... Jessie Govan had three blocks for the second straight game and now has 30 for the season. Govan should easily surpass his 34 blocks from last season, which was a career best for the senior...Ewing now has wins over six of the other nine teams in the league. The second year coach has yet to beat Villanova, Marquette, or Creighton....Akinjo entered the game with 16 steals on the season yet came up big on defense with five against the Musketeers....Kaleb Johnson got his second start of the season as Ewing used his seventh different lineup for the opening tip...
The Hoyas are all alone in third place at 4-4 and look to be in great position to exceed their conference win total of the past two seasons which was just five. Georgetown will travel to Villanova on Sunday to play the first place Wildcats in a game that now has some buzz to it for the first time in awhile.