The season is over for your Georgetown Hoyas.
Facing off in the BIG EAST Tournament against the St. John’s Red Storm for the third time this season, the shorthanded Hoyas fought their way to a big lead before abruptly running out of power in the second half, dropping by a final score of 75-62. Jamorko Pickett had a big impact early, tallying a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds. Terrell Allen was hobbled by severe bilateral leg cramps in the second half, but scored 18 or his 21 points in the opening session. Qudus Wahab earned his minutes (as well as some more that he should have played), contributing 8 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and at least one block. Unfortunately, the Hoyas did not score again after Allen went down headed into the under-8 media break. The Johnnies finished the game on a 23-0 run.
Things have taken a lot of turns for the Hoyas this season, forcing the team to quickly adapt to new conditions. It has been difficult and tiring for the fans, but we can only imagine the mental impact on the team. Recent days have likely been especially challenging for the players — on all teams — heading into tournament season. College sports is might be our break from the stresses of reality, but it’s a job for these student athletes, young men who feel the pressure to perform while consuming the same news we do. If their games are our escapism, what has provided them with respite? The start of 2020 has been a hell of a ride, and I sincerely hope that their coaching staffs, families, and friends have been able to fill that critical role.
Circumstances are changing quickly right now on a global scale, requiring ever greater adaptations by people around the world. The sports world does not consider itself exempt from a responsibility to take decisive actions for the sake of preventing additional transmission of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Earlier this afternoon, NCAA President Mark Emmert announced that all March Madness games would be played as scheduled — except without spectators. Other conferences followed suit with their tournaments, but as of 4:50pm ET BIG EAST Commissioner Val Ackerman indicated that the BET would proceed as planned until alternate directives were received from NYC’s Department of Health and/or Office of Emergency Management. So, for one more day, the BIG EAST Tournament went on as it has for 41 years.
If you have attended this event before, you remember the unique environment of the Garden during this particular week in March. The sound of fans’ cheers and insults melting together, ceaseless and echoing across the arena’s paneled ceiling. A referee’s whistle — sudden — magically cutting through this wall of sound. The following silence so charged that it has mass, a growing weight blanketing fans’ shoulders as they await word on a decisive call. The experience carries weight.
As I write this, the NBA has suspended its season after two players tested positive.
It is very likely that the BIG EAST will follow suit with other collegiate conferences and forbid fan attendance at games beginning tomorrow night. The BIG EAST has now decided that subsequent tournament games will not be open to the public. When the ball is tipped at Madison Square Garden less than 24 hours from now, an oppresssive silence of a different type will hang over the players at the World’s Most Famous Arena.
For tonight, it was business as usual. The Hoyas turned defense to offense early, with Allen getting the steal and then a layup, assisted by Pickett. Jamorko joined him on the board, contributing a three-pointer of his own, while Wahab knocked down a smooth jumper.
Obviously, this is not how the fans or players wanted this season to end. This particular group seemed to have endless amounts of heart and the ability to inspire hope, but they lacked the manpower to convert that into a victory. BIG EAST freshman of the year Julian Champagnie was first to score for the Red Storm, joined by LJ Figueroa and Marcellus Earlington. Within the first five minutes of the game, there were five lead changes.
Omer Yurtseven entered the game after a stoppage in play at 13:58. After missing six of the past seven games with an ankle injury, he told FS1’s Lisa Byington in a pregame interview that he wanted to finish this college career on the court instead of the bench. This seemed to benefit the Hoyas at first, as he hit a cutting Jagan Mosely who got the bucket. Allen knocked down a three, then St. John’s managed back-to-back layups off Georgetown turnovers. That would be a recurring and insurmountable problem for the Hoyas, one that persisted as the Johnnies’ overall shooting reverted to the mean and they went on an 8-0 run.
Jahvon Blair seemed to break out of a multi-game shooting slump that began against Villanova, while Wahab and Allen added field goals of their own. In the period during which Georgetown turned the tide from a 7-point deficit to even at 26-26 going into the U8 timeout, they only committed a single turnover. Active defense & rebounding by Wahab, smart offensive decisions, and some big plays from Allen had the Hoyas up 44-32 at halftime.
The early moments of the second half seem like an ancient & blissful fever dream from childhood, at this point. St. John’s couldn’t find the bottom of the basket for the first three minutes of play. Wahab threw down a dunk after being left wide open in the lane, Blair drilled a second-chance triple facilitated by Wahab, and Allen drew a shooting foul. Georgetown had a 15 point advantage. (Ed. Note: My in-game notes indicate that this is “not nearly enough.” I wish I had been wrong.)
The Red Storm were playing a more effective zone defense on the Hoyas, who were committing turnovers and failing to convert the looks that they did get. It seemed like Georgetown could hang on when their lead was whittled down to five, but on four consecutive occasions they prevented the Johnnies from making it a one possession game. St. John’s still struggled from deep, but they were getting to the basket.
With 6:31 to go, Terrell Allen made a layup to put the Hoyas ahead 62-52. As he turned to sprint up the court to get back on defense, it was clear that something was wrong. AS the whistle blew for a foul call that would usher in the U8 media break, Allen fell to the floor in pain, clutching both of his calves. This was it. From this point onward, the Hoyas did not score another basket. St. John’s had worn them down with the press. Wahab, who had been both active and effective, was largely relegated to the bench in favor of Yurtsven. The relative +/- of these two players and the coaching decisions made surrounding their presence on the court during the final minutes of the Hoyas’ season will be dissected at length. Mosely, Blair, and Pickett were unable to manufacture any more offense. The team had run out of gas, but they played till the end.
The finish was disappointing; the effort deserves all of our respect. We are grateful for their efforts and the way they represent our school.
Hoya Saxa. And wash your hands.