How long as it been...since the Hoyas won a game? Played a game? Had a chance to even practice? Coming off a 3-week COVID pause, your Georgetown Hoyas banded together to fend off the Providence Friars (and a late-game whistle) to get their first win of 2021, by a score of 73-72. Chudier Bile was key to the team’s success, contributing 19 points and 9 rebounds off the bench, including an extremely clutch performance from the free-throw line where he was 10 of 12 on the afternoon. While Jamorko Pickett’s outside jump shots continue to give fans heartburn, he was successful in driving to the basket, chipping in 12 points along with 4 assists and 5 rebounds. Donald Carey also dropped a dozen points, including a pair of three-pointers that were critical to retaining the team’s momentum.
Given the lengthy hiatus for Georgetown, there were even more question marks than usual heading into this contest. With players having been largely confined to their individual rooms when they were not undergoing testing, conditioning issues and the risk of injury were at the forefront of potential concerns. From a matchup perspective, there was a question of how birthday boy Qudus Wahab would handle Nate Watson, because the Hoyas struggled to contain the Friars’ big man last year and he has substantially improved since then. Additionally, finding ways to keep the Providence guards in check was a known challenge, because keeping David Duke from scoring in the paint would have been a big part of the pregame scouting report. (Naturally, someone else in the backcourt stepped up to have a career-level game for Provy, but more on A.J. Reeves later...)
With Coach Ewing saying ahead of time that he was “not sure what we’re gonna see,” followed by the announcement that Timothy Ighoefe was replacing Wahab in the starting lineup, the paranoia was in full force. The game tipped off promptly at 1pm, as scheduled. Providence arrived on time, opening up a 10-0 lead within the first couple of minutes; A.J. Reeves got the Friars on the board first with back-to back baskets, including the first of his seemingly infinite series of three-pointers; Alyn Breed and Nate Watson also notched early buckets.
Georgetown, on the other hand, took awhile to reacclimate to the participating in the game of basketball. Wahab entered the game after the first timeout at 17:48 and almost immediately got his team on the board. Pickett followed that up with an aggressive drive to the basket and sweet finger roll finish. The Hoyas appeared to be reengaging with the competition, with Jahvon Blair driving and making floater in transition. While Georgetown was making incremental progress toward running cohesive sets, their progress was stymied by consistent attacks from Providence. Noah Horchler’s dunk over Wahab coming out of the U12, followed shortly by yet another triple from Reeves, and the Hoyas found themselves in a 27-12 hole midway through the first half.
They did not fold. Jamari Sibley entered the game and grabbed a key rebound, feeding Dante Harris who drove and finished in transition. That could be considered an inflection point of the game, as Georgetown only cut into the deficit from that point, but the progress was gradual and contingent upon executing well in so many key moments that it feels disingenuous & narrow to apply the label so casually. Chudier Bile began to give his team a big boost at this point, corralling a pass from Pickett to finish the and-1, capping off an 8-0 Georgetown run.
The Hoyas were all over the loose balls and rebounds at this point in the game, after being sorely outhustled early. Carey gave his team consecutive baskets, including a transition bucket followed by a long triple. Ighoefe tipped in the rebound off a Blair miss, then a smooth triple from Pickett cut the Friars’ lead to just 4 points with 17 seconds remaining in the half. Reeves had already scored 22 points, but his buzzer-beating shot from beyond the arc was no good, and Providence went into the half up by a narrow 42-38 margin.
Continuing the energetic scramble that had been successful before the break, Georgetown scored first in the second half to make it a 2-point game, with Pickett getting the third-chance points off a series of misses. One the next possession, Bile collected a pass from Pickett and drained a triple, putting the Hoyas on top for the first time all game, 43-42. That one point margin was difficult to budge for the remainder of the contest. Jimmy Nichols Jr. and Ighoefe traded baskets; Bile and Watson did the same. Both teams’ defensive execution had improved, as did the precision of rebounding attempts, and only a handful of baskets were scored in the next 5 minutes of gameplay.
Ed Croswell was proving to be a challenging matchup inside, using his size to back down the Hoyas in the paint, and giving the Friars what would be their largest second half lead, a 52-47 advantage with 13:34 remaining. Blair, who came in averaging 18 points per game, was distributing well to his teammates and forcing turnovers but struggling to score. However, answering Croswell’s dominant inside play with a confident triple was the senior guard’s biggest shot of the day. It was never again more than a 2-possession game.
Watson picked up his fourth foul with 5:45 remaining and fouled out for good at 3:18. Bile and Ighoefe operated well inside, with the latter using his size to neutralize Croswell and the former converting off the fouls he was able to draw. With 2:16 left, David Duke’s dunk put Providence up 69-68. Off the assist from Blair at the 1:16 mark, the Hoyas took that lead back when Wahab’s jumper made it 70-69. A pair of steady free throws from Blair and one more from Bile offset Alyn Breed’s layup. With 5 seconds on the clock, Georgetown had a narrow 73-71 lead.
When the whistled sounded and Duke got the chance to shoot a pair of free throws with 1.5 seconds remaining, there was a whirlwind series of emotions. Confusion as to who had allegedly committed the foul. Terror at the thought of losing after supposedly fouling a three-point shooter. Annoyance once we saw the replay showing the minimal degree to which Blair had impacted the shot. Anxiety when Duke made the first of his two attempts. Bewilderment because the sound on my TV went out as he took the second shot and the camera cutaway shot happened so quickly that the outcome wasn’t certain. Disbelief that something of this type had broken in the Hoyas’ favor. Finally, joy — for the team — that after weeks of confinement they managed to pull together a collaborative effort, shaking off a start that first saw them in a 10-0 hole and then facing a 15-point deficit, and were rewarded with a victory.
Georgetown should be back in action on Wednesday night, when they visit Creighton in a 9pm tipoff set to air on FS1.
For now...enjoy this feeling. Hoyas win!