YES. YES. YES. YES.
Saturday night, your Georgetown Hoyas returned to the Big East Tournament final and reclaimed their throne atop of the conference, blowing the doors off of Creighton, 73-48, to complete an unexpected championship run and earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Tonight was complete validation for: Coach Patrick Ewing who, despite nothing but success as a Georgetown player, hadn’t won a Big East Tournament game entering this week; Seniors Jahvon Blair and Jamorko Pickett who, despite committing to Ewing from the jump, had toiled through years of building and rebuilding; and a squad that, despite being picked last in the conference and suffering through early-season disappointments, found collective and individual identity at just the right time.
Seemingly any trip by Georgetown and Ewing to Madison Square Garden is soaked in history, and tonight was no exception. Earlier in the week, Ewing had invoked that past, jokingly (or was he?) noting that he shouldn’t need to show ID to MSG security, because, “is my number in the rafters or what?” As the Fox broadcast team pointed out time and again, today marked the 49th anniversary of the hire of John Thompson Jr., the father, architect, and identity of Georgetown basketball, who passed away before this season began. Just one year ago, Georgetown’s loss in the Big East Tournament served as a milestone of a different sort, one of the last completed college basketball games before the entire sports world was shut down.
It had been an unfortunately long time since the Hoyas had tasted success during championship week: five years since their last win, six since their last trip to the semis, eleven since their last appearance on Saturday night, and fourteen since their last title. All of those clocks went to zero on this Saturday night, as these Hoyas — perhaps the most improbable in a generation — emphatically reclaimed their program’s position as kings of the Big East.
Other teams might have been weighed down by this history, flinched at the enormity of the opportunity, rather than seizing it, or simply been gassed by an exhausting year punctuated by their fourth game in four days. And from the tip, it seemed that Georgetown’s beautiful run through the tournament might meet just such an unfortunate end.
Early offensive struggles have become routine for these Hoyas. Against Creighton, Georgetown managed a meager one point in the game’s first four minutes as a series of three balls were badly off, and the Hoyas didn’t puncture the Bluejay defense. All those Georgetown bricks juiced the Creighton offense, as the Bluejays got to the rim in transition, building leads of 9-3, and then 13-6.
Then, brick by brick, Georgetown started coming back. Dante Harris hit a step-in mid-ranger. Blair hit a transition wing three to pull the Hoyas within a bucket. A Timothy Ighoefe tip-in tied it up. With the Hoyas back down by three, Chudier Bile, seemingly enlivened by his late-game heroics last night against Seton Hall, got a steal then converted a transition lay-in. Donald Carey, also free on the move, hit a deep, leaning three to put Georgetown ahead.
The Hoyas would never trail again. Georgetown proceeded to score the last 18 points of the half, spanning 6 minutes before intermission, to blow open a close game. Blair hit another three. Then Blair hit yet another three, this time off the back-board. Truly testing the laws of space and time, he then made a floating, flying, flip off the glass as he fell out of bounds. Bile had a put-back, then Harris hit another mid-ranger. In that gray area just before half, when a promising lead sometimes dwindles, Harris saw his opportunity, picking a clean steal and coasting in for a lay-up, then hitting Qudus Wahab down low for a baby hook to put Georgetown up 18. The Hoyas were rolling.
No Hoya fan who’s watched the past season would feel comfortable with a double-digit half-time lead, even with Georgetown having seemingly exorcised old demons during January’s Covid pause. But Georgetown continued to rack up points after the break, while Creighton could not draw net. Bluejay point guard Marcus Zegarowski put together a sterling 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting, while the rest of the team shot below 20 percent. As the Hoyas’ lead passed 20, and eventually 30, their defensive energy was infectious, closing out on shooters, flying around the rim, and stifling the Bluejays’ perimeter movement. Eventually, Creighton’s shooters seemed to be seeing ghosts, as even clean looks became hesitant, or just plain off.
Georgetown turned a 13-6 deficit into a 61-31 lead, a jaw-dropping stretch of domination that, to some degree, defies explanation. Everything went right for the Hoyas. Bile overcame 2.9 miserable games of Big East Tournament basketball to lead all scorers with 19 points, while also grabbing eight rebounds, tallying a steal and two blocks, and generally setting the energetic tone for the triumphant Hoyas. Blair capped his return from exile with 18 points off the bench, and Wahab put together a double-double of 11 and 12. One night after playing the star on both ends Pickett was happy as a glue guy, playing solid defense.
It was freshman Dante Harris who transformed most over the week, putting together an all-around line of 10 points, eight rebounds, and five assists to earn the tournament’s MVP award. Harris arrived at Georgetown under-recruited and without hype, his low profile abetted by the lack of Kenner League over the summer. But recruitniks were buzzing, and his earliest appearances showed flashes of speed, craft, and heart. The training wheels came off when Arkansas transfer Jalen Harris, who began the season as the team’s point guard, took a leave of absence, and Dante became the floor general, ready or not.
As it turns out, he was ready, ever more so by the game. This week, he shone when the lights were brightest, alternately leading the team in scoring, in assists, and, when off-ball, exuberant celebration over his teammates’ achievements. His step-in jumper became a critical release valve when the offense sometimes stalled. He played seemingly without fatigue for improbable minutes totals. He hit critical, game-winning free throws against Villanova, and iced last night’s semifinal win. All credit to Dante for growing over the past season, and to the staff for uncovering him. We’re lucky to have three more years with this dude.
Make that three years plus whatever comes next. We’re fucking dancing!!!! After years of disappointment, we get to watch Selection Sunday knowing that Georgetown’s name will be called.
But for now, let’s enjoy this moment. And now, with a quiet beer or twelve at home, I’m off to do just that. Hoya Saxa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!