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SENIOR NIGHT: Georgetown Defends Home Against Xavier, 72-66

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Picket and Blair led the game, Bile closed it.

GUHoyas

The Georgetown Hoyas (9-11, 7-8) held off a comeback from the Xavier Musketeers (13-6, 6-6) to win 72-66 on Tuesday night at McDonough Arena for Georgetown’s seventh conference win in the COVID-19-abbreviated season.

The Hoyas were led by seniors Jamorko Pickett (18 points, 7 rebounds) and Jahvon Blair (12 points, 3 assists), and the win was completed on the back of grad-transfer Chudier Bile’s 14-point, 6-rebound second-half efforts. Wahab scored 13 points and had 7 rebounds.

Xavier’s NCAA Tournament hopes were potentially on the line for this one, but they sure did not play like it in the first half. Travis Steele’s Musketeers were not able to score in the paint easily and matched Georgetown in the turnover department. Scoring only 23 in the first half, Xavier’s 43 points in the second was not enough to match the Hoyas.

Patrick Ewing had a second game with the starting lineup of Jamorko Pickett, Chudier Bile, Qudus Wahab, Dante Harris, and Donald Carey, with Jahvon Blair starting de facto senior night on the bench. Xavier started Zach Freemantle, Paul Scruggs, Colby Jones, Dwon Odom, and Jason Carter.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Hoyas got out to slow start on Tuesday night. Luckily, Xavier did as well. The score was 6-5 at the first media timeout with 15:48 left in the half and 9-7 with 13:53 on the clock. The Hoyas did get going, at least partially because Ewing subbed Blair in. At the 7:59 timeout, the score was 17-14, GU, with the turnover margin 7-6 in favor of Xavier, but the Hoyas went on a 7-0 run in two minutes before Travis Steele called timeout.

The Musketeers got a bucket, but Georgetown went on a 6-0 run over the next minute and a half to open up a 30-16 lead with 4 minutes left. The Hoyas went into the double-bonus on free throws and ended up shooting 8-11 from the charity stripe for the half, compared to 4-5 for XU.

At halftime, the Hoyas led 38-23, with Georgetown shooting 13-31 (42%) from the field and 4-12 (33%) from three, while Xavier shot only 8-30 (27%) from the field and 3-12 (25%) from beyond. Georgetown let on rebounds 26-15, with a 10-6 offensive board margin. Ighoefe (3), Wahab (2), and Bile (2) led O-reb charge. Hoyas had 10 points in the paint and Xavier had 8.

Emblematic of the rough starts, though, each team finished the half with 8 turnovers, with the Hoyas scoring 12 points off turnovers and Xavier scoring 11.

As Bobby noted in the game thread, the halftime score may have predicted the outcome as Xavier was 10-0 when leading at the half and Georgetown was just 1-6 when trailing before the intermission. The Hoyas did their jobs defensively with Freemantle shooting just 1-8 FG (1-4 3PT) and Scruggs going 1-5 (0-2 3PT) from the field.

The second half started slowly for each team, with GU shooting 1-5 and XU shooting 2-6 before Ewing called a 30-second timeout (40-27) with 16:06 left. Harris, after the break, broke the press for a nice jumper from the foul line but came down funny on his ankle before another pause in the action. Harris came back but XU’s Paul Scruggs limped off after a loose ball. Xavier found themselves with a lineup lacking Fremantle or Scruggs.

Pickett nailed a three for his 14th points to make it 47-31 before Colby Jones and Chudier Bile traded threes to make it 50-34 with 12:43 left. Bile hit another three to go up 53-36 with 12 minutes left and the Hoyas carried that scored into the 11:24 media timeout. At this point, the commercial break featured the classic Geico commercial featuring Dikembe Mutombo.

Qudus Wahab scored two big buckets on an offensive rebound and then on a pick and roll feed by Jamorko Pickett for a monstrous, rim-rattling, technical-inducing two-handed slam dunk. Pickett’s command of the pick-and-roll these past two games with Wahab and Bile had to turn scouts’ heads a bit and is a nice new wrinkle by Ewing.

The Hoyas were up 57-39 before Scruggs made the technical free-throw with 10:17 left. Freemantle made a three and a layup, but Bile hit another three in between so the score was 60-46 at the under-8 media timeout.

Coming back in, Carey committed Georgetown’s eighth foul of the half, compared to Xavier’s 1. This was quite different from the first half. Kyky Tandy hit two free-throws and then a huge three to cut the lead to 60-51 before Ewing called timeout with 6:41 left.

Out of the timeout, Blair drove and drew a fourth foul on Scruggs, but still it was only the second XU foul. Tandy hit another three but Blair again drove the paint and drew the fifth and final foul on Paul Scruggs with 5 and a half minutes left. The announcers talked about Xavier looking dejected without their stud, but the Musketeers still had Freemantle who knocked down a three to make it 57-63 then Tandy drove and made a layup to pull within 4. Chudi Bile drilled a slow, measured, wide-open three on the other end, off of a Pickett assist, to get the lead back to 7 with about 3:20 left. Hoyas only made 1 of their last 9 field goals at this point.

Carey inbounded the ball to Blair in the corner who stepped out for their third turnover of the half. The freshman Wilcher found himself with the ball after an offensive rebound and drew a foul. Tandy hit a jumper to bring the score to 66-63 before Pickett wrestled a rebound and scored.

A strange chain of events led to Harris coughing the ball up and Pickett deflecting the ball on Xavier’s fast-break. Blair was fouled with XU having (at least) one to give due to the second half foul discrepancy, but Bile fed Pickett in the post, with a tough pass to collect, and Jamorko drew a foul and nailed two from the charity stripe to make it 70-65 with 57 seconds left. Xavier missed two three-point attempts before fouling Freemantle who split a pair of foul shots. Xavier got the rebound but Odom turned the ball over with his foot on the line. 70-66 with 34 seconds left. XU called timeout and the Hoyas were about to inbound it against the Xavier press but a foul was called and newly subbed-in TJ Berger went to the line but was short on the front-end.

On the other end of the floor, Bile was flying around everywhere. Tandy had a layup blocked out of bounds by Bile and Tandy then missed a three. Bile got the rebound and was fouled, but missed his third free throw attempt of the game. Hustling back, Colby Jones had a layup blocked by the backboard with Bile getting a piece. Chudi was fouled and made both free throws to go up 72-66 with 12 seconds left. Wilcher tried one more three and Bile gobbled up the rebound to finish the game.

In the end, Xavier out-rebounded Georgetown in the second half 29-20 with XU grabbing 11 offensive boards (GU 5 OREB) in the half. Overall in the second period, the Hoyas were outscored 34-43. Georgetown shot 11-30 (37%) from the field and 5-13 (38.5%) from three in the second. Xavier shot 14-38 (37%) from the field and 6-22 (27%) from beyond the arc after halftime. Both teams had 4 turnovers in the half, but it didn’t feel a whole lot cleaner than the first.

The free-throws for the second half eventually did even out (GU 7-11, XU 9-11) with Xavier’s end-of-game strategy, but Georgetown was not attacking enough. Still, fouling Scruggs out early was a good strategy by Ewing and Blair. Xavier did have 20 second-half bench points.

Georgetown was ultimately able to fight off Xavier’s strong comeback efforts though. Xavier’s defense and rebounding efforts were boosted in the second, Travis Steele undoubtedly reminded his team of what was at stake and showed the Hoyas second-half pressure at a level that befuddled the boys in Blue & Gray up until very recently. The increase in maturity and (dare I say) poise from these last few weeks showed.

Everything in the BIG EAST has to be earned, but perhaps the manner of this win was destined for Blair and Pickett. Georgetown may have lost grip on this victory if it weren’t for Chudier Bile hustling at a high level.

Likewise, Blair craftily drawing fouls and hitting important free-throws and Pickett being aggressive on both ends down the stretch to close out this game was fantastic to see on their senior night.

This quality of a win, late in the season, and having to hang on for victory, was impressive for this Hoyas team and a decent statement of progress for the program.

The Hoyas look for their 8th BIG EAST win on Saturday against UConn in Storrs.

HOYA SAXA!