In what Coach Ewing described in the post-game press conference as a “royal ass-kicking,” the Georgetown Hoyas lost their final regular season BIG EAST game to the UCONN Huskies by a score of 98-82. The Hoyas had momentum rolling into this matchup, but their early play was disorganized, selfish, and lacking in focus & intensity. This allowed the Huskies to capitalize on hot early shooting and build a substantial (and ultimately insurmountable) advantage.
The game began with a familiar scene, with the Hoyas’ opponent taking an early 12-0 lead off two pairs of baskets from Isaiah Whaley and James Bouknight while the Georgetown lineup looked slightly stunned and heavy-footed. With Jahvon Blair bewilderingly absent from the starting five once again, the Hoyas relied heavily upon Jamorko Pickett and Chudier Bile’s free throw shooting for what little offense they were able to generate. The announcing crew kept reminding viewers that Georgetown has been the best rebounding team in the BIG EAST this year, which is great, except when considered in contrast to the current performance where UCONN was beating them 23-9 off the glass. To add insult to injury, Jalen Gaffney was skittering around the Hoyas defense and started off making 4 of 4.
Georgetown scored 6 field goals in the opening half, with only a single assist provided, and didn’t make a bucket from beyond the arc. They were playing selfish and flat. Heading into the locker room down 54-21, the confidence gained after winning four of the last five games had to be shaken. Throughout the year, this group has distinguished themselves from other recent Georgetown teams by their ability to stabilize in the face of adversity and play smart to claw their way back into contention. Facing their biggest deficit of the season as they were in a 29-point hole less than a minute into the second half, the Hoyas started to show flashes of defensive energy and organization.
While UCONN was being forced to endure a 3-minute scoring drought, Georgetown managed a 7-0 run in the span of 52 seconds. Tyrese Martin broke his teams scoreless streak, but the Hoyas had pried the lid off the basket. Georgetown started off the second half 4-for-4 from beyond the arc, with Bile and Blair each contributing a pair of triples. Pickett and Dante Harris found the bottom of the basket as well. When Blair knocked down a triple just after the U12 media break, the score was 64-46, and the Hoyas’ had cut the deficit to <20.
With Bile in foul trouble, we started to see a bit more (valuable, successful, necessary, experience-gathering) lineup roulette of freshmen coming in from the Georgetown bench. Coming out of the U8, Kobe Clark battled inside to set Wahab up for the second-chance dunk. After Bile picked up his fifth, Collin Holloway drove toward the basket and hit a runner with his left hand. When the Huskies turned it over on the inbounds, Blair capitalized with a deep 2 and was fouled in the act of shooting, making it 81-64 with 5:08 remaining.
In addition to another triple and some free throws from Blair, Holloway chipped in another layup, Kobe Clark got a bucket and-1, and TJ Berger knocked one down from long range, keeping in step with UCONN’s scorers to ensure that the margin did not balloon back up in the final minutes. Overall, the Hoyas outscored the Huskies 58-47 in the second half, fighting their way back toward daylight from a 29-point hole.
UCONN is a very good team. James Bouknight concerns me. There is no shame in losing this game to the group that is playing the best basketball in the conference right now. There is, however, plenty of room for self-examination in terms of how this game got so nauseatingly out of hand.
The BIG EAST Tournament starts this coming Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. Georgetown will either be the 7-, 8-, or 9- seed (Editor’s Note: I think? Too much pondering about bracket math makes me nuts), with game time and opponent TBD. However, it does not matter who they are playing. This team’s biggest challenge is internal. The Hoyas need to manage themselves. When they play collaborative and organized basketball, they can hang with anybody else in the conference. With the return of any seniors still up in the air and an incoming recruiting class with boundless promise, this coming week could be a turning point for the Georgetown program in the (Coach) Ewing era, in a year where this group has already far outplayed expectations that predicted them to finish last in the conference.