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OUTSMARTED: Georgetown Loses to Northwestern 75-63

Hoyas scored only 28 points on 10-28 shooting in the second half

Photo by Rafael Suanes/Georgetown Univ.

Your Georgetown Hoyas (2-1) hosted the Northwestern Wildcats (3-0) this evening in Washington, DC, marking the first ever meeting between the two schools. The visitors took this installment of the Gavitt Tipoff Games, with the Hoyas falling by a score of 75-63. Primo Spears once again led the team with 25 points, and Jay Heath showed why his status was of such interest, adding 13 points, 3 rebounds, and a pair each of assists and steals coming off the bench in his debut. Akok Akok racked up 10 points in the opening half before being fully shut down in the second.

The Hoyas seemed to be gaining confidence and momentum coming out of the weekend’s win over Green Bay, and they also gained additional players, with Heath’s waiver coming through and Bradley Ezewiro back from a medical absence. Northwestern was on a roll as well, coming off two consecutive victories of their own against regional opponents.

After a literal false start, Georgetown won the tip but came up empty on a lengthy first possession. Chase Audige opened the scoring with a poorly defended three. The Hoyas committed an offensive foul to turn it over, then Ty Berry drilled another triple to put the Wildcats up by 6. Georgetown answered with a vigilant follow-tip by Akok to get on the board. Berry hit again, and the Hoyas called timeout to regroup. Out of that break, Qudus Wahab drew a foul and current BIG EAST leading scorer Spears drained a three. Georgetown forced a turnover and quickly followed it with Heath’s first basket as a Hoya, an aggressive layup through contact where he drew the foul on his way in. Wahab’s tip made it a 7-point streak for the Hoyas and solid defense denied Northwestern a basket. Despite some questionable shot selection, it was locked at 9-9 headed into the U16.

Both teams entered a short scoring drought, which Bryson Mozone broke first with a layup high off the glass. At the other end, Tydus Verhoeven, the Wildcats’ big man, picked up his second foul with just over 12 minutes remaining in the first half. Some dubious passes went the Hoyas way, with Wahab cleaning up under the basket to put Georgetown on top 13-10. The lead was short-lived, as Julian Roper answered with a triple. It was challenging for either team to gain ground, with the Hoyas committing multiple unforced turnovers and the Wildcats racking up early fouls. When Wahab picked up his second foul near the midway point of the first half, Ezewiro made his first appearance on the floor and got dinged with two quick whistles of his own.

Chaotic and unfruitful sequences — five possessions in a row resulted in turnovers — subjected viewers to a stretch of rhythmless basketball.

Northwestern took a narrow 21-20 advantage into the U8. Spears’ and-1 marked the fifth consecutive trip up the court with a basket, the Hoyas got a stop, then Heath hit again in transition to give his team a five point cushion — their largest lead of the game. The Wildcats clawed their way back, capitalizing on unforced errors by the Hoyas. Even while they could not manage to score, an aggressive block by Brandon Murray and another by Akok showed that the players were not sleeping on defense. A mishandled ball allowed Jordan Riley to throw down a massive breakaway dunk. Sure, it would have been better if Georgetown had not fouled with 3.9 seconds left in the half, but the Hoyas still took a 35-33 lead into halftime.

An early stop and a fadeaway jumper from Spears was countered by a few easy baskets for the Wildcats, but a three from Heath and driving layup from Spears kept the Hoyas ahead by a pair. The second half featured a much more brisk pace of play. This briefly favored Georgetown, allowing them a chance to demonstrate their athleticism and aggressive rebounding. Unfortunately, the Wildcats gained control of the ball, the paint, and the pace, hitting three straight from long range on their way to a 13-2 run. The saga of inadequate guarding around the three point line is a tale as old as time, the song that never ends, etc. Trailing 53-44 with 12:35 left to play, Coach Ewing called a timeout.

Spears banked one in from the top of the key, followed by Murray drawing a charge at the other end. The Hoyas’ inability to get consistent stops or baskets meant the deficit didn’t shrink. Northwestern was on a 20-8 run and possessed the first double digit lead, ahead 60-50 with 8 minutes remaining. Mozone’s triple leading into the media break temporarily kept things within reach, but Georgetown struggled to make up ground. Murray was having a particularly frustrating outing, unable to buy a basket from the floor despite multiple opportunities. The Wildcats took a 13-point lead, once again finding the open man outside the arc and allowing Beran to sink one from the corner with 3:37 remaining. It was heartening to see the team continue to try to force steals in the waning minutes, but this one had slipped out of reach.

Spears and Heath delivered, and the team’s collective ability to block shots and force steals could make these Hoyas really fun to watch. However, frontcourt shortcomings and a maddening inability to lock down the three point line were more than the team’s performance elsewhere could overcome. Allowing competent opponents to take more than 30 shots from behind the arc is not a recipe for success. (I keep telling myself that this is fixable, if only they would fix it. Let me have this dream.)

The Hoyas have a few days to regroup before their next game, which is a happy hour special tipoff time in the opening round of the Jersey Mike’s Jamaica Classic. Georgetown faces Loyola Marymount in that one, slated for 4:30pm on Friday (11/18) and airing on CBS Sports Network.

We’ll get ‘em next time. And the first half really did have some enjoyable basketball.

Hoya Saxa.