The Georgetown Hoyas suffered, by most measurements, their worst loss in the Patrick Ewing era on Wednesday, surrendering a 10-point halftime lead to lose to the American Eagles, 74-70. The Hoyas were without Brandon Murray, who was out with an injury, and American was missing their leading scorer, Collin Smalls. There are no excuses for such an embarrassing defeat.
Before the full recap, here’s a quick Georgetown-American history lesson. The Hoyas had won the previous eleven matchups between the two teams, ten of those wins coming by 17 points or more. The Hoyas last loss against American came on December 15, 1982. Future Wizards coach Ed Tapscott was the coach of American at the time. He had just taken over for Gary Williams, who had left American to coach Boston College. He would later coach at Ohio State before taking over at Maryland in 1989. Simply put, this game has not been close in a very long time.
Johnny O’Neil led the Eagles with 16 points (7-17, 2-10 3PT), while Geoff Sprouse had 15 points and Jaxon Knotek added 14 for American.
Primo Spears led the Hoyas with 15 points, 6 assists, but surrendered 5 turnovers. Akok Akok had 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 turnovers. Jay Heath had 10 points on 4-9 shooting. Qudus Wahab was 2-6 from the field (8 points) with 9 rebounds and three turnovers.
Georgetown jumped out to a 5-0 lead on a Akok Akok three-pointer and Jay Heath jumper. American responded to make it 11-10 on a Johnny O’Neil dunk on Wayne Bristol. Ewing called an immediate timeout, and the Hoyas responded with a 17-2 scoring run over a four-minute stretch to make it 27-13 with 7:45 left in the half. The run was spurred by Ryan Mutombo, who offered an immediate spark off the bench with two buckets in the paint. The energy and ball movement of the second unit was palpable, and the combination of Primo Spears-Jordan Riley-Bryson Mozone-Bristol-Mutombo was effective.
The rest of the first half was played even, with Georgetown using its size and athleticism to lead 40-30 at halftime. There were some ominous signs, though. Eight Hoyas first-half turnovers. Zero sense of urgency or ball pressure on defense. Wide-open 3s for American (they shot just 3-14 from 3PT in the half, but this was not due to good defense). Against an overmatched American, the Hoyas did enough to lead comfortably at the half, but not enough to run away with the game or even make a fan feel that comfortable with the lead.
Georgetown’s start to the second half was flat, with American cutting the lead to 40-36 on an O’Neil trailer three-pointer. This three was particularly troubling, as there not only was not a Hoya in sight when he caught the ball, but nobody budged to contest the 3.
After another Akok 3, O’Neil followed it up with another 3 of his own to continue to keep American close, 43-39. American cut the lead to 48-47 on a Jermaine Ballisager Webb layup. The Hoyas got the lead to 52-47, but American continued its ball pressure and overall sense of urgency, going on a 6-0 run to take a 53-52 lead on an Elijah Stephens layup with 11:05 to play in the game. During American’s second-half resurgence, the Hoyas settled for jump shots, failed to get the ball inside, and played upsettingly bad defense.
The Hoyas came out of the 11:05 timeout in a 2-3 zone, which seemed to help matters initially as Georgetown nabbed the lead back, 55-53. American went on yet another run, thanks to more bad Hoyas defense, taking a six-point lead 61-55 on a Knotek layup.
Knotek then nailed a 3 to make the lead 64-57. Georgetown cut the lead to 66-64 on a Jay Heath deep 3. In a pivotal moment, Spears threw the ball away on a fastbreak opportunity at 1:49 left. It was Spears’ fifth turnover of the game, and his second fast break throwaway of the half. Another Knotek layup gave American a 68-64 lead with 1:25 left to play. American continued its second half dominance and grabbed an offensive rebound in the final minute, and Matt Rogers hit a jump hook off the rebound to give American the 70-65 lead.
This was a backbreaking, how-can-this happen loss for Georgetown. The team looks disjointed on both ends, with no answers in sight. American has been coached since 2013 by former Georgetown assistant Mike Brennan, and they took advantage of a Georgetown team without a plan on either end.
The Hoyas return to action on Saturday at Noon ET against UMBC (3-3), who have lost by 20+ points to Tulane and Princeton so far this year.