One step forward.
One step back. Disregard, make that two steps forward over this weekend. Your maddening, beloved, mercurial, tenacious Georgetown Hoyas grinded their way to 3-2 record on the season today, snatching this game from the American University Eagles in overtime by an 88-83 margin.
Jayden Epps had his head on straight in the second half, demonstrating incredibly hot shooting and steady hands, with a team-leading 31 points (and 4 assists) that doesn’t fully capture the extent to which the late-game comeback was his orchestration. Dontrez Styles turned in his second strong performance in as many days, dropping 22 points while grabbing 11 rebounds and going 5-6 from the line. Rowan Brumbaugh and Supreme Cook were in double figures as well, with the former also dishing out 4 assists.
After opening the season with a lopsided loss to Villanova, the Eagles were looking to pull above .500 entering their fourth game in only 10 days. While this might usually mean that fatigue was top of mind, American had to be energized by the knowledge that they had beaten the Hoyas just last season, as well as the fact that GU was on day two of a back-to-back weekend. Georgetown, led in that one by Styles, had broken a two-game losing streak with a win over Mount St. Mary’s a mere 26 hours before this Sunday matinée tipped off.
Styles picked up right where he left off, kicking off scoring with a smooth jumper in the paint. AU notched two baskets in a row before Epps drained a three, and Brumbaugh echoed that on the next possession. Georgetown struggled to contain the constant movement and quick passing of the Eagles’ guards, allowing multiple late in the shot clock conversions, and it was tied 11-11 at the first media break.
Coming out of that stoppage, American broke the press to score from beyond the arc, and then the Hoyas committed a turnover. Wayne Bristol Jr. swarmed around Smalls after a miss, forcing a turnover and setting up Jay Heath to convert. Jones answered at the other end for the Eagles, putting them ahead by three with a chance to extend that lead as he was fouled by Bristol. The early challenge for the Blue & Gray was that they were being out-rebounded… badly.
Styles hit a smooth transition three to put the Hoyas back on top midway through the half, and Georgetown got a lucky break when rough boxing out by AU under the basket drew a whistle and allowed the home team to retain possession. Cook tried for the alley-oop off the inbounds, was fouled and hit both, a welcome outcome for a big man who often struggles from the line. The Hoyas were up, 22-17. Giving up second (and third)chance attempts by failing to corral misses created an opening through which American was able to tie it up and then take a thelead.
When an astonishingly comprehensive failure on defense by the Hoyas allowed Mayock a wide-open path to the basket, Ed Cooley immediately wanted a timeout. It was Styles, once again, who was able to answer. Hot shooting from Sprouse cancelled out a triple from Drew Fielder. Georgetown was being outsmarted and outmuscled by the Eagles consistent execution, allowing 6 (or more?) lead changes in the opening half. An unselfish play by Epps to find Cook directly under the basket put the Hoyas back on top. Bristol defended that lead (and the basket) with a block on the next play. Georgetown carried a single-point advantage into the break, 35-34.
Two early baskets and missed shots from the Hoyas meant that the single-point lead became an 8-point deficit within the first 3.5 minutes after intermission. Styles finally tallied Georgetown’s first points of the half at the 16:15 mark. The next several possessions were chaotic, featuring many scrambles and changes of possession and errant passes. Brumbaugh’s tenacity was key to exploiting this disorganization tying it back up at 45 with 12:38 to play, however, a mere four minutes later the Hoyas were trailing by 10. Georgetown simply looked worn out.
Subsequent minutes and sequences only amounted to treading water. Epps and Cook managed to score, yet American answered from behind the arc each time, creating an 11-point gulf with just under 7 minutes to go. Something shifted. Bristol cut the double-digit lead to five with a triple, then snagged a HUGE deflection off a Sprouse turnover seconds later which Styles was able to convert. AU answered, then Epps drilled from long range to bring the Hoyas back within two. Georgetown trailed only 67-65 with 2:17 left.
The Hoyas nearly forced a turnover, but the Eagles recovered possession with 1:23 remaining and immediately signaled for a timeout. Aggressive defense against the inbounds pass by Georgetown forced American to use their final timeout. Bristol was called for a block on the next possession, sending Mayockto the line for AU and expanding the Eagles’ lead back to four. Epps cut it to one seconds later with a closely contested triple.
Cam Bacote was whistled for a nitpicky hold call with 25.8 remaining; Rogers hit the front end of the 1-and-1, missed the second, but grabbed his own rebound and drew another foul as the Hoyas did not box out. Epps hit a three with 15 seconds remaining; Georgetown immediately fouled again to stop the clock. Smalls made one of his two foul shots and the Hoyas trailed 76-73 with 13.8 on the clock. The officiating staff reviewed the possession, effectively granting both teams a bonus timeout.
Epps was fouled on the floor with 8.2 remaining, forcing Georgetown to inbound again. Epps – once more – took the shot and rattled it in from the corner. It was tied 76-76 with 5 seconds to play, and AU was unable to get a shot off on their final opportunity in regulation.
Overtime. Supreme Cook fought through contact and looped one in from under the basket; Stevens answered. Styles got his own miss and rolled one in off his fingertips. Ball and Cook traded pairs of free-throws. Bristol fouled out on the next play, tangled up with Rogers; Styles was fouled and also made both. Styles was whistled for a foul against Rogers, who only made 1 of two. Georgetown was ahead 84-83 with 1:52. Hoyas came up empty on their next possession, but the Eagles traveled and turned it over, mercifully mitigating the damage that could have been done. Brumbaugh made a layup assisted by Epps (I think), extending the lead to three. 86-83.
American was unable to convert on their next possession. Georgetown got the ball back with 30.8 remaining…and Eppswas immediately swarmed into turning it over, allowing the Eagles an extra chance to tie it up. Mayock missed a three; Brumbaugh corralled the deflection and was instantly fouled with 9 seconds left. The freshman knocked them both down. Hoyas win, 88-83.
Even with the dedicated press from American, Georgetown kept the turnovers under control, committing only half as many during 40 minutes as they had in the previous contest. Additionally, they were more frequently able to defend throughout the duration of the shot clock without being exposed on rotation. The next developmental step for the Hoyas therewill be to reliably grab more rebounds and get defensive stops so that they are less exposed when their own offense becomes temporarily stifled or stagnant.
This one felt like it got away, and the team fought back. It was damn good to see from a fan perspective. I have to imagine this will pay psychological dividends for the players as well, being able to reflect on this moment when they inevitably find themselves in tough late-game positions later in the season.
Next up, the Hoyas get a bit of rest over Thanksgiving week, and will be back in action next Saturday 11/25 when they host Jackson State. That one will air at Noon ET on FS2. Hoya Saxa!