Your Georgetown Hoyas have something else to be thankful for over this holiday weekend. The team got their third consecutive win today, taking down the Jackson State Tigers this afternoon by a score of 88-81. Once again Jayden Epps led all scorers, dropping 34 points alongside 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and a block. Dontrez Styles continues to impress, adding 22 points and a pair of blocks; Jay Heath and Wayne Bristol Jr. chipped in 13 and 11 points respectively, with the latter’s assertiveness & energy (even through foul trouble) continuing a positive trend for him early this season.
Under circumstances where Jackson State had not differentiated itself from the rest of the non-conference field by upsetting Missouri earlier in the week, this game would have triggered only the standard amount of Hoya anxiety. However, Mo Williams’ Tigers did upset the other (Mizzou) Tigers to provide a slightly daunting lead-in from Georgetown’s perspective. The other storyline accompanying this game was one that elicited positive memories for our fanbase, with alumnus Tyler Adams returning to Capital One Arena as an Assistant Coach on the Tigers’ staff.
The broadcast opened with some discouraging news for the Hoyas, showing a change to the starting lineup as Rowan Brumbaugh was out with an illness. However, finishing off that OT win over American had to have given the Hoyas some confidence in their ability to function as a unit, so the ability to cover the gap felt less dire than it might have otherwise.
After a series of empty early possessions for both teams, Epps picked up where he left off, smoothly sinking a long three from the top of the arc. Supreme Cook was battling with O’Neal physically from very early on, with neither big man willing to give an inch when grappling for rebounds and O’Neal leading the early scoring for Jackson State. Dontrez Styles entered the stat sheet by finishing a lob of the inbounds with only 2 seconds on the shot clock. There were seven lead changes in the first 5 minutes of play; the Hoyas trailed 11-9.
Georgetown was once again not positioning and executing to have a rebounding advantage, particularly within 5’ of the basket, though the damage was minimized thanks to several errant passes by the Tigers in transition. There was a moment of concern just past the 10 minute mark when a trainer escorted Epps back to the locker room, the announcing crew theorizing that he had dislocated a finger and needed it put back in place. He had return to the bench – with a taped shooting hand – by the end of the next media break.
His teammates held it down in his absence, with Styles’ first three putting the Hoyas on top 24-21 at 8:18 off an unselfish assist from Jay Heath. Bristol Jr. followed that up with another triple, then Styles hit again to cap a 13-4 run for Georgetown. However, the consistent inability to clean up off the class bit back, and Jackson State efficiently closed that gap to give the Tigers a 32-30 advantage into the U4.
Bristol Jr. stepped up into a more aggressive posture driving to the basket and creating his own shot; it was a huge relief to see Epps get his first basket since returning to the court a few minutes earlier. The Tigers continue to see production from O’Neal and Cook, cancelling out the Hoyas’ attack. It was a high-scoring half, and Georgetown went into the break just on the wrong side of a 40-39 split.
There was a good news/bad news few minutes coming out of intermission, with sustained hot shooting from Epps assuaging fans’ fears while sloppy passing and Bristol’s foul trouble tempered the optimism. Supreme Cook was trading words with O’Neal, Adams, and (the other) Cook, leading the teams, officiating crew, and both coaching staffs to intervene before the situation could get more physical. Officially, it was a foul on the Tiger that sent it to the first media break with the Hoyas up 53-51; unofficially, it was an excellent time for some de-escalation in the team huddles. When all was said and done, a series of technical fouls were assessed; Georgetown ended up with two shots and possession of the ball.
Jackson State was positioning themselves smart under the basket and grabbing roughly 50% more rebounds than the Hoyas, allowing the visitors to convert and carry a 65-62 advantage into the U12. Supreme Cook showed some improved free throw shooting and Styles hit a pretty fadeaway jumper, but soft play inside and a couple of inopportune turnovers prevented Georgetown from developing sustained positive momentum. Epps tied it back up by banking in what might have been his longest three of the season, shot over traffic from roughly the edge of the coaches’ box; Heath hit one on the following trip to put Georgetown ahead 73-70 with 7:16 to play.
Styles and Bristol were key to reading deflections keeping some stability on execution for the Hoyas, despite having four fouls apiece. Jackson State continued to spread out their scoring, but the home team was able to consistently keep the visitors at bay. When the long overdue final media timeout happened with only 1:22 on the clock, Georgetown led by four – 83-79. Solid in-the-paint defense from Fielder (alongside Heath) to block a shot from Evans Jr. and revert possession to the Hoyas proved decisive. Epps was fouled soon after and went to the line, sinking both to create a 7-point cushion, the largest lead of the game and matching the final margin.
At a glance, the Hoyas are continuing to keep the turnovers under control, giving it up only 9 times today. Controlling the paint is going to be a big area to watch, as the disparity of points in that area is concerning and rebounding close to the basket at both ends is still leaving a lot to be desired. Right now the hot perimeter shooting is helping to cover for many sins, but that will inevitably not be the case every game. The dangerous passing is also a facet that other teams could exploit, particularly during conference play.
All in all, this team is showing an ability to close out games. Next up Georgetown will host Merrimack at Capital One, tipping off this coming Wednesday 11/29 at 8:30pm, airing on FS1.
Happy Thanksgiving weekend, everyone!