After a solid win against a frisky Jackson St. team, your Georgetown University Hoyas returned to action to square off against the 293rd ranked Merrimack Warriors (Kenpom). Interestingly, Merrimack actually qualified for the dance last year by winning the Northeast Conference tournament, but due to some technicalities as a new D1 school, the ticket was given to Fairleigh Dickinson. As a #16 seed, Fairleigh Dickinson would go on to beat the #1 seeded Purdue Boilermakers in the first round. Coming into this game, the Merrimack Warriors were led by Jordan Derkack, who was averaging 14.5PPG and 6.5REB per game. Of note, Merrimack ranks 1st in the country with 11.2 steals per game and 334th in the country in 3PT% at 26% (thank god).
The Georgetown roster had a couple of key additions for tonights ballgame. The buzz started before the game when Ismael Massoud warmed up with the team for the first time - he would log his first minutes as a Hoya early in the game. The Hoyas also got PG Rowan Brumbraugh (6PTS, 4 AST) back into the lineup, as he missed the last game due to an illness.
Out of the gate, the Hoyas defense struggled, giving up 3 easy layups to Jordan Derkack (22PTS, 7REB), the guy the Hoyas had to keep an eye on. Not liking what he was seeing 3 minutes in, Coach Cooley wasted no time and sub’d out all 5 guys for a completely new platoon. While the effort improved, ball security continued to be a problem for the turnover-prone Hoyas, who tallied 3 turnovers just 4 minutes into the game. While the turnovers piled up for Georgetown (18 total TOs for the game), Massoud and Epps got involved from downtown drilling a couple triples to start up a 9-0 run. At the midway point of the 1st half, the Hoyas lead 17-10, with Derkack claiming all 10 of the Warriors points and Epps (11PTS) converting on two 4-point plays.
As the half progressed, both Joe Gallo (Merrimack coach) and Ed Cooley opened up full court pressure. The pressure clearly bothered the Hoyas PGs again (although not nearly as much as Rutgers’ full court pressure from a couple weeks ago). The Warriors scored in transition, while Georgetown had to work hard in the half court offense. Still, the Hoyas lead 25-19 with the half winding down.
Then, on a hard drive to the bucket, Jayden Epps came up slowly and was taken back to the locker room with about 3 minutes left in the half - he would not return. Thankfully, the Hoyas offense continued to churn, Ish Massoud hit a couple buckets, while Bacote took over the point guard duties and slide a bounce pass to his big man Supreme Cook (12PTS, 12REB) who finished with an emphatic two-handed jam - Cook would record his 2nd double-double of the season. Going into the break, Georgetown held onto their lead 34-27, despite 10 first half turnovers.
At the start of the 2nd half, the Hoyas struggled on both ends of the floor, allowing the Warriors to garner up a 14-5 run to cut the Hoyas’ lead to 1 going into the under 16 timeout. The bleeding continued as Georgetown could not get anything to fall - not scoring for 5+ minutes - even from the interior. Merrimack got out in transition off of Georgetown missed shots and scored easy layups. The Georgetown defense was making life easy on the Warriors and the Hoyas paid for it, as they fell behind by 6 points just six and a half minutes into the 2nd half. Coach Cooley finally brought some relief with a timeout to at least reassess things after a 15-0 run by the Warriors. Someone needed to step up in Epps’ absence, as the Hoyas were down 45-39.
Over the next 7 minutes and into the under 8 timeout, the Hoyas offense continued to sputter, but the game leveled off a little bit, as the Hoyas’ defense finally managed to get some stops and cut the Warrior lead, which was up to 8 at one point, back down to 2, 53-51, following a tough “and-1” from Wayne Bristol Jr. (14PTS, 4REB, 3 BLK).
After the commercial break, Georgetown gained more momentum with another defensive stop paid off by another “and-1” from Supreme Cook to reclaim the lead. Georgetown’s defense succeeded when they were able to force the Warriors to work out of the half-court offense. Bristol, Massoud, and Cook were flying all over the court, diving on loose 50/50 balls, blocking shots on help defense, and getting hands in passing lanes.
With 4 minutes left, Georgetown led 59-58. Cooley designed a play for Dontrez Styles (6PTS, 6 REB) to score his first field goal of the night (!!) - 61-58 Hoyas lead. The Hoyas could not pull away and the Warriors couldn’t do much either. Georgetown led 63-60, when Merrimack guard, Adam Clark, got whistled for a carry. Merrimack coach, Joe Gallo did not agree and got T’d up. Georgetown could not convert on the technical foul and walked away with only 1 point to show for it. 64-60 Hoyas. On Merrimack’s next possession, forward, Jacob O’Connell made his 2nd 3 of his season to cut the Hoya lead back to 1. On the other end of the floor, with time expiring on the shot clock, Wayne Bristol Jr. answered with an acrobatic reverse layup to extend the Hoya lead back to 3 with 30 seconds left.
To Merrimack’s credit, they extended the game, and forced the Hoyas to make their free throws. After a Styles miss at the line, Bristol smartly fouled, up three late in the game. Derkack made one free throw, then purposefully missed the 2nd. If Georgetown rebounds the ball, the game is over. Georgetown did not rebound the ball. Instead Merrimack got the offensive rebound and proceeded to miss 3 consecutive layups, the first of which was completely uncontested. Sheesh.
In a game where Georgetown dominated the glass 43-28, one more rebound would have gone a long way. Similarly, in a game where Georgetown shot 42 free throws, making more than 67% would have also gone a long way.
In the end, the Hoyas were able to squeak this one out 69-67, with a little help from the Warriors.
I would be remiss if I did not mention Coach Cooley as well. It is refreshing to watch him coach down the stretch. He puts guys in the right spots and everyone seems to know their role. He can’t make the shots for these guys or rebound the basketball himself, but Cooley was calling smart timeouts and Georgetown did not make any mental mistakes down the stretch. Yes, they missed free throws, but overall a clean game for Georgetown tactically. While the defense still needs improving, a win is a win.
The Hoyas are back in action on Saturday against TCU at 5:30PM in their 2nd game against a power 5 conference team. It’ll be another big test for Georgetown at Capital One. Fingers crossed that Jayden Epps is okay.