In Head Coach Patrick Ewing’s (CAS ’85) first season coaching the program that he led to its only national championship in 1984, the Hoyas did not rise to the spotlight brought upon them by their Hall of Fame coach. Though the Georgetown men’s basketball team improved to a 15-15 overall record from last year’s 14-18 record, the team went 5-13 in the Big East for the second consecutive season.
With no head coaching experience and the loss of top recruit Tremont Waters to Louisiana State University in June, Ewing strayed away from tough competition in the first half of the season before Big East play. He pulled his squad out of the PK80-Phil Knight Invitational in August, which featured Duke, North Carolina and Michigan State.
Rather, Ewing pieced together a preseason schedule of matchups against Jacksonville, Maryland East Shore, North Texas, Alabama A&M and other small-conference schools. Georgetown’s strength of schedule ranked among the weakest in NCAA Division I, according to KenPom.com, a college basketball statistical archive.
With this cake-walk schedule, the Hoyas rolled to a 10-1 start. They nearly went undefeated before Big East play, except for their collapse against rival Syracuse in December.
The low-pressure matchups benefited the Hoyas’ freshmen, allowing freshman forward Jamorko Pickett to emerge as a serious offensive threat. Pickett scored in double figures in 14 games and made 36 percent of his three-pointers to become a leading scorer down the stretch for the Hoyas.
The drawback of the weak competition was its failure to prepare the Hoyas for their conference foes. Starting Dec. 27 against Butler, Georgetown dropped 14 of their next 19 games.
Georgetown’s wake-up call began with its heart-breaking loss to Butler, when it squandered a 12-point lead with 7:44 to go in regulation and eventually lost in double overtime 91-89.
Three games into conference play, Georgetown picked up its first Big East win against DePaul. Junior center Jessie Govan and junior forward Marcus Derrickson combined for 49 of the Hoyas’ 90 points in the win against the Blue Demons, who eventually finished last in the Big East.
Govan and Derrickson led the way for the Hoyas throughout the season. Derrickson averaged 15.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game to make the All-Big East Second Team. Govan averaged a double-double for the season, with 17.9 points and 10.0 rebounds per game.
Yet the DePaul win did not spark the Hoyas when they returned home, as they were dominated by Creighton 90-66. However, Georgetown’s only blowouts came in this contest and in its Jan. 17 loss to Villanova, which was Georgetown’s worst loss since 1974.
Georgetown’s season was a story of close losses; the team held the lead late in its losses to tournament-qualifying Syracuse, Butler, Xavier and Providence.
In the matchup against Xavier, ranked sixth nationally at the time, Georgetown held a four-point lead with 38 seconds remaining. Yet the squad allowed a game-tying, four-point play to Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett and fell 96-91 in overtime.
The Hoyas finally got on the right side of a tight affair against Seton Hall on Feb. 10. Derrickson, also the hero in the Jan. 20 double-overtime win against St. John’s, hit a three pointer with 4.5 seconds left to seal the win for the Blue and Grey.
Following this momentum, Georgetown played possibly its best game of the season, upsetting Butler 87-83 in Indiana. Derrickson’s career-high 27 points led the way for Georgetown, who at this point sat with a 15-10 record and hopes of finishing the season strong, leading into the Big East tournament.
However, as in the 2016-17 season, Georgetown faltered down the stretch. The Hoyas dropped their last five games, finishing with a loss in the opening round of the Big East Tournament to St. John’s for the second consecutive year.
While trying to make the slow-moving Georgetown offense faster and more professional, Ewing’s squad struggled to take care of the ball, committing 15 turnovers per game. On defense, the Hoyas allowed 76.5 points per game, placing them 279th out of the 351 Division I teams.
Nevertheless, with year one of the Ewing experiment over, the Hoyas made more progress than preseason critics expected. Progress, however, in a program with a history of success, will never be good enough for Ewing — or Georgetown, for that matter.
Matt Sachs is a sophomore in the College.