Following two nonconference matchups in Capital One Arena to open the season, the Georgetown men’s basketball team went on the road to face the University of Illinois in State Farm Center, narrowly defeating the Fighting Illini 88-80.
In a tightly contested game where the lead changed hands several times, three freshmen, guards James Akinjo and Mac McClung, as well as forward Josh LeBlanc, were the Hoyas (3-0) top scorers. Akinjo led the way with 19 points, while LeBlanc recorded 14 points and McClung added 12 points.
The Fighting Illini (1-1) started strongly from the tip off and grabbed a 10-3 lead, their largest of the game. The Hoyas fought back to take the lead and with 4:37 left in the first half, McClung made a fastbreak layup to put Georgetown up by six points.
However, Illinois responded with nine unanswered points to lead 35-32 with 2:36 remaining. Senior center Jessie Govan hit a long two-pointer in the final seconds of the half, sending Georgetown into the break with a 39-37 lead.
Despite leading by two, the Hoyas were efficient on offense, shooting nearly 60 percent from the field in the first half.
In the second half, after leading by seven, Georgetown surrendered a 10-2 run to Illinois and trailed with 15:17 left in the game. The Hoyas responded with back-to-back baskets in the paint by McClung and Govan. After the game was tied at 61 with 11:35 to play, Georgetown trailed for the following six minutes.
With 4:57 remaining in the game, senior guard Greg Malinowski hit a three-pointer to put the Hoyas up 73-72. The Hoyas held onto their lead for the rest of the half.
With under a minute remaining and the Hoyas leading by one, Akinjo, who had 11 points in the second half, converted a three-point play to put the Hoyas up 84-80.
The Hoyas, who shot a perfect 11-11 from the free throw line in the second half, converted their trips to the line and left Illinois with an 88-80 victory.
Head Coach Patrick Ewing praised Georgetown’s effort in a competitive away matchup.
“This game showed that our team has heart,” Ewing said in a postgame press conference. “It was a hard-fought game, and we could have easily given up, but we kept fighting until the end.”
LeBlanc led the Hoyas with seven rebounds, while Akinjo notched seven assists for the third-straight game this season. Georgetown held Illinois to under 47 percent shooting, while its bench outscored Illinois 38-12.
The Hoyas will return to action this Friday, Nov. 16, as they begin play in the Jamaica Classic. Georgetown will take on Loyola Marymount (3-0) in Montego Bay, Jamaica, at 7 p.m.