After 616 days, Georgetown men’s basketball finally returned to its home court at Capital One Arena on Nov. 13. With a packed student section and a large jump in attendance from previous openers, the energy was palpable. The excitement was quickly eliminated when Dartmouth pulled off a stunning upset, defeating the Hoyas 69-60 and leaving behind a shocked Georgetown crowd.
With a Dikembe Mutombo (SLL ’91) appearance, Jack the Bulldog pawing around and a rousing speech from Head Coach Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85) before the game, Georgetown’s (0-1) season opener had all the expected fanfare. The Hoyas were playing their first regular season game after a shocking 2021 Big East tournament title, while Dartmouth (1-1) had just fallen to Boston College a few days prior. Hoya fans expected a triumphant and celebrative return of their team.
Georgetown, however, struggled from the start. Sophomore guard Dante Harris, who finished 3-13 on field goal shooting, had one of his roughest games as a Hoya. Graduate forward Kaiden Rice, who played his first game as a Hoya after transferring from The Citadel, missed his first-half looks and Georgetown’s centers were sloppy.
The Big Green capitalized on the Hoyas’ weak defense, sinking a pair of 3-pointers early on. Despite substitutions and the implementation of a full-court press, the Hoyas could not contain Dartmouth, who jumped to a 36-14 lead supported by guards Ryan Cornish and Taurus Samuels.
After a first half where the team shot 28.1% from the field, almost every newcomer shined as Georgetown rallied to start the second half. Rice hit three 3-pointers in two minutes. Later, first-year center Ryan Mutombo scored six straight points, and the son of former Georgetown and NBA star Dikembe Mutombo invigorated the crowd with a roar. Finally, first-year guards Aminu Mohammed and Jordan Riley rattled off back-to-back dunks to create the Hoyas’ first and only lead at 50-48.
There was a brief window in which it looked like Georgetown might bury the first half and take the game, but Dartmouth remained resilient. The Big Green squashed the Hoyas’ momentum with an 18-3 run to secure the major upset over the Hoyas.
Offensively, Georgetown lacked a clear game plan. One year ago, the Hoya offense was built around dumping the ball off to center Qudus Wahab in the post. Suffering from the loss of Wahab, who transferred to the University of Maryland last offseason, the Hoyas turned to their guards, who were unable to generate clean looks against an active Dartmouth defense.
On the other end of the floor, the Hoyas were torched from behind the 3-point line. The Big Green shot 38 3-pointers and made 16 of them for a 42.1% 3-point percentage. Dartmouth’s three leading scorers combined for 45 points from behind the arc.
Ewing said Dartmouth’s 3-point percentage was a key reason for Georgetown’s loss in his postgame press conference.
“You’re not gonna win letting a team make 16 threes against you,” Ewing said.
Conversely, Georgetown shot just 34.8% from deep. With Harris, Riley and Mohammed all having relatively weak jumpers, Georgetown’s shooting woes may be a recurring theme.
Sophomore forwards Kobe Clark and Collin Holloway both missed their season opener due to injuries as well as a surprise absence from junior center Timothy Ighoefe, who sat out at the last minute due to a concussion, after Ewing said he would be the game’s starter. Without Ighoefe, the Hoyas leaned on junior center Malcolm Wilson, who had 38 minutes of experience prior to the game, and Mutombo.
Ewing said he was optimistic about a healthy return for Ighoefe by Georgetown’s next game.
“Hopefully Timmy will be back,” Ewing said. “I’m not sure about Kobe and Collin.”
The game was not all bad news for the Hoyas, though. The most promising takeaway was preseason Big East Freshman of the Year Mohammed’s debut, who led the Hoyas in scoring with 17 points. Mohammed was Georgetown’s main creator, taking advantage of mismatches and generating points in transition. When asked about Mohammed’s first game, Ewing just mentioned the team’s loss. He went on to say, however, that Mohammed would be a very good player with a great career.
Dartmouth Head Coach David McLaughlin was thrilled by the win, admitting the challenge of facing off against a prolific Georgetown squad.
“Coming into the second half, they made a terrific run,” McLaughlin said in a postgame press conference. “They were shooting with confidence, and what I was probably most proud of was that we sustained that run and went right back at them.”
Though the first game of the season, it is difficult to overstate this loss for the Hoyas. Georgetown should have been able to win convincingly while giving its rotation players plenty of minutes, yet fell short.
The Hoyas will look to bounce back Tuesday, Nov. 16, on their home floor at 8:30 p.m. against American University (2-0-0), aiming to land a much-needed victory and extend a six-game winning streak against the Eagles.