Trying to replicate the late-game magic from this weekend, freshman guard James Akinjo could not convert at the rim, causing the Georgetown men’s basketball team to lose in a tight contest against No. 15 Marquette 74-71.
“We had our opportunities at the end, but we just didn’t play smart,” Georgetown Head Coach Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85) said.
Freshman guard Mac McClung carried the load for the Hoyas (12-6, 2-3 Big East) on Jan. 15, scoring 24 points on a night that Akinjo struggled from the floor, and senior center and leading scorer Jessie Govan was limited to four field goals.
“[McClung] had it rolling. He had it going. He was able to get the ball and go downhill and make his shots,” Ewing said.
In the first half, the Hoyas came out strong. McClung, who chipped in 14 first-half points, scored 10 of Georgetown’s first 12 points, helping the squad lead Marquette (15-3, 4-1 Big East) by one with 12:47 left in the period.
The Golden Eagles (15-3, 4-1 Big East) rallied, though, going up by six points with four minutes remaining. Georgetown responded with a 6-0 run, capped by senior forward Kaleb Johnson’s transition and one layup that knotted the score at 33-33.
Making four of their last five field goals, the Hoyas went into the second half leading the Golden Eagles 40-37. Georgetown made six of its first 10 three-pointers and had six steals but turned the ball over seven times, which led to 12 first-half points for Marquette.
Marquette played without its leading scorer and the nation’s sixth leading scorer, junior guard Markus Howard, for all but three minutes of the game because of back spasms. However, Ewing has respect for the rest of the Golden Eagles’ squad even without Howard.
“I don’t think we let down, they played a great game,” Ewing said. “They have talented people on that team. [Marquette junior forward Sam] Hauser played great. He had 31 points, and he picked up the slack. Our players need to do better and share the ball better.”
With space on the perimeter, Georgetown went on to take an eight-point lead after halftime, following six straight points from McClung.
“I just tried to be aggressive. My teammates were getting me the ball, and they did a great job; I just tried to stay focused,” McClung said.
The Golden Eagles showed their depth when they needed it. After trailing 51-43, Marquette staged a 17-3 run, taking advantage of a 5:33 scoring drought by Georgetown to lead 57-51.
Soon after, McClung’s three-pointer started a 7-0 run by Georgetown, keeping the Hoyas to within 60-56. After senior guard Greg Malinowski’s free throw, Georgetown tied the game up again at 60 off a contested three-pointer from Govan, which got the crowd members out of their seats with 7:49 remaining to play.
“[I told them we] gotta lock it up. We gotta pick it up offensively and defensively. We gotta set screens, rebound, run, tighten up our defense,” Ewing said.
After being held scoreless for almost two minutes, Georgetown sent an outlet pass to sophomore guard Jamorko Pickett, who made a crucial transition dunk to cut the deficit to two points with under three minutes to play. Akinjo followed on the next possession with a pair of free throws to tie the game at 70 with 2:09 remaining.
With 54.5 seconds remaining, the Hoyas had possession down 72-70. McClung got to the line and made one free throw to cut the deficit to 72-71 with 46 seconds remaining.
Georgetown took back possession with 11.3 seconds left, down 72-71. Akinjo drove to the basket and was blocked on his layup attempt, leading Georgetown to foul Marquette. Hauser, who had a game-high 31 points, made both free throws.
“[James is] a competitor. He believes in himself. We’re gonna go work on it and we’ll go to practice tomorrow and work on it,” McClung said.
On a last-second attempt, McClung could not convert from half court, and the Hoyas fell 74-71.
For the game, Govan and Johnson scored 14 and 12 points, respectively. Marquette led in points in the paint 34-22 and limited Georgetown to 32 percent shooting in the second half.
Georgetown takes on Creighton (10-8, 1-4 Big East) next Monday at 8:30 p.m. This final game of the three-game home stand will be aired on Fox Sports 1 and can be heard locally on The Team 980 FM.