The Georgetown men’s basketball team (11-4, 1-1 Big East) exited the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., with four remaining nonconference games on its schedule. This final stretch before starting Big East play was pivotal for the team to regain momentum before facing tougher opponents. The final four nonconference matchups of Georgetown’s regular season were all at home and could be considered must-wins as the Hoyas were favored in all of them. The team rounded out 2018 3-1 in these final four games. However, it was some outstanding individual performances, especially those of freshmen, that now give Georgetown a lot of optimism heading into its conference schedule.
On Dec. 15, the campaign was off to a rough start as the Hoyas fell to the Southern Methodist Mustangs (10-4) 81-73 at home. Senior center Jessie Govan had a team-high 17 points, while freshman guards Mac McClung, James Akinjo and Josh LeBlanc combined for 38. SMU gained the lead early in the first half and never gave it up. However, a second-half slam from Govan closed the gap to two points, bringing the score to 65-63 with just over three minutes to play. Yet Georgetown could not catch up and eventually lost the contest.
Prospects for the Hoyas changed as they faced Appalachian State University (5-10) in Capital One Arena on Dec. 18. On offense, the team was led by the same freshman trio as in its opening game. Akinjo poured in 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting including three of five from beyond the arc; he also had six boards. LeBlanc had a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double, and McClung scored 14. The team’s defense was key to its ultimate success in the second half as it limited ASU to shoot just 37 percent from the floor and came away with an 83-73 win.
Following that win, the Hoyas had an overtime home victory over Little Rock University (5-10). The performances of McClung and Akinjo were instrumental to the result. The pair totalled 63 points — career bests for both of the young stars. McClung contributed 38 alone on 10-of-21 shooting. In overtime, McClung also converted a rare four-point play to put the Hoyas up eight in the extra frame and ice the game. After battling throughout, the contest came down to clutch free-throw shooting, and the Hoyas went on to win 102-94.
The Blue and Gray closed out its nonconference schedule with a dominating 102-67 performance against Howard (6-9) on Dec. 29. Both Govan and LeBlanc finished with double-doubles. Govan had 23 points and 10 rebounds, while LeBlanc added 22 and 11. The freshman also shot a perfect seven-of-seven from the field. Sophomore guard Jahvon Blair contributed a season-best 15 points and five assists. The game also marked the first time Georgetown’s program has scored 100 points in back-to-back games since 1966 when the Hoyas crushed Purdue University 104-82 followed by a 101-69 beat down over Dartmouth College. The games were part of the 1966 Kodak Classic in Rochester, N.Y.
The three wins and standout individual performances during this four-game home stretch could prove critical for the Hoyas later this season. After splitting the first two Big East games with a win over Butler University and a heartbreaking overtime defeat to St. John’s University, Georgetown looks to improve to 2-1 in the Big East play as it heads to Cincinnati to take on Xavier University. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 9.