After a dramatic 19-point comeback opening the season, the Georgetown University men’s basketball team got off to a much stronger start Saturday, Nov. 9, at Capital One Arena, taking down the University of Central Arkansas Bears by a final score of 89-78.
The Hoyas (2-0) ended the opening half on a 12-3 run finishing with an and-one from senior guard Jagan Mosely. The bucket gave the Blue and Gray a double-digit lead and momentum it used to hold on to defeat the Bears (1-2).
Despite the win, Head Coach Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85) said the team’s inconsistent play between halves created more of a challenge than anticipated against Mount St. Mary’s University and Central Arkansas.
“We started out with a lot more energy and effort than we did in that game definitely, but I thought in the second half we took a step back,” Ewing said in a postgame interview. “Instead of increasing our lead, we just kept trading baskets with them, and we can’t do that against good teams.”
Similar to the opener against Mount St. Mary’s, Georgetown performed very differently from one half to the next. After entering the second half with a 54-42 lead, the Blue and Gray was outscored 36-35 after the break. Some of the Hoyas’ starters were pulled with minutes to play, which did have some effect in tightening the final score. The Hoyas had a 15-point lead with only a few minutes left as the team began focusing on being prepared for Thursday’s upcoming battle with the Penn State University Nittany Lions.
Senior center Omer Yurtseven led the Hoyas with 17 points on offense to go with three blocks on the defensive end. He also posted a double-double with 15 rebounds against the tall frontcourt of the Bears, similar in size to many of the opponents trying to keep him off of the glass in Big East play.
Mosely contributed 13 points, going 4 of 4 from the floor while sophomore guard James Akinjo continued to drive the offense, recording seven assists over the course of the matchup. Junior forward Jamorko Pickett continued his strong start to this season after an inconsistent sophomore campaign, recording 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds in the process.
Entering the game, the Hoyas knew they needed to walk on to the floor with more energy than they had on Wednesday, according to Yurtseven.
“I think we realized that starting off the jump is really important, and it’s gonna matter a lot when we play against tougher opponents when we’re not able to get back in 20 minutes from a 19-point deficit,” Yurtseven said in an interview after the conclusion of the game.
Although the Hoyas wanted a fast start, they failed to pull away until the end of the first half. After back-to-back threes from the Bears, the score stood at 33-31 with just 6:42 remaining until the break. The Blue and Gray would respond to the early challenge by ending the half on a 12-3 run. The run was kick-started by a dunk thrown down by sophomore forward Josh LeBlanc in his return to the court off the bench after sitting out the opener.
The Hoyas failed, however, to keep this momentum going into the second half. They struggled to score, going through multiple long scoring droughts and shooting 18% from behind the three-point line. Despite the lack of scoring, Georgetown stepped up on the defensive end, holding Central Arkansas to 38% shooting from the field in the second half and outrebounding its opponent 55-31 overall to pull out the win.
Nearly a third of the Hoyas’ 55 rebounds came from Yurtseven. When asked if he was exceeding expectations after the game, Ewing said Yurtseven is not done improving despite a strong first two games in a Georgetown uniform.
“That’s still yet to come. I expect great things out of him. He has the size, he has the athleticism and he has the ability to be a dominant force in college basketball.”
The Hoyas will return to Capital One Arena on Thursday, Nov. 14, in a Big Ten matchup against Penn State at 6:30 p.m. The game will be televised on FS1 and can be heard locally on The Team 980 on 95.9 FM.