Finishing the regular season on a high note, the Georgetown men’s basketball team upset No. 16 Marquette Saturday night in a nail-biting 86-84 game.
Freshman guards James Akinjo and Mac McClung carried the Hoyas to secure the win, scoring 25 and 23 points, respectively. Akinjo scored 20 of his points in the second half, including 10 straight for the Hoyas (19-12, 9-9 Big East) late in the game.
Akinjo said he wanted to ensure the late-game collapses, which have plagued the Hoyas throughout this season, did not happen against the Golden Eagles. The freshman guard prepared by watching tapes of opposing teams.
“I’ve been watching a lot of film, you know with coach and talking to coach a lot with my late game decision making of when to go and when not to go. I’ve been talking to my teammates a lot, and I just want to close out games,” Akinjo said. “A lot of times we’ve been up late and we lost so I just want to make sure as a point guard that we just close out games.”
Georgetown held Marquette (23-8, 12-6 Big East) to 34 percent shooting from the field. Akinjo nailed five threes, while McClung and sophomore forward Jamorko Pickett made two triples, en route to Georgetown shooting an impressive 58 percent from beyond the arc.
With 1:22 left to play and leading 79-77, the Hoyas swung the ball to Pickett, who sunk a high-arching three-pointer to put them up five points. Marquette answered with a three-pointer of its own, but with little time remaining and a need to foul, Georgetown made four free throws to steal the win.
After the game, the Big East and NCAA handed out season honors. Akinjo, McClung and freshman forward Josh LeBlanc were all named to the Big East All-Freshman team. This marks the second time in Big East Conference history that three freshmen from the same team received the honor in the same year. This milestone also suggests the positive potential Georgetown’s program could reach.
Akinjo was honored to receive the accolade with his teammates.
“It meant a lot. Like Josh [LeBlanc] said, that’s something we kind of all put in the back of our heads and was one of our team goals so it meant a lot,” Akinjo said in a postgame interview with GUHoyas. “It was great, and it showed the dominance of our class.”
Jessie Govan received All Big East first team honors and was named a top-five finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award.
“It’s definitely an honor,” Govan said. “There’s great names to be on that list before and from Georgetown, so to be on that list, that’s an honor.”
The win improved the Hoyas to 9-9 in Big East play, moving them into a four-way tie for third place in the conference. Heading into the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden, the Hoyas will have the No. 6 seed and begin play Thursday night against No. 3 seed Seton Hall Pirates (18-12, 9-9 Big East). Head coach Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85) spoke about the Hoyas’ draw and their upcoming matchup.
“Because of whatever tiebreaker they got the third seed,” Ewing said. “But we can beat them and they can beat us. It’s very close and on any given night, the bottom part of the league can beat the top.”
Georgetown has its sights on a strong tournament result, as its NCAA tournament hopes are still alive. They have an NCAA Evaluation Tool, or NET, ranking of 76. This is the measure by which the NCAA selects and seeds teams in the NCAA tournament. Wins in the Big East tournament are the only way the Hoyas can bolster their resume to have a chance at entering “March Madness” for the first time since 2015.
Ewing talked about his team’s chances to make it to the NCAA tournament and the implications of the upcoming game against Seton Hall.
“Naturally we take it one game at a time, but our end goal is to make the NCAA tournament,” Ewing said. “We’ve had two significant wins, Villanova and Marquette. We have 19 wins and if we win on Thursday it will be 20 and will be more appealing.”
The Hoyas split their games with the Pirates this season. In the most recent matchup at home, Georgetown came away with a 77-71 win in double overtime. Govan led the team with 21 points, including all 11 of the team’s points in both overtimes.
Georgetown will look to stop Seton Hall junior guard Myles Powell, who averages 22.6 points per game. Powell scored 30 points in the Pirates’ win at home and 35 points in the following matchup. Govan commented on Powell’s dominance.
“[Powell]’s definitely the engine of that team,” he said. “He takes a lot of shots, but he makes a lot of shots. So, we just gotta try and make it tough on him, because he’s going to get his looks and get his shots up.”
The Hoyas rank first in rebounding in the Big East, and the Golden Eagles rank second. The team with the rebounding edge in the game has won both previous contests between the two. Marquette also ranks second in the conference in three-point percentage, shooting 44 percent in the win and 17 percent in the loss.
Ewing stressed the importance of playing strong defense against a good outside shooting team like Marquette.
“We just have to play our game and just try to play outstanding defense and rebound at a high clip,” Ewing said. “One thing that I take away from the last time that we played them is we didn’t start out particularly strong, but our defense kept us in the game and was able to get us the win.”
Tipoff for the matchup will be approximately 9:30pm. Live televised coverage of the game can be found on Fox Sports 1.