Arkansas State of Despair: Hoyas stunned in McDonough

November 18, 2016

Photo: Tyler Pearre

“Sorry to keep you all waiting,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III weakly said as he sat down alone for his postgame press conference. Four minutes and 42 seconds later, the presser was over.

That was the sort of night the Georgetown men’s basketball team (1-2, Big East) had in a 78-72 loss against Arkansas State (2-1, Sun Belt). Arkansas State redshirt senior guard Devin Carter led all scorers with 25 points on 10-15 shooting, while senior guard Donte Thomas added 12 points and five assists. For Georgetown, sophomore center Jessie Govan recorded 20 points and eight rebounds, and junior guard LJ Peak added another 18 points.

“Coming off what happened the other night and then preparing for Maui, we caught (Georgetown) at a very good time,” Arkansas State Head Coach Grant McCasland said. “They’ve got a tremendous team; they’re going to be great.”

For the first time since the 2014 NIT, the Hoyas hosted a game in historic McDonough Arena on campus. The crowd in the gymnasium was noisy, giving the game a different atmosphere than the cavernous Verizon Center. The smaller arena was packed with students and the proximity to the court was noticeable. However, the first half didn’t provide the home crowd with much reason to cheer.

Carter drained two early three pointers to help the Red Wolves open an 8-4 lead at the under 16 minute timeout in the first half. From there, Arkansas State never looked back. Georgetown struggled to create in their halfcourt offense, and the Red Wolves ran in transition after defensive rebounds and scoring before the Hoyas had time to set up defensively.

The largest lead the Red Wolves held was 23 points, and they entered halftime with a comfortable 48-29 lead. Carter led all scorers with 19 points for Arkansas State at the break. Govan finished the half with 18 points and six rebounds, accounting for 62% of points and 46% of rebounds for the Hoyas.

Most notably, Georgetown shot 0-6 from behind the arc after shooting 53 and 42 percent from deep against against USC Upstate and Maryland in their previous two games, respectively. The team also also shot 35 percent overall from the floor and 61 percent from the free throw line in Thursday’s contest.

“We had an opponent that came in that played very well, and we took too long to get going,” Thompson said. “You can’t go through a half like we did before you get going.”

The second half saw the return of all the energy that Georgetown had lacked in the prior period. Slowly but surely, the team clawed back into the game, but big plays at pivotal moments killed any momentum that Georgetown created for itself.

Down by 13 with less than 12 minutes left, the Hoyas were called for a blocking foul that gave Arkansas State an opportunity for a three point play. With just under ten minutes to go, Georgetown junior forward Isaac Copeland missed the second free throw of a one and one with a chance to bring the Hoyas back within 15.

Despite this, Georgetown nearly managed to complete their comeback bid. Two Copeland free throws cut the lead to ten at 71-61 with 5:36 to go. He later found freshman guard Jagan Mosely for an open layup to make the score 74-67 with 2:58 left. Graduate student guard Rodney Pryor made his only three pointer of the game with 1:33 remaining, closing the margin to74-70. Peak added two free throws with 50 seconds on the clock to bring the Hoyas as close as they would come in the entire game, 74-72.

Arkansas State’s redshirt junior guard C.J. Foster grabbed an offensive rebound with twenty seconds remaining and missed his first free throw. With 14.6 seconds to go, Georgetown faced a three point deficit and took its final timeout to draw up a play.

The crowd would never get to see what play Thompson drew up. Peak’s inbounds pass was blocked and Arkansas State grabbed the crucial steal, forcing Georgetown to foul. Students began a chant of “fire Thompson” as junior guard Deven Simms calmly made both free throws to put the Red Wolves up by five. The student section, which had so voraciously put everything behind its team until that moment, filed out of McDonough.

Georgetown took 20 three pointers in the game, converting on just 15 percent of their attempts from deep, while Arkansas State took 12 three pointers and shot 50 percent. The Red Wolves outrebounded the Hoyas 36-30 and outscored the Hoyas in the paint (38-34), off turnovers (15-14), on the fast break (10-4) and in bench points (25-11).

At the team’s preseason media day, graduate student center Bradley Hayes said, “We’ve got a lot of doubters right now; I think the best way to get rid of those is to have strong early games and prove them wrong.”

After tonight’s shocking upset, instead of getting rid of their doubters, the Hoyas have added more to the list. Their next chance to respond is against an Elite Eight team from last season: Oregon (2-1 PAC 12).

“I’ve said this from the beginning. We have a difficult schedule early,” said Thompson. “With the pieces that we have I wish we didn’t have a difficult schedule early. It is what it is. So the vibe is going to have to be, ‘We can’t get stuck in the past.’”

On Monday, Georgetown will take on the Ducks in the Maui Invitational at 4:30 pm eastern time, hoping to leave their demons in the nation’s capital as they look to move forward.

Jorge DeNeve
Los Angeles native. Still wondering where the Galaxy went wrong and decided buying Jermaine Jones was a good idea.


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