The Georgetown men’s basketball team (10-8, 1-4 Big East) earned a much-needed non-conference victory on Saturday afternoon, defeating former Big East rival Connecticut (7-10, 2-3 American), 72-69. The Hoyas were led by 21 points, seven rebounds, and four assists from junior guard L.J. Peak, while sophomore center Jessie Govan and graduate student guard Rodney Pryor added 15 and 14 points, respectively.
UConn redshirt senior Rodney Purvis started the game hot, knocking down a mid-range jumper and three point attempt to give his team an early 5-4 advantage. Georgetown sophomore forward Marcus Derrickson then countered with a burst of strong all-around play, tallying seven points, two rebounds, and two assists by the under-12 minute media timeout.
The Blue and Gray switched defensive schemes many times throughout the half, rotating primarily between full-court pressure and half-court 2-3 zone. While the zone initially gave the Huskies trouble on the offensive end, Connecticut soon found its groove. The team utilized quick ball movement to generate open shots, including three three-pointers from freshman forward Vance Jackson. Jackson’s three-point shot with 3:22 remaining gave the Huskies their largest lead of the half at eight points, 33-25. After a pair of free throws from Georgetown freshman guard Jagan Mosely just twenty seconds later, both teams failed to score for the remainder of the period. At the intermission, Connecticut held a 33-27 lead and seemed to control the momentum, thanks in large part to Georgetown’s dismal 18 percent three-point shooting effort in the half. In comparison, UConn shot 6-12 from deep in the first period.
The beginning of the second half seemed to indicate danger for the Hoyas. The team opened the half with a missed layup from Mosely, and turnovers from Govan and from Peak on its first three possessions. Stout Connecticut defense forced misses from the Blue and Gray, fueling transition buckets for the Huskies. With 16:36 remaining in the game, UConn had opened a commanding 43-29 lead, forcing a Georgetown timeout.
“We were making some poor decisions on the offensive end and then getting frustrated, which led to easy baskets for them, transition baskets, at the defensive end,” said Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III. “You get deflated but you can’t let that affect you at the other end. So (I told the players) just breathe fellas.”
After the timeout, Georgetown caught fire on offense. Following a Mosely three, the freshman grabbed a steal and lobbed a pass from midcourt towards the hoop, where Pryor rose and threw down a monstrous one-handed dunk, much to the delight of the Verizon Center crowd. With his team up by nine, Connecticut Head Coach Kevin Ollie called timeout.
“We just had to keep fighting and get back in the game. That dunk, I mean, that got us up,” Peak said.
The Hoyas were unaffected by the stoppage in play, as they drilled three consecutive three-pointers to tie the game at 45 with 12:09 remaining.
“We came together and said we have to stay focused and have to have good offensive possessions and good defensive possessions and finish with a rebound,” Govan said.
With momentum completely on their side, the Blue and Gray began to feed the ball in the post, leading to various looks for Govan. The sophomore demonstrated a variety of moves around the basket, including a mid-range jump shot that gave the Hoyas a 60-59 advantage with five minutes left.
From there, the Hoyas maintained a slim lead that fluctuated between two and six points. A pair of free throws from UConn cut the lead to just two with a minute and a half remaining. On Georgetown’s next possession Mosely missed a layup, but the ball was rebounded by junior forward Akoy Agau. Agau passed to Govan on the perimeter, who missed a three. Again, Agau grabbed a rebound and found Peak under the basket, who then missed his layup attempt. But Peak snagged his own offensive rebound and scored a layup to make it a 69-65 game with just :44 remaining.
“LJ was the toughest guy in the gym,” said Ollie. “He wanted the ball more than us. We didn’t want the ball bad enough, and he did, so he got it. He threw it to himself off the backboard, got it again and laid it up and we got guys sitting at the free throw line.”
“What Akoy does won’t always show up in points, but him flying around and blocking shots and contesting them at the rim and taking some big charges. He ran down at least two offensive rebounds. When he’s flying around like that, he’s good and we’re good. Very seldom will it show up in the points column, but I thought Akoy was outstanding today,” Thompson said.
Staring at a two-point deficit, UConn was forced to foul Govan with :22 left on the clock. Govan made 1-2 free throws. The Huskies were down by just three and would have the ball following the free throw. After a block from Agau, the Huskies grabbed the loose ball and called timeout at the :08 mark. The ensuing final shot attempt from sophomore guard Jalen Adams missed, and the Hoyas snagged the final rebound of the game to seal the victory.
“He (Adams) is our best player. He got a good look and he just didn’t make the shot. That’s the shot we wanted. That’s the shot we drew up,” Ollie said.
“Yeah, it’s definitely a makeable shot,” said Adams. “I just gotta get back to the gym and work on that pull-up jump shot.”
“A win like this, it’s a good confidence boost,” said Govan. “We won our last conference game and we won this game and we lost to them last year, so it’s good to get them back, but it’s a good win and I’m glad we were able to get it.”
The Hoyas will have just one day of rest before hosting Providence (12-7, 2-4 Big East) on Monday night as part of the Big East’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day marathon. The game is set to tip-off at 9:00 and will be broadcast on FS1.