The Georgetown men’s basketball team (7-1, Big East) defeated Liberty (7-2, Atlantic Sun) 88-78 on Monday night at Capital One Arena. Freshman guard James Akinjo led the Hoyas with 19 points, 14 of which came in the second half, and senior center Jessie Govan chipped in a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds). Freshman guard Darius McGhee had 19 points off the bench to pace the Flames.
The first half was marked by a series of runs by both teams. After Liberty started the game hot from 3-point range, Georgetown scored eight straight points, six of those coming from freshman guard Mac McClung. However, Liberty did not go away, eventually taking a 25-23 lead after an 11-0 spurt of their own. The lead would eventually grow to four, before the Hoyas began to wrest back control of the game after a 10-0 run that included two 3-pointers from sophomore guard Jahvon Blair.
Liberty refused to back down, and ensured that the deficit would stay manageable. The two teams headed into the break with Georgetown leading, 40-38. At the half, McClung led the Hoyas with 10 points, while Govan had already put up nine by the break. Liberty was carried by a 7-of-17 start from behind the 3-point line in the half, and were led by senior guard Lovell Cabbil Jr. (10 points), and redshirt junior forward Scottie James (nine points).
The most telling stat of the half for Georgetown was 11 turnovers. Their sloppy play directly contributed to several fast break points for the Flames. The team came out of the locker room looking to tighten up and improve on their first half. Whatever coach Patrick Ewing told his team during halftime worked, as the team quickly went on an 18-2 run which put the game out of reach early. Akinjo, especially, came out of halftime ready to take the game to Liberty.
“I thought he was trying to be aggressive, trying to get to the basket,” head coach Patrick Ewing said.
However, the whole team made a concerted effort to be more prepared to play. “We started playing together, moving the ball,” Govan said. “Instead of getting the first shot, we took the best shot.”
The game was not over just yet, as Liberty never gave up and continued to play hard into the waning moments. With 1:30 left in the game, the Flames cut the lead to 10, but they would get no closer, making the final score 88-78. Besides excellent performances from Akinjo and Govan, McClung finished the game with 12 points, and reserves Blair and sophomore guard Jamorko Pickett had nine apiece. For Liberty, Scottie James added 18 points.
The big news before the game involved a starting lineup switch just before tip off. Coach Ewing inserted junior transfer Greg Malinowski in for Jamarko Pickett, in an effort to see how Pickett would respond. Pickett put up nine points, five rebounds, and five assists, and hustled up and down the court. After the game, Ewing had no complaints.
“He did respond. Unlike last year, he pouted. This year he stepped up and played hard,” Ewing said. “I’m going back to the way we normally do things next game.”
That next game will be away at Syracuse (5-2, ACC) this Saturday. The contest will tip off at 3:30 p.m. ET at the Carrier Dome and will be broadcast on ESPN. Follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter for updates and coverage of all winter sports at Georgetown.
Image Credits: John Picker/The Georgetown Voice