Men’s Basketball Edges Little Rock in Overtime Victory

December 22, 2018

The Georgetown men’s basketball team (9-3, Big East) pulled out a win over Arkansas Little Rock (5-8, Sun Belt) in overtime at Capital One Arena on Saturday. The back and forth game was marked by foul trouble, turnovers, and impressive freshmen performances for both teams. The Hoyas were led by freshman guard Mac McClung, who finished with 38 points and James Akinjo, who had 25 points and seven assists on the afternoon. Freshmen center Nikola Maric and guard Markquis Nowell shone for the Trojans, scoring 27 and 24 points, respectively.

Freshman forward Josh LeBlanc got the start over graduate student forward Trey Mourning, who was out of the game after suffering a head injury against Appalachian State (5-7, Sun Belt) on Tuesday.

“Josh deserved it,” Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing said of LeBlanc’s start. “He was the next man up. Trey was hurt, and the way that [LeBlanc] had been playing, he deserved it.”

The Trojans immediately attacked the frontcourt, as Maric had five early points, while the Hoyas struggled to handle the ball, turning it over four times before the under-16 media timeout. Little Rock took an early 11-5 lead, but after the first timeout, the Hoyas battled back to tie it. The Hoyas took their first lead on an Akinjo 3-pointer at the 11 minute mark to make the score 28-26, but the Trojans answered back to tie it, sending the teams off to the races on a flurry of offensive production.

Both teams shot the ball well in the first half and struggled to find any defensive production. Yet, as the half wound down, the Trojans were able to stifle the Georgetown offense a bit, jumping out to a 50-43 lead with three minutes to play, but the Hoyas rallied back. At the half, the Trojans led 52-51. McClung led all scorers at the break with 17 points, while senior center Jessie Govan only added seven in the half, while committing three fouls.

“Their ability to create and get to the hole, they used that to their advantage today,” Ewing said of McClung and Akinjo. “They got to the hole, made big shots, and made big plays.”

The second half began in chippy fashion, as Govan quickly picked up his fourth foul, and LeBlanc was called for a technical just three minutes in. Both teams struggled to match their first half offensive production, and with Govan, Georgetown’s leading scorer on the season, on the bench in foul trouble, the Hoyas were forced to look to other places for offense. In his place, freshman forward Grayson Carter played 13 minutes, while senior forward/guard Kaleb Johnson added 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds off the bench.

“We’ve got a very good team,” Akinjo said. “Everyone can play. So when our bigs get in foul trouble like today, we’ve got guys like Kaleb Johnson, Grayson Carter, guys like that who can come in and step up.”

The Trojans jumped out ahead, but the Hoyas were able to close the gap and take a small lead, largely through the play of McClung and Johnson. With under eight minutes to go in a one-point game, Ewing sent Govan back in, and he made an immediate impact, scoring five quick points to help the Hoyas build up an eight point lead. However, at the three minute mark, Govan committed his fifth foul and was forced to watch the rest of the match from the bench.

With Govan out, the Trojans scored, before Johnson broke up the run with a pair of free throws. With the Hoyas up four and 90 seconds left, the Hoyas had a chance to seal the game. The Hoyas preceded to miss four shots from under the rim and a series of turnovers from both teams ensued, ending with Johnson again shooting free throws with 46 seconds remaining. A foul on Nowell shooting a three allowed Little Rock to make it a two-point game with 16 seconds remaining.

For all the freshmen did for the Hoyas on Saturday, they were unable to convert from the line at the end of regulation. Akinjo hit 1-of-2, and McClung 2-of-4 in the final moments, making it a three-point Hoyas lead with just 5 seconds left. At the buzzer, Little Rock junior guard Ryan Pippins, heaved a deep three and banked the shot in to send it to overtime.

Akinjo and McClung both made big shots to keep Georgetown in it at the start of the extra period. A McClung jumper with 2:35 remaining gave the Hoyas a lead they would not relinquish. Ensuing free throws from Akinjo and Johnson put the game to bed. With 46 seconds remaining, McClung hit a three, was fouled, and converted the four-point play to give the Hoyas a seven-point lead. The Hoyas would eventually win 102-94.

The Hoyas finished the game shooting 45 percent from the floor, while the Trojans finished at 50 percent. The catalyst in the game was turnovers. After allowing four early ones, the Hoyas took better care of the ball, allowing 14 over the course of the game to the Trojans’ 24. After the game, Ewing was quick to praise his guards, but also the upperclassmen who stepped up for the Hoyas.

“Kaleb Johnson came off the bench and played his butt off, his toughness, his heart,” Ewing said. “Also, Jagan Mosely played his butt off. Their defense, their leadership, they did all the things that we need for them to do as upperclassmen to help us get the win… those guys, even though it doesn’t show up in the box score, they did all the dirty work to help us to get the win.”

The Hoyas will return to action after Christmas when they host Howard (6-6, MEAC) in their final non-conference game on Saturday at 12:00 p.m. ET. Follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter for gameday updates and breaking news.

Beth Cunniff
Beth graduated from the College in 2019. She was Voice's alumni outreach manager, and the former sports editor. She accepts her role as a privileged Boston sports fan, but there’s really nothing she can do about it.

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