Pregame Primer: Men’s Basketball Faces Howard in Final Non-Conference Matchup

December 28, 2018

The Georgetown men’s basketball team (9-3, Big East) will return to action following its Christmas break against Howard (6-7, MEAC) on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. ET with the game broadcast on FS1 and live stats available at The game is both teams’ final battle before beginning conference play after New Year’s.

The all-DC matchup features two teams who have seen close games go opposite directions recently, with the Hoyas having won their last two games by ten points or less, including a win over Little Rock (5-8, Sun Belt) that needed overtime last Saturday. The Bison will enter Capital One Arena on a four-game losing streak, with three of those losses by single digits.

In that Little Rock matchup, the freshman guard duo of Mac McClung and James Akinjo combined for a whopping 63 points to see the Hoyas past the Trojans, 102-94. McClung scored 38 himself, due in no small part to his 14-of-16 shooting from the free throw line, while Akinjo also dished out seven assists. The frosh were supported by a pair of seniors, center Jessie Govan and forward Kaleb Johnson, who each added 12 points. Despite the offensive outpouring, the affair headed to overtime due to the Hoyas’ inability to defend. UALR shot 50 percent from the field and was sent to the free throw line 40 times in the loss. The Trojans also had two freshmen who came to play, with 5-foot-8 guard Markquis Nowell and 6-foot-10 center Nikola Maric combining for 51 points.

Head coach Keith Nickleberry’s Howard team has hit a rough patch after beating fellow District rival American (6-4, Patriot League) in an 85-83 contest on December 8. Six and seven point losses to George Washington (3-9, A-10) and Fordham (9-3, A-10), respectively, preceded a 98-71 thrashing from Ball State (8-4, MAC) on the road on the 20th. An 89-82 loss to Hampton (5-7, Big South) at the DC Holiday Hoopsfest last Saturday extended the Bison’s skid to four games.

Howard’s strengths lie in protecting the ball and forcing opponents to work for shots. The Bison average 12.1 turnovers per game to Georgetown’s 15, and are recording 1.8 more steals and 2.2 more blocks per game than their opponents. Four guards – sophomore RJ Cole, junior Charles Williams, redshirt junior Chad Lott, and freshman Raymond Bethea Jr. – account for 67 of the Bison’s 82.7 points per game. Cole is the playmaker of the bunch, averaging 6.8 assists per game, while Williams and Bethea Jr. are both rangier wings at 6-foot-6. Freshman center Akuwovo Ogheneyole has started 12 games this season and averages 5.7 rebounds per game.

Howard has played each of the Hoyas’ last two opponents, Appalachian State (5-7, Sun Belt) and Little Rock. The Bison were dispatched by 21, 97-76, on the road against UALR on November 23 before losing 100-86 to App State on December 4. The Trojans and Mountaineers both shot above 50 percent in their victories over Howard. Despite the Hoyas’ wins against each of these teams recently, it’s worth noting both games came at the Capital One Arena and the visitors were neck-and-neck with the Blue and Gray throughout.

Follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter for more updates and coverage of all winter sports at Georgetown.

Will Shanahan
is a senior in the McDonough School of Business, and former Sports Executive and Editor of The Voice. He spends his days plotting visits to downstairs Leo's when the omelet line will be short and trying to recall memories of his middling high school football career.

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