The Georgetown men’s basketball team downed Georgia State 91-83 on Sunday evening at Capital One Arena behind 25 points from sophomore guard Mac McClung. The Hoyas took a whopping 51 free throw attempts, making 40, to secure the victory. Though the visitors got the best of the Hoyas’ man-to-man defense for much of the game and went into halftime with a lead, GU was able to run-and-gun its way to a 58-point second half to outlast the Panthers.
“We still made a lot of mistakes,” Georgetown Head Coach Patrick Ewing said. “But I was happy with most everything in the second half.”
An early outburst from McClung, who had struggled from the field through three games, preserved a slim Hoya (3-1, Big East) lead in the early offings. Though McClung’s confident pullups finding the bottom of the bucket were a welcome sight, the Panthers (1-3, Sun Belt) scored in lockstep, repeatedly getting positioning down low.
Ewing inserted his second rotation quickly, which has become common so far this season. The second group didn’t cede looks as easily but failed to generate offense, and Ewing pulled them after a 7-0 Georgia State run that narrowed the Georgetown lead to 19-18.
Senior center Omer Yurtseven had two easy putbacks, but then Georgia State went right back to work against the Georgetown starters, pulling off a 9-0 run that saw them open up a 29-21 lead. For a team with limited size, the Panthers didn’t overly rely on 3-point attempts, but broke the Blue & Gray down with dribble-drives against man defense. Damningly, GSU had as many rebounds (seven) as the Hoyas did in the first half off of Panthers misses, two days after Duke had outrebounded the visitors 58-32.
“I haven’t been happy [with the defense],” Ewing said postgame. “Everyone is on an island. They’re not doing the team defensive things we need to do or the individual defensive things we need them to do.”
McClung was substituted in favor of junior guard Jahvon Blair after missing two contested threes, but that arguably only made the task of manufacturing baskets more difficult. With the defense bleeding points and the Georgetown main offensive options silent, the Hoyas entered the halftime break down 39-33. The Panthers were having their way with GU on both ends of the floor, shooting 51.7% in the first half while Georgetown managed a mere 30.3% clip. The six GU bench players who saw a combined 37 minutes of action scored just six points.
The Hoyas trotted out their starting five to open the second half, and McClung and sophomore guard James Akinjo scored to knot the game. The Panthers responded through two open looks that came easily, but it seemed Georgetown was getting into more of a rhythm offensively, and they were into the bonus by the 14:42 mark.
“Obviously, I had a little bit of a slump going on,” McClung remarked of his start to the season. “I think it was something I had to deal with personally. I just kept my head right and stayed in the gym—I’ll never quit in those types of situations.”
An and-one hook shot from Yurtseven gave the Hoyas their first lead since 8:43 in the first half, and they brought full-court pressure on the ensuing inbound. Two identical elbow jumpers from the Panthers’ redshirt sophomore guard Justin Robinson restored the GSU lead, but then sophomore forward Josh LeBlanc found four points rim-running with the backup unit. Staying on the floor upon the starters’ reinsertion after playing only eight minutes in the first half, LeBlanc picked up an impressive block and converted an and-one in the lane to create an eight-point advantage.
“I feel like I came out a little bit too flat in the first half, and being in my role as the energizer, I needed to pick it up in the second half,” LeBlanc said.
With both teams applying the press, more transition opportunities opened up, and senior guard Jagan Mosely put down a thundering finish on one such break to push the score to 70-61. The Panthers got to the free throw line five times in a three-minute span, but two strong individual takes, from Akinjo on a layup and Pickett on a pullup jumper, gave the Hoyas enough cushion to remain comfortable. The Georgia State press allowed GU to showcase its athleticism, and they preserved by an eight-point margin.
“We have a lot of guys that can drive and create contact, and we have to step up and make free throws if we’re going to be a good team,” Ewing said of the free-throw outburst. Meanwhile, the Blue & Gray were just 3-18 from beyond the 3-point arc. Outside of the five starters plus LeBlanc, the Hoyas got only nine points from their other five rotation options.
Georgetown returns to action Thursday night against Texas (4-0 Big 12). The game is set to tip at 7 p.m. ET, with a broadcast from ESPN2 and live stats available at guhoyas.com. Follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter for coverage of all sports on the Hilltop.