On Thursday, the Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball team will take on the No. 22 Texas Longhorns at Madison Square Garden in the 2K Empire Classic. Both teams are coming off wins, as Georgetown bested Georgia State on Sunday while Texas defeated Prairie View A&M on Friday. Thursday’s matchup will be the first meeting between the programs since the Hoyas took a 64-41 victory in December 2012, but the all-time series is tied at one game apiece. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. ET.
The Hoyas (3-1, Big East) did well to rebound against Georgia State after taking a thumping from Penn State 81-66 last Thursday. The first half on Sunday, however, was concerning for Head Coach Patrick Ewing’s squad, as the Blue & Gray were down 39-33 at halftime. The second half was a different story, as the Hoyas erupted for 58 points and outrebounded the Panthers 22-12. For the fourth time in as many games, senior center Omer Yurtseven notched a double-double, recording 15 points and 13 rebounds. Thus far, Yurtseven is pacing the team in both scoring and rebounding, averaging 17 points and 12.5 boards per game. But perhaps the more notable performance on Sunday was that of sophomore guard Mac McClung. After a solid 16 point performance in the season opener, McClung struggled mightily over the next two games, shooting a combined 2-for-17 from the field. On Sunday, the Virginia native broke out for 25 points, including two makes from deep. McClung also went 11-for-11 from the free throw line, an encouraging sign after he shot 79.8% from the charity stripe a year ago. The Hoyas will need this type of consistent scoring from McClung if they are to have success this year.
Texas (4-0, Big 12) has been dominant to start the season, winning their four games by an average margin of 13.75 points. One of those four was an impressive victory at Purdue, who is currently 10th in the KenPom rankings. Leading the Longhorns is junior guard Matt Coleman III, who is averaging 14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. Coleman, in his third season as Texas’ starting point guard, is shooting at a blistering 58.3% clip from deep. The second-leading Longhorn scorer is redshirt sophomore guard Andrew Jones, averaging 13.3 points per game.
Thursday’s matchup presents a tilt between two teams with polarizing strengths. The Hoyas have several sources of scoring and have averaged 81.8 points per game, good for 59th in the nation, while their defense has struggled mightily, allowing 77.5 points per game, 306th in the country. Texas, on the other hand, has the 241st best offense and 18th best defense in terms of points scored and allowed.
The rebounding battle will also be a point of emphasis. Yurtseven, arguably the Hoyas’ best player so far, will likely be matched up with Texas junior forward Jericho Sims. Sims is the Longhorns’ leading rebounder with 7.3 per game, and he grabbed 10 boards in their last game against Prairie View A&M. Sims, however, stands at 6-foot-9 compared to Yurtseven at 7 feet. If Yurtseven manages to control the boards, it would give Georgetown a crucial boost in a game where the Longhorns are favored.