The Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball team fell to the University of North Carolina-Greensboro (UNCG) Spartans 65-61 on Saturday. Sophomore guard James Akinjo led the Hoyas in scoring with 12 points, while freshman guard Keyshaun Langley paced the Spartans with 11 points.
Senior center Omer Yurtseven opened the scoring in the first half on a quick hook shot with an assist from sophomore guard Mac McClung. After a failed dunk attempt from junior forward Jamorko Pickett, senior guard Jagan Mosely found the basket from the three point line, kicking off an 8-2 run for the Hoyas. In the early going, Yurtseven warded off foul trouble, picking up his first call of the game less than five minutes into the first half. Yet, he also struggled to find his shot, going 2 for 6 in the first ten minutes of the game. McClung faced similar struggles, hitting just two of his seven attempts in the first half.
“We got great shots. We just didn’t make them,” Ewing said. “If your best players are not going to shoot a great percentage, then it’s going to be hard to win.”
Defensively, the Hoyas (4-3, Big East) opened the first half with strong showings from Yurtseven and Pickett, who picked up five and four rebounds respectively before the 10 minute mark. They continued the solid effort for the remainder of the half, holding the Spartans to 32% shooting from the field.
After the Under-12 media timeout, the Spartans (6-2, Southern) went on a 6-0 run, narrowing Georgetown’s lead to 16-13 before Akinjo broke a nearly four minute-long scoring drought with a layup. UNCG’s run, however, was enough for Ewing to call a timeout and bring in his second unit of junior forward Galen Alexander, graduate guard Terrell Allen, and freshman center Qudus Wahab.
UNCG’s first half was plagued by injuries, with junior guard and leading Spartan scorer Isaiah Miller leaving the court with an apparent head injury (he returned later in the half) and sophomore guard Kaleb Hunter pulled from the court after a nasty fall left him unable to put pressure on his right leg. Despite these setbacks, the Spartans managed to close the gap to an even 20-20 with a shot from beyond the arc for sophomore forward Angelo Allegri. UNCG head coach Wes Miller said that a goal for the Spartans’ nonconference season has been to prepare their underclassmen to come off the bench when their top scorers are out.
“I thought our depth was effective tonight,” Miller said. “Our youth being ready is what’s going to make the depth of this team good.”
As the first half drew to a close, things got heated on the court. Double technicals were called on Akinjo and Miller after an apparent argument beneath the basket. A good half on the defensive end couldn’t make up for sloppy offensive play, with the Hoyas giving up 8 turnovers and Yurtseven relegated to only 9 minutes on the court due to foul trouble. The Hoyas could not break away and widen their lead against a resilient Spartans team.
The second half opened with McClung drawing a foul from Spartan senior forward James Dickey and sinking two free throws. UNCG responded with a triple from freshman guard Malik Massey to tie the game, forcing Ewing to call a timeout less than two minutes into the half. An 11-1 run and a layup from Allegri put the Spartans in the lead for the first time in the game. In the first 5 minutes of the half, Miller notched his first points of the game after being held scoreless by the Hoyas’ defense to that point.
Following Ewing’s first timeout of the half, Georgetown’s press forced turnovers and poor shot selection from the Spartans. A steal from junior guard Jahvon Blair and a transition bucket from graduate student guard Terrell Allen gave the Hoyas some much-needed energy, and a hook shot from Yurtseven put the Hoyas back in the lead with just over twelve minutes to play in the second half. A 14-2 run pushed the gap to 49-44, and Yurtseven finally hit his stride after lagging all game, recording eight points in just 11 minutes. Miller said that the Spartans focused on Yurtseven in practice, hoping to prevent him from getting into a rhythm.
“He’s phenomenal. We played against him when he was at N.C. State, and he’s just phenomenal,” Miller said.
The Hoyas’ dominance didn’t last long. Two open shots from behind the arc for Massey and a dunk from Miller gave UNCG a 56-54 lead. Akinjo struggled, converting just 4 of his 15 field goal attempts for the game. At the Under-4 media timeout, Ewing returned to his original lineup, with Mosely, McClung, Akinjo, Yurtseven and Pickett back on the court. With 11 turnovers in the second half, however, the Hoyas couldn’t overcome the Spartans’ narrow lead, and found themselves fouling intentionally with the hopes of regaining control of the game.
Ultimately, however, their last-ditch efforts proved futile, as they could not overcome a game in which the team shot 36.8% from the field and 70% from the free throw line, and the Hoyas fell 65-61. Their stars had a frustrating day, as Yurtseven, Akinjo, and McClung combined to shoot 10 for 37 from the field, dooming them to yet another difficult loss.
“Today we didn’t show up, and I’m disappointed in that,” Ewing said. Georgetown’s next game will be December 4 against Oklahoma State (7-0, Big 12) at 8:00 pm EST in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The game can be streamed on ESPN+ with a radio broadcast on 1450 AM and live stats available on guhoyas.com. Follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter for live coverage and coverage of all sports on the Hilltop.
Image Credits: John Picker/The Georgetown Voice