The Georgetown men’s basketball team (12-6, 2-3 Big East) survived their first nail-biter of the Big East season on Wednesday evening, seeing off No. 25 Creighton (13-5, 2-3 Big East) at Capital One Arena. After a frustrating game on Saturday in which they were held in check, senior center Ömer Yurtseven and sophomore guard Mac McClung got back on track and provided timely baskets, scoring 20 and 19 points, respectively, while Yurtseven also pulled down 13 rebounds. Despite star sophomore guard Marcus Zegarowski’s 20-point, 7-assist effort, Georgetown Head Coach Patrick Ewing scored his first win over the Bluejays thanks to a well-rounded effort that saw five Hoyas score in double digits.
“We showed a lot of character,” Ewing said. “Our guys fought. Mac, [graduate student guard] Terrell [Allen], they were sick. They didn’t practice in the three days ahead of the game. And the shots [Creighton] got in the second half, they weren’t as easy.”
The contest between the Big East’s two highest-scoring teams began as advertised. Both McClung and Yurtseven got off the mark early after struggling in Saturday’s loss at Villanova. McClung spotted up for a three after strong perimeter ball movement, while Yurtseven bagged a quick six points that included a trademark fadeaway and a smooth pump-fake-and-drive. Meanwhile, Zegarowski was giving graduate student guard Terrell Allen fits at the other end, scoring 8 of the Bluejays’ first 11.
“In the Big East, it’s very important to throw the first punch,” senior guard Jagan Mosely said. “Especially at home, we want to protect our home court.”
McClung and Yursteven received breathers after the under-16 timeout, and the Hoyas’ play suffered. Junior forward Jamorko Pickett had two strong takes to the hole to build a five-point GU lead, but Creighton quickly responded with a 9-0 run.
Yurtseven was instrumental in erasing the Bluejay lead, as a jumper and a putback slam were sandwiched between a threaded outlet pass that led to a layup for Allen. The back-and-forth continued, however, as Zegarowski and junior guard Mitch Ballock each took turns playing distributor, wreaking havoc with dribble-drives. McClung hit two pretty dribble pull-ups over Ballock as the half wound down, and the Hoyas should have gone into the intermission with the lead after his entry pass to Yurtseven, but the senior’s dunk attempt rocketed off of the back of the rim and the deficit stayed at one, 37-36.
“We can score,” Ewing said. “Sometimes, we take some time off on the defensive end.”
Creighton junior forward Denzel Mahoney, averaging a paltry 20.7 percent from 3-point range entering Wednesday, was 2-for-2 from deep to compliment a 10-point first half effort. Meanwhile, Zegarowski had three assists to go with his eleven. It had to be encouraging for Ewing to see his team lead the rebounding battle 19-14, albeit against an undersized Creighton squad.
The Bluejays expanded their advantage when Zegarowski stuffed a three following an unlucky miscommunication between Yurtseven and Pickett, but a McClung jumper and a thunderous slam by Mosely would peg CU right back.
“To me, he’s our MVP,” Ewing said of Mosely.
The game got frenetic out of the under-16 timeout, as the Hoyas reclaimed the lead with a transition and-one from Allen, and threatened to blow things open when Mosely laid one in high off the glass and Yurtseven cleaned up down low one possession later. It proved difficult to keep a team as offensively talented as Creighton down for long, however, and Zegarowski quieted the crowd with a contested corner three.
Georgetown survived a spell without both McClung and Yurtseven thanks to Pickett and Allen field goals, but the Bluejays kept pace with Zegarowski catching a breather. For the last eight minutes, each of the Hoyas’ three starting guards – McClung, Allen, and Mosely – would be playing with three fouls.
Staring their only conference game of the season that has gone down to the wire, Georgetown ripped off their second 7-0 run of the half, and Yurtseven was at the forefront. Operating in the high post, he quickly received and flipped the ball to Mosely, who canned a three to make the Hoya lead five. Then, GU wore down Creighton until they could feed Yurtseven inside, and he made due with a left hook. Creighton Head Coach Greg McDermott was forced to call timeout at 70-61 after Yurtseven grabbed his eleventh rebound off a Mosely miss and converted.
“I see the potential in him,” Ewing said of Yurtseven. “He was great on the glass, he got points, he kicked the ball out. He played great.”
Creighton Head Coach Greg McDermott called Yurtseven as good as any big in the conference.
Two jumpers from Creighton’s All-Big East junior guard Ty-Shon Alexander quickly put to bed any thought of a comfortable Hoyas victory, and then Ballock canned a long-overdue three following a McClung turnover to cut the deficit to one. Then, like clockwork, Georgetown threatened to see the game off with floaters from McClung and Mosely back-to-back, but Ballock responded with a difficult three curling off of a screen.
In the final two minutes, just like they had at the beginning of both halves, the Hoyas’ big guns rose to the occasion when it was best-on-best. Putting the finishing touches on his stellar performance, Yurtseven feathered yet another ten-footer rolling off a pick set for Mosely to make the contest 76-72. When Creighton answered with a second chance basket, McClung stuck a difficult baseline fadeaway with the shot clock winding down. Zegarowski missed a runner with 27 seconds remaining, and a towering rebound from Yurtseven set the Blue & Gray on their way to a crucial win.
“The guys trusted in me, especially on that pick-and-roll,” Yurtseven said. “[My confidence] comes from my teammates.”
In addition to the five double-digit scorers, a Pickett went for nine points. After being a lone bright spot against Villanova with 13 points, freshman center Qudus Wahab played only five minutes and was held scoreless on a night where Yurtseven starred. Georgetown certainly dodged the best of Alexander and Ballock, two multifaceted scorers that combined for just 20 points and a 4-for-16 mark from deep.
Georgetown returns to play against Marquette (11-3, 2-1 Big East) at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Capital One Arena. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1 with live stats available at guhoyas.com. Follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter for coverage and coverage of all winter sports on the Hilltop.