The Georgetown men’s basketball team completed an impressive second half comeback to beat DePaul 76-72 on Saturday afternoon at Capital One Arena. Georgetown’s sophomore guard Mac McClung was again out with a foot injury, leading Head Coach Patrick Ewing to continue his reliance on junior guard Jahvon Blair as the offense’s focal point. Blair did not disappoint, notching a career-high 30 points on 11-18 shooting from the field and propelling the Hoyas to victory. Freshman center Qudus Wahab was another key player in the win Saturday, cementing himself as an enforcer in the paint after with a 6 block performance.
Ewing’s team (14-10, 4-7 Big East) got off to a slow start riddled with missed shots and poor defense, allowing DePaul (13-11, 1-10 Big East) to grab an early 14-6 lead. Georgetown looked flat on both ends of the court; no one on the team, aside from Blair, was able to get their shots to consistently fall and the defense looked unable to keep up with DePaul’s playmakers. By the 11 minute mark, the home-town Hoyas were already suffering from an 11 point deficit. But, a series of emphatic back-to-back dunks from senior center Ömer Yurtseven seemed to shake the Hoyas out of their daze and energized the crowd, who had been quiet thus far in the game. Yurtseven and Blair continued to lead the way offensively for Georgetown, slowly eating away at DePaul’s lead. The duo combined for two electrifying possessions just before the half as Yurtseven slammed home a put-back dunk that was followed by a Blair corner three on the next possession, bringing the score 38-32, DePaul.
Coming out of the break, Georgetown capitalized on the momentum from the final minutes of the first half, as graduate student guard Terrell Allen got a steal and passed it to Yurtseven in transition for another dunk from the big man. DePaul and the Hoyas then traded buckets before DePaul stretched their advantage to an 8 point differential. But, the Hoyas would not be deterred, as junior forward Jamorko Pickett nailed a three for his first field goal of the game. Moments later, after another easy two points from DePaul, Blair continued his hot streak by hitting a three of his own, making it a 48-44 game favoring the visitors. The game continued to be a back and forth battle, with the Hoyas always on the precipice of blowing the game wide open, but never managing to quite get over the hump. However, at the 11-minute mark Georgetown had once again pulled within five points, and, with the momentum of the game in their favor, was poised to take the lead. But, soon thereafter, it looked as though any hopes of a Georgetown comeback were dashed as Yurtseven went down hard clutching his left ankle. The star center was then helped off the court, as he hobbled to the locker room on one leg with what appeared to be an ankle injury. Ewing, who had already been utilizing a big lineup for parts of the game, playing Yurtseven and Wahab alongside one another in the backcourt, would now have to turn to the freshman to anchor the team’s defense.
Yurtseven’s injury should have been the nail in Georgetown’s coffin, but instead, it was the turning point of the game and an opportunity for Wahab to make his presence known. Just after the injury timeout, Wahab rejected a DePaul shot attempt and moments later Blair hit yet another three ball, cutting the deficit to 55-53 and causing the crowd to erupt in cheers. The two teams would trade points again, as the Blue Demons desperately tried to hold onto their lead. But at the eight-minute mark, Georgetown’s Pickett converted on a hard-fought put-back layup, tying the game at 57 a piece. Then on the ensuing DePaul possession, Wahab dominated in the paint, harassing DePaul’s shooters and preventing them from getting any clean looks. Blair was fouled on the following Georgetown possession, sending him to the charity stripe with a chance to give his team their first lead of the day. Blair, a solid free throw shooter, converted both free throws to take the lead. The two teams continued to battle back and forth, tying at 59 a piece and 61 a piece before a floater from senior guard Jagan Mosely and a subsequent three from Pickett gave the Hoyas a 66-61 lead with 3:45 left to play.
Just a minute later, Pickett fouled out, forcing Ewing to turn to his already depleted bench by subbing in senior forward George Muresan. DePaul cut the lead to three points and following an errant pass from Mosely, had an opportunity to tie the game. But, the Hoyas’ defense, which Ewing switched from man to zone after Muresan subbed in, led by Wahab, held steady and forced a missed shot from DePaul. Blair led the offensive charge in transition and dished to Wahab under the basket, who was fouled on his shot attempt and sent to the free throw line. The freshman center drained both free throws putting Georgetown up 70-65. However, Head Coach Dave Leitao’s DePaul team would not go away quietly as they quickly responded with two points of their own on the following possession. Within three points, DePaul attempted to trap Georgetown’s ball-handlers on the inbound play, forcing Ewing to call a timeout. Once the Hoyas finally inbounded, Allen was trapped and forced out of bounds, surrendering the ball to DePaul. The Blue Demons were fouled on their possession, hit the first free throw, and miraculously secured the rebound and a put-back layup on the second missed free throw, making it a 74-72 game with just three seconds left to play. Georgetown, who again had trouble inbounding, eventually managed to get the ball to Muresan who was promptly fouled and sent to the free throw line. The walk-on forward, with the game on the line in, converted both free throws and iced the game, ensuring a 76-72 Georgetown win.
In what Coach Ewing called a “great team effort,” Blair emerged as a clear difference-maker. The junior guard impressed as he continued leading the team offensively in Maclung’s absence. Blair has seemingly come into his own these past three games, proving he is more than just a spot-up shooter. When asked about his recent hot-streak, he humbly noted that he has just “knocked down his shots and found the open man,” but in particular he said he has been working on his finishing around the rim and floaters. When asked about his 30 point performance today, Blair cheekily commented through a smile that his shots just “kinda dropped today… so I’m happy about that.” After the way Blair has played this past week, he has proven he deserves more consistent minutes and that he is an elite scoring talent.
Georgetown will head to Indianapolis, IN to play Butler next Thursday, February 15, at 2:30 p.m.. The game broadcast on Fox Sports 1 and live stats available at guhoyas.com. For continued coverage of all Georgetown winter sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.
Image Credits: Cam Smith/The Georgetown Voice