The kids are alright: Underclassmen lead Hoyas to win in overtime thriller

December 14, 2020

John Picker/The Georgetown Voice

The Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball team (3-3, 1-1 Big East) defeated St. John’s (5-3. 0-2 Big East) 97-94 in overtime on Sunday. The game was a seesaw affair, with 15 lead changes and 12 ties. Georgetown was led by freshman guard Dante Harris who scored 22 points and sophomore center Qudus Wahab who scored 17 to go along with 10 rebounds and 9 blocks. Junior forward Isaih Moore had a game high 26 points and 14 rebounds for the Johnnies. 

Both teams came into Sunday’s game off losses in their Big East openers, with St. John’s falling to Seton Hall (5-2, 1-0 Big East) and Georgetown falling to Villanova (5-1, 1-0 Big East). Both teams made minor tweaks to their starting lineups for this one, with St. John’s head coach Mike Anderson giving Moore the nod over an inactive junior forward Josh Roberts and Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing starting Dante Harris with graduate guard Jalen Harris down due to back spasms. 

These changes made major waves right away with Moore kicking off the scoring with a layup followed by Harris nailing a 3-pointer and then setting up Wahab with an easy bucket. Unfortunately for the Hoyas, Harris’s youth began to show after that, as St. John’s broke out a ferocious press that forced several turnovers. Still, the Hoyas maintained a lead early, despite uncharacteristically quiet play from senior guard Jahvon Blair and senior forward Jamorko Pickett. 

The biggest reason that Georgetown struggled to maintain their lead in the first half was due to the rebounding differential. Despite a size advantage, Georgetown gave up 13 offensive rebounds in the first half alone, leading to 11 second chance points for the Red Storm. Moore spearheaded this effort, but the whole St. John’s team had energy and tenacity throughout the first half. Their press forced Georgetown to make numerous mistakes, but the Hoyas didn’t let St. John’s get good looks. Their leading scorer, sophomore guard Julian Champagnie, managed just 7 points on 2-of-6 shooting from the field in the first half. At the half, Georgetown led 42-40. 

At first, it seemed as though the second half would go the way several second halves had so far. Georgetown looked sluggish out of the break and seemed stymied by some of the Johnnies’ halftime adjustments. Ewing took a timeout at just under 16 minutes left to play in the second half after the two-point halftime advantage had evaporated and turned into a 9 point deficit with a score of 55-46. The St. John’s run was spearheaded by Moore and freshman guard Posh Alexander and it looked as though the game may get out of hand, especially with Pickett headed to the bench with 3 fouls. 

However, Ewing unleashed a lineup with Blair and Pickett replaced by freshman guard TJ Berger and graduate forward Chudier Bile to go along with Harris, Wahab, and graduate guard Donald Carey. This lineup helped keep the Hoyas in the game, and actually tied the game back up at 60. Berger impressed in limited minutes, scoring 7 points on 2-3 shooting from behind the arc. Ewing and Carey were effusive in their praise of the freshman after the game, with Carey saying of his teammate, “He has a great IQ. He’s a playmaker.”

The game went back and forth after that, with the teams trading leads. Momentum started to shift in St. John’s favor when Ewing gave Wahab a breather and had Bile play the 5. With 2:35 remaining in regulation, St. John’s led 82-75.  After a timeout, Georgetown started pressing St. John’s in the backcourt which paid immediate dividends with a 8-1 run that culminated in a Blair triple to tie the game at 83. 

Moore then secured yet another offensive board for St. John’s scoring a putback which was then answered by a stepback trey from Blair. After a Harris foul, Alexander split a pair of free throws, tying the game once more at 86. On the next possession, with time running down, chaos ensued as Blair fell down and nearly lost his handle, but Carey secured the loose ball and made a layup. St. John’s immediately hustled up the court and guard Vince Cole had a look that was denied out of bounds by Wahab. Yet on the inbounds with 0.9 seconds remaining, junior guard Greg Williams Jr. made an open layup to send the game to overtime. 

After the game, Ewing praised his team for how they kept playing despite losing the lead.  “We kept our composure,” Ewing said. “We could have easily let go of our rope. We didn’t put our head down.

The overtime period unsurprisingly began with Moore securing an offensive rebound and heading to the line for two shots. The two teams traded baskets and free throws until Georgetown was up 3 with 9 seconds remaining. Georgetown decided to foul Williams away from the basket to ensure the team would not get a clean look at three. After making the first, Williams missed the second which was grabbed by, who else, Moore. Yet this time, the putback would not go, as Wahab sent Moore’s shot packing and into Harris’s hands. A made free throw by Harris set the final margin, 97-94.

After the game, all the talk was about the young duo of Harris and Wahab. Of Harris, Coach Ewing opined, “I didn’t think he played like a freshman. He made some freshman mistakes but I think he did an outstanding job.”

Ewing heaped praise as well as tough love on Wahab and his 9 blocks which he called “Mutombo, Ewing, Mourning numbers.”

“There is a lot of work still to do,” Ewing said.  “I was cursing him out but then I wanted to kiss him.” For his part, Wahab acknowledged he still had much to work on, especially on the boards, but was proud of how he played tonight. “I feel so happy. My hard work is showing up, my ability to learn from Coach Ewing is showing.”

Other standouts for the Hoyas included Blair  who ended up with 20 points on 50% shooting and 5 rebounds, although he did make some costly late game blunders (a contested three early in the shot clock, falling out of bounds with 0.9 seconds remaining, and allowing the tying basket at the end of regulation). Carey also played well, shooting an efficient 7-of-9 from the field for 19 points, despite 6 turnovers. 

When asked about the game, Carey told members of the media, “We shot ourselves in the foot. There were a lot of unforced turnovers on our end.”

“At the end, we just found a way to win.”

On his sideline, Coach Anderson blamed himself for the loss. “I told our guys, I’ll take the blame for that one there. I didn’t get the job done.” Alexander had an excellent game for St. John’s, scored 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting, and dished out 6 assists. Champagnie shot 3-of-11 from the field but chipped in 13 points and 12 rebounds and Marcellus Earlington paced the bench with 10 points. 

The Hoyas will face the Red Storm for a second time in a row next Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET at Carnesecca Arena. The team will be tasked with cutting down on turnovers and improving rebounding in advance of the next meeting between the two. As Ewing said, “We can’t make the mental mistakes, especially there, that we made here.”

For continued coverage of men’s basketball and all Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.

Roman Peregrino
Once upon a time, Roman was the Voice's EIC as well as news, managing, and sports editor. He is from San Francisco and a lot less Italian than his name suggests.

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