In a year with 9 new players, a COVID-19 pause that canceled 4 games, and the death of former head coach and Hall of Famer John Thompson Jr., Georgetown (13-12, 7-9 Big East) overcame all odds Saturday night, winning the Big East Tournament championship by defeating No. 17 Creighton (20-8, 14-6 Big East), 73-48 in a dominant defensive performance. The victory punches the Hoyas’ first ticket to the NCAA tournament in 6 years and gives them a record 8th Big East Tournament championship.
Georgetown’s superb help defense and swift pick-and-roll rotations made it extremely difficult for Creighton’s offense and allowed the Hoyas to go on a 46-8 run which defined the game.
Freshman guard Dante Harris led the Blue and Gray with his stifling defense, earning him Most Outstanding Player honors. He commanded Georgetown in a total team effort, with the Hoyas holding Creighton to 28.8% shooting.
The Hoyas started the game tight, allowing Creighton junior guard Marcus Zegarowski to slice through the lane for several pull-up jumpers, getting the Blue Jays out to an early 4-0 lead. The first half was back and forth from there, with Zegarowski alone overcoming otherwise dreadful shooting to keep Creighton in the game. Georgetown never looked from there, and back-to-back threes from senior guard Jahvon Blair gave Georgetown the lead for good with 5:03 remaining.
The Hoyas proceeded to go on a monster 34-5 run that extended into the second half, jumping out in the fast break for layups by both Harris and Blair. Head coach Patrick Ewing’s squad closed the half on an 18-0 run and took a decisive 36-18 lead. They did not let up out of the break, attacking the basket and getting easy buckets from sophomore center Qudus Wahab, as well as free throws from Harris and graduate forward Chudier Bile.
Meanwhile, Creighton went 2-16 from the floor over that 11-minute span and turned the ball over three times. By the time senior guard Alex O’Connell broke the scoring drought, the game was out of reach for the Bluejays.
Zegarowski reflected on the Hoyas’ run postgame, saying “I think we started off pretty strong on both ends of the floor, and they started making shots. It’s a game of momentum, and they got the momentum.”
Bile led the Hoyas in scoring with 19 points and 8 rebounds, spearheading the Hoyas offense with his three-point shooting and relentless effort on the glass. But it was Harris who had the most complete game, adding 10 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, with just one turnover.
Harris credited Bile’s energy for their run saying that “he brings great energy to the team each and every day . . . We feed off that energy. Everybody feeds off that energy. When a player is energetic and hype, everybody starts to get hype, and that’s all we need.”
Three-pointers from Blair and graduate guard Donald Carey late in the second half put away any sort of Creighton run, and sophomore center Malcolm Wilson’s thunderous dunk put the exclamation point on the victory and the championship.
The Hoyas defeated Marquette, Villanova, Seton Hall, and Creighton on the way to the title. After six years of program struggles, countless transfers, and other controversy surrounding the program, Patrick Ewing put the critics to bed, leading his team to the Big Dance and becoming the first person to win the Big East Tournament as both a coach and a player.
“A lot of people discredited us, talked bad about us, about our team, but we believe in ourselves, we worked hard, fought hard,” Ewing said. We did everything we needed to do to get to this point and I think it’s paid off.”
Picked to finish last in the Big East regular season, many doubted the Hoyas on their road to the tournament title. Their doubt may have been rational, as the program welcomed 9 new faces and was the last team in the Big East to begin team activities on campus. They leaned on their returning leaders when it counted most, as Blair and Wahab earned the nod on the All-Tournament team. While the title may have been a surprise to some, Ewing believed in his team the whole time.
“No, I’m not surprised,” he said. “I believe in these kids and I think they believe in me. […] I told them we had enough talent to win the Big East, make the NCAA tournament.”
This championship means the most to the class of 2021, Ewing’s first recruiting class. Blair spoke after the game about its significance, saying “It means the world. It’s [Coach Ewing’s] first time, my first time, Jamorko’s first time, we’ve been with him since Day One. To see him this happy, it just makes me happy.”
The Hoyas’ championship victory was especially sweet because of how much adversity they faced along the way. Georgetown overcame the death of John Thompson, a Covid pause that shut down team activities, and an inconsistent regular-season before getting the job done when it counted.
“40-plus years ago Coach Thompson was hired at Georgetown, and it was on this day [March 13th] that he was hired. And today we won the Big East championship. They had us ranked last,” said Ewing. “We started at the bottom. Now we’re number 1.”
The victory firmly cements Georgetown back at the top of the Big East, earning them their 8th title, good for the most of all time. It is also the first time an 8th seed has won the Big East Tournament, and it is the first time Georgetown has won it all since 2007. Though many national figures wrote the Hoyas off for good after a 3-8 start, the team, and their fans were steadfast in their belief.
“Thank y’all. Y’all keep fighting, y’all kept believing,” Blair said. “Look at us now, Big East champs.”
The Hoyas now await their seeding and matchup in the NCAA tournament. They will fly to Indianapolis tomorrow, where the NCAA tournament is being held in multiple locations in the state of Indiana. Their participation will be subject to strict Covid-19 protocols. The selection show will be televised on Sunday, March 14th on CBS at 6:00 p.m. ET. For continued coverage of the men’s basketball team and all Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.