Winless at Wooden: Tournament performance leaves questions for Hoyas

November 28, 2021

Dante Harris Photo courtesy of GU Athletics

Following two wins by a combined 40 points last week, the Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball team (2-3, 0-0 Big East) came up empty-handed on a trip to Anaheim, California for the Wooden Legacy tournament. The two losses laid bare the flaws of the Hoyas roster but provided an opportunity for Head Coach Patrick Ewing to see how his team responded to adversity.

The first game of the Hoyas’ cross-country Thanksgiving jaunt came just before midnight ET on Turkey Day, as the San Diego State Aztecs (4-2, 0-0 MWC) dropped the Hoyas 73-56. Freshman guard Aminu Mohammed led the Hoyas with a career-high 20 points. Sophomore guard Dante Harris added a season-high 19 points. The rest of the team shot just 4-28 from the field (14 percent). 

The Hoyas, carried by Harris and Mohammed, hung around for the first half and went into the break down 40-32. It was a game of runs in the second half, though. A 7-0 Hoya run cut the lead to five, followed by a 10-0 SDSU run. An 11-1 run for the Blue and Gray cut the margin to four with nine minutes remaining in the half. That was the last good news for the Hoyas, however, as the Aztecs held the Hoyas to just three points for the remainder of the game, securing their win, 73-56. San Diego State went on to lose to the No. 24 USC Trojans (6-0, 0-0 Pac-12) 58-43 in the Wooden Legacy Championship on Friday. 

The clear weakness of the Hoyas team was the five spot, as junior center Tim Ighoefe was in foul trouble early. Ighoefe’s extended trip to the bench allowed freshman center Ryan Mutombo and junior center Malcolm Wilson to play a combined 20 minutes, during which the two struggled defensively and added just two points to the scoreboard (both Mutombo’s). There were some positives – Mohammed and Harris both proved that they could carry the offense when needed, and the Hoyas second half press coverage looks like a defensive weapon.

The loss to San Diego State (KenPom #42) came as expected; the Aztecs are the toughest team on Georgetown’s non-conference slate and the game was played in California at midnight, a tough task for any team. What hurt more, though, was the 77-74 loss to the Saint Joseph’s Hawks (3-3, 0-0 A-10) in the consolation game on Friday. The Hawks came into the game ranked 218th on KenPom, making them the Hoyas’ second loss to a sub-200 team this year, following the 69-60 season-opening loss to the Dartmouth Big Green (2-1, 0-0 Ivy). 

Graduate guard Kaiden Rice led the Hoyas with 25 points (7-13 from three), 19 of which came in the second half. This was a season-high for the Citadel transfer, who has drastically improved since his performance in the Hoyas’ first game of the season and has shown the ability to carry an offense when he is hot. Harris added 17 points and six assists, Ighoefe added 14 rebounds and three blocks, and graduate guard Donald Carey put up 12 following an uncharacteristically poor performance against San Diego State. 

Despite the strong offensive performance, the Hoyas trailed for practically the entirety of the game. Senior guard Taylor Funk put up 29 points for the Hawks, hitting eight three pointers on just ten attempts. The Hoyas had opportunities to get back into the game in the second half, but St. Joseph’s always had an answer, and veteran leaders like Harris and Carey made poor decisions in the final minutes to sink the Hoyas.  

When asked about the 0-2 performance in Anaheim, Georgetown Head Coach Patrick Ewing tried to put a positive spin on things.

 “When we came out here, I told them that if making this trip didn’t help us when we got back home, that would have been a waste,” Ewing said. “We have a very young team, they have to learn and this is the only way to learn. I’m disappointed that we lost, but I do think there’s a lot of lessons to be learned and hopefully we’ll learn from them. As the weeks go on, we’ll forget about this.”

The Hoyas return to the friendly confines of Capital One Arena to battle the Longwood Lancers  (4-3, 0-0 Big South) at 7 p.m. on Nov. 30. Earlier this season, Longwood beat American University 82-42, the only common opponent the two have faced. Follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter for more updates and coverage of all fall and winter sports at Georgetown.

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