The Georgetown men’s basketball team (6-21, 0-16 Big East) fell to the DePaul Blue Demons (13-14, 4-13 Big East) 68-65 on Thursday night at Capital One Arena, failing to convert on the last possession which saw three chances to send the game to overtime. The game was a sloppy, but close affair with both teams committing a combined 33 turnovers. The Blue Demons used a huge first-half free throw edge and took advantage of some costly Hoyas fouls to escape with the victory.
Freshman Aminu Mohammed and graduate guard Donald Carey led the Hoyas in scoring, putting up 18 and 15 points, respectively. Twelve of Careywhich were in the second half.. Despite Mohammed’s strong takes to the basket, the Hoyas were not able to overcome DePaul’s Javon Freedman-Liberty who had 25 points on 8-21 shooting, as well as the length of Yor Anei who came away with an astonishing five steals.
The Hoyas got off to a poor shooting start, with Mohammed as the lynchpin of the offense, keeping them in the game. Mohammed scored the Hoyas’ first five points and went 3-6 from the field over the first ten minutes, while his teammates were only 1-7. The Blue Demons looked to feed the post early, trying to attack Malcolm Wilson on the low block. DePaul was able to make at least five post entries in the early going. While this gave the Blue Demons success in the opening minutes, they began to play sloppily when the Hoyas introduced a press off of made baskets. Georgetown’s press helped force 10 first-half turnovers for DePaul.
Head Coach Patrick Ewing shared that the press was a bright spot in the game for Georgetown. “We were able to get a couple of key turnovers, especially late in the game,” he said.
The Hoyas’ turnovers kept them from taking any decisive lead. Two costly Tyler Beard turnovers led to a pair of DePaul threes, making it 23-16 with 7:14 to go in the half. However, these turnovers were not the worst of the first half. A walk-in Freedman-Liberty layup forced a Ewing timeout with 6:05 remaining in the first half, capping an 11-0 DePaul run that gave the Blue Demons their largest lead of the game. The run was a complete lull. The Blue Demons went without a field goal for over seven minutes during this period, and the Hoyas just could not keep them off of the free-throw line.
Georgetown showed tremendous fight out of the timeout, converting back-to-back threes from junior Jalin Billingsley and Carey to cut the DePaul lead to five at 27-22, with 5:04 remaining. However, Georgetown’s turnover woes continued from there with Freedman-Liberty getting out in transition, drawing a foul, and shooting DePaul’s 12th and 13th free throws of the half with 3:09 remaining. “We fouled way too much in the first half,” lamented Head Coach Patrick Ewing.
The Hoyas came out of the break with a new offensive flow, attacking the basket and finding Wilson for a pair of easy dunks early in the period. Ewing was pleased with the performance from Wilson. “I thought he did a pretty good job for the 12 minutes that he played,” he said.
Dante Harris’ drive with 19:12 remaining gave the Hoyas their first lead since early in the first half and capped a 5-0 run to start the second half. The Hoyas and Blue Demons then traded buckets until Carey’s four-point play and solo 6-0 run gave the Hoyas a 50-45 lead with 10:47 remaining.
Ewing noted the improvement in the second-half offense. “We didn’t turn the ball over as much,” he said. “We were able to execute our offense, get into our offense, and get a little bit of flow.”
The Blue Demons responded with a 13-3 run that proved to be decisive and the Hoyas went cold, missing four straight field goals into the under-eight timeout. Shortly afterward Mohammed picked up his fourth foul, staying in for the rest of the game. A Hoyas’ turnover and Freedman-Liberty layup forced a Ewing timeout with 5:19 remaining, with the score at 58-53 DePaul. A huge three from Brandon Johnson with 4:42 to go kept the lead at five. The Hoyas press was effective for the remainder of the game, forcing turnovers and keeping them in it.
Billingsley also had his best game of the season, with seven key points over the final three minutes, including a three that gave Georgetown the lead at 64-63 with 2:15 to go.
“This was his best game of the year,” said Ewing. “He gave us energy. He gave us effort. He gave us someone with size and athleticism. He had 10 points and three huge blocked shots. That’s what I’ve been waiting for from him all year.”
However, it was Freedman-Liberty who was the star of the night, hitting a layup to give DePaul the lead for good with 1:01 remaining. The final sequence was emblematic of the game, with costly fouls and an erratic final possession. Collin Holloway committed his fifth foul grabbing at Freedman-Liberty after a defensive rebound with 30.7 seconds left, and two made free throws extended the DePaul lead to three. The Hoyas were then unable to send the game to overtime on the final possession, with three open looks to do so.
“Freedman-Liberty, he’s always in attack mode so you have to do a much better job of getting your hands out of there,” said Ewing. “And some of the fouls especially that we made down the stretch weren’t smart fouls.”
The Blue Demons’ 28 attempted free throws proved to be the difference in the game, and the Hoyas relied on a lot of one-on-one playmaking to stay in the game, only creating nine assists on 23 made field goals.
DePaul’s Head Coach Tony Stubblefield praised the Hoyas’ effort despite the loss. “Georgetown is a team that is still fighting extremely hard. Even though the ball hasn’t bounced their way and it hasn’t come up in the win column . . . I thought they did a great job of playing hard tonight and competing for 40 minutes. They stuck with it.”
This may have been Georgetown’s final opportunity to win a Big East game this season, with their final game of the season set for Sunday against a strong UConn team. For Ewing and the Hoyas, “It just wasn’t in the cards tonight.”
The Hoyas return to action at home against UCONN (20-7, 11-5 Big East) on Sunday, Feb. 28, a team that beat the Hoyas handily earlier in the season. Tip-off at Capital One Arena is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. EST and will be broadcast on CBS. The Hoyas have a quick turnaround, facing a tough test against the no.21 ranked Huskies who are coming off of a marquee win against no.8 Villanova. A win for the Hoyas would be a monumental morale boost for a team on pace for one of the worst regular seasons in the history of the Big East conference. For continued coverage of the men’s basketball team and all Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.