Georgetown played well enough during its 81-68 season-opening victory over Morgan State last night at McDonough Arena to lift the hopes of its fans but also poorly enough to irritate Coach Craig Esherick.
"I think some of our guys may have been looking more toward Hawaii," Esherick said, referring to the three-game Maui Invitational that the Hoyas begin Monday night against Memphis. "I was afraid of that. But we got the win."
The Hoyas let a 17-point halftime lead quickly slip into single digits. But with Georgetown clinging to a seven-point lead with one minute left, shooting guard Anthony Perry drew a charge and then hit a layup off a long inbounds pass by Rhese Gibson to lock up the victory.
Seven players played at least 22 minutes for Georgetown, which outrebounded smaller Morgan State by just five and made just 2 of 15 three-point attempts. Point guard Kevin Braswell (seven assists, two steals) played with a hip injury, and Perry hurt his left wrist taking that late-game charge. Both are expected to play in Maui.
Esherick was most pleased with his freshmen, especially forward Victor Samnick and guard Demetrius Hunter. Samnick (eight rebounds, seven points) was effective when center Jameel Watkins missed significant time in the second half with four fouls. Hunter made three of his six shots, including a dunk off a lob from Braswell with six minutes left that thrilled the crowd of 2,139, and had four steals.
Freshman forward Courtland Freeman had six points and two blocked shots in just nine minutes. Freeman should see more action in Maui as the injury to the bone nearest the second toe on his left foot continues to get stronger. Center Ruben Boumtje Boumtje has a similar injury and will open his season with brief appearances in Maui.
"Fewer than 10 minutes a game," Esherick said. "And he may not play two games in a row." Those minutes probably will stay about the same during the Nov. 28 game at Nevada-Las Vegas on the way home.
The Hoyas needed just 20 seconds to establish superiority over the Bears. That's when Gibson and Perry each missed jumpers, and Nat Burton scored the game's first points on a putback.
Perry increased the Hoyas' lead to 11-0 with some exceptional defense and ball-handling more than two minutes later. The sequence began when he made a steal near midcourt. He then dribbled between two defenders, once putting the ball through his legs, before hitting an off-balance bank shot.
Morgan State made one run midway through the first half, narrowing that Georgetown lead to 21-19 on a basket and two foul shots by point guard Jimmy Fields and two baskets by off-guard Ronny Van Hook, one of them a three-pointer.
Georgetown then regained control, shutting out the Bears for four minutes while fast-breaking well on offense. Samnick once fed Burton for a layup, and Burton added another layup on a breakaway and hit two free throws.
The Hoyas had 13 steals by halftime. When the Bears kept control of the ball in the first 20 minutes, they made just 9 of 32 shots. Fields and Van Hook led Morgan State with 14 each.
"The second half we stopped moving without the ball," Braswell said. "Everybody was looking. We've got to keep our intensity the whole game."