Blair didn’t start on senior night, the last home game of his career, but that didn’t stop him from playing a key role in a 72-66 victory over the Musketeers at McDonough Arena. He sparked a burst that put Georgetown up double digits in the first half and finished with 12 points, one of four Hoyas in double figures.
“Everything’s a coach’s decision,” Ewing said when asked about Blair. “That was a tough game. We made too many mistakes, mental errors, gave them all those offensive rebounds in the second half.
“We had the game in hand . . . and we just let them come back. We turned it over. They got second shots, and all that hurt us. But we were still able to do enough things to come away with a win against a very good team. . . . We just didn’t do a good job of closing out the game.”
Still, the most successful stretch of the season continued for the Hoyas (9-11, 7-8); they’ve won six of nine since returning from a three-week break because of coronavirus issues in the program. The goal is simple: Go to the Big East tournament, where anything can happen in a single-elimination scenario, with as much momentum as possible. The Hoyas conclude the regular season Saturday at Connecticut, with the Big East tournament beginning a week from Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
“There was a lot of mixed emotions today, knowing that it’s my last [home] game,” senior Jamorko Pickett said. “We just want to win out this game and next game and [go] into the Big East on a high note.”
The Musketeers (13-6, 6-6) would have clinched a top-five seed and a first-round bye in the conference tournament had they won. They’re also on the bubble to make the NCAA tournament, so the loss was not a good one.
Georgetown had one of its best defensive halves of the year and led 38-23 at halftime; Xavier shot just 26.7 percent in the opening 20 minutes.
The Hoyas’ offense wasn’t much better until Blair entered at 13:54 and soon after helped trigger a 17-5 run that gave the home team a 34-19 lead. He started with a deep three-pointer in which he was hit in the face but didn’t get the call. Blair followed with a floater, a pair of free throws and a pull-up jumper as he scored nine of 11 Georgetown points. Pickett, the other senior who spent all four years at Georgetown, finished the run with a pair of jumpers to extend the Hoyas’ lead to 15. Xavier rallied in the second half and got within three, but four second-half three-pointers from Chudier Bile helped keep the Musketeers at bay.
“It was a huge win for us,” Bile said. “Shout out to my teammates for finding me when I was open. It was a must-win for us. We feel really good. We’re clicking really well. We’re playing together and sharing the ball. We’re just playing really unselfish right now. Everybody’s main focus is just winning.”
Pickett led all scorers with 18 points and added seven rebounds. Bile scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and grabbed 11 rebounds. Qudus Wahab added 13 points and seven rebounds.
KyKy Tandy led Xavier with 14 points, and Zach Freemantle had 12 points and 12 rebounds.
It was fitting that Blair and Pickett, the last two men standing from Ewing’s first recruiting class, led the charge on senior night. Both recently surpassed the 1,000-career point plateau and, despite Blair’s benchings, are the heart and soul of this team, which lost its top three scorers as five players transferred from last year’s team and Omer Yurtseven declared for the NBA draft.
“Jamorko, he’s been through the fire,” Ewing said. “Both he and Jahvon. . . . They’ve grown a lot. They still have a lot more growing to do. Jamorko had a tremendous game for us today.”
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