They also turned the ball over 19 times, were outrebounded 40-39 and got edged in the paint 28-26 despite 7-foot senior transfer Omer Yurtseven and 6-11 freshman Qudus Wahab patrolling the interior — all of which combined to create something of an identity crisis for Coach Patrick Ewing.
“Oh, I’ve seen multiple different versions of my team,” Ewing said, sounding as solemn as he has during his three-year tenure. “. . . You can’t get up for the Texases and the Dukes and not show up for the teams you perceive as not good. Greensboro is very good; they’re a great team. They’ve battled a lot of other big programs; you have to take your hat off to them. They played well, they played hard, they scrapped, they clawed. They outrebounded us; we gave up another 16 offensive rebounds. We gave up 19 to Duke, 16 to them. . . . I told them, ‘Who’s going to go get it?’ I can’t play anymore. I can’t go out there and rebound and do the things we need to do to win. It’s got to be them.”
An uneven performance left Georgetown trailing 60-59 with 2:18 to go after a three-point play from Jagan Mosely. The Hoyas had three chances to take the lead after two turnovers and a big offensive rebound by Jamorko Pickett. After the first turnover, point guard James Akinjo missed a layup. After the offensive rebound, UNC Greensboro (6-2) forced a shot-clock violation. After the second turnover — an Akinjo steal — Yurtseven missed a layup.
After that, Georgetown ran out of chances, and the scrappy Spartans extended their lead at the free throw line, making five in the final 27 seconds while all the Hoyas could come up with was a second-chance layup by Mac McClung with two seconds to play that made it 63-61. UNC Greensboro’s Keyshaun Langley then iced the win from the foul line.
Langley led the Spartans with 11 points off the bench, and starters Malik Massey and James Dickey had 10 apiece. The Spartans’ leading scorers, Isaiah Miller (15.4 points per game) and Kaleb Hunter (13.9), were absent for much of the game. Miller (six points) played just over 20 minutes in part because of what appeared to be a head injury, and Hunter (five points) left the game after playing 8:36 of the first half following a hard landing after a missed dunk. He sat on the bench for the second half wearing a boot on his right foot.
“It didn’t go our way the whole game, [and] those are some of the most meaningful games as a coach — when it’s not like you’re clicking in every single way and facet but you just kind of find a way,” UNC Greensboro Coach Wes Miller said.
Georgetown wasn’t clicking, either, but the Spartans found a way to finish.
The Hoyas’ top three scorers — Yurtseven, Akinjo and McClung — combined for 31 points on 10-for-37 shooting. Akinjo led the way with 12 points but didn’t score in the second half. Yurtseven struggled at the rim despite getting easy looks, especially in the first half, and finished with 10 points. McClung had nine.
That spelled trouble for Georgetown. In Ewing’s three years as coach, the Hoyas are 2-15 when scoring fewer than 70 points.
“We got great shots; we just didn’t make them,” Ewing said. “. . . If your best players are not going to shoot a great percentage, then it’s going to be hard to win. They got good shots for the most part — especially Omer. We got him the ball deep a few times, was able to make good moves; he just couldn’t finish.”
The Hoyas’ road to Big East play does not get easier from here. They visit Oklahoma State on Wednesday and SMU on Saturday before hosting Syracuse on Dec. 14 — which at least leaves Hoyas fans with the hope that, perhaps against bigger-name talent, Georgetown will step up.