Jessie Govan has never been the loudest leader on this Georgetown men’s basketball team. During games, Josh LeBlanc and Mac McClung bring the energy and James Akinjo does the talking.
But Govan leads with his play. He powers the Hoyas to victory by maneuvering his 6-foot-10, 255-pound body under the basket and popping out for crucial three-pointers when necessary. On senior night Saturday in Capital One Arena, when the moment demanded it, Govan did just that.
The senior center from New York muscled through an uncharacteristic shooting night to finish with a team-high 21 points in Georgetown’s 77-71, double-overtime win over Seton Hall that kept the Hoyas in the NCAA tournament conversation. He scored all 11 of Georgetown’s points in the second overtime and ended up doubled over, fighting back tears before program legend Alonzo Mourning came over to say a few words.
“I was telling everybody I wasn’t going to cry and all that, and I got to the final buzzer, and it kind of just hit me,” he said. “It’s my last game.”
Govan sent the senior class — including Kaleb Johnson (who left the game early after getting hit in the head and entering the concussion protocol), Trey Mourning and Greg Malinowski — out in style. He was not efficient, shooting 7 for 21 from the field and missing his first eight shot attempts, and he turned the ball over six times. But Govan hit his shots when it counted.
The senior made a three-pointer with 3:20 left in the second overtime to give Georgetown a two-point lead, and Seton Hall tied the score just once more before Govan took over. He hit four more free throws after the tie and had a crucial second-chance layup to put the Hoyas up 75-71 after collecting a rebound of Akinjo’s missed three-pointer.
“The stat line, it’s cool, except for the six turnovers and the 7 for 21,” Govan said, pausing to smile as Malinowski and Trey Mourning chuckled alongside him after the game. “But we got the win. That’s the most important stat, so I feel good.”
Govan ended with 12 rebounds, a late surge that gave him 823 career rebounds and tied him with Dikembe Mutombo for seventh on Georgetown’s all-time list. (Mutombo played only three seasons.) Govan has 1,615 career points, placing him 12th in school history.
“To me, that was Jessie’s best game of his career,” Coach Patrick Ewing said. “His shots weren’t falling; [the Pirates] were doing a lot of different things. There’s been games in the past where he let that affect him and he stopped playing, and tonight he didn’t. He kept persevering.”
The win showed growth not just from Govan but from Georgetown as a whole.
Saturday’s game was pivotal for both the Hoyas (18-11, 8-8 Big East) and Seton Hall. Georgetown is looking to make one last, desperate push for the NCAA tournament and desperately needed this win. It needs a victory Wednesday at DePaul as well, and an upset of No. 10 Marquette next Saturday in Milwaukee wouldn’t hurt.
The Pirates (16-12, 7-9) needed this win to pad their résumé, which includes wins over Maryland and Kentucky but is less stellar in Big East play. Seton Hall faces league-leading Marquette and Villanova in its final two games.
Ewing was asked whether his Hoyas would have won this contest a month ago, back when they couldn’t capitalize on momentum (Saturday was just the second time this season they have won back-to-back games in the Big East) and faded when big scorers such as Govan and McClung (eight points) were quiet.
“Probably not, but we’ve been in every game except when we played them the first time,” Ewing said. “We made mistakes [Saturday] like we usually do, but we didn’t put our heads down, and we just kept persevering, and that’s the reason why we won. So we’ve grown from that.”
Mourning had five points and Malinowski six for the seniors, but it was the freshman duo of Akinjo and LeBlanc who kept the Hoyas in it. They also helped weather an onslaught from Seton Hall’s Myles Powell, who scored 35 points.
LeBlanc set an energetic, chippy tone from the start and ended with 14 points, a game-high 17 rebounds and three steals. Akinjo added 16 points — and with just under five minutes to play in regulation, he took an already intense game to a new level.
It felt as if the game had begun in earnest when Seton Hall point guard Quincy McKnight slapped the floor on defense while Akinjo was crossing half court. The Pirates’ bench went wild, but Akinjo — the Hoyas’ top trash talker — made a tricky driving layup over McKnight and then bodied him up before the ball even came inbounds.
Akinjo, on defense this time, slapped the floor back at McKnight and screamed. The crowd of 13,753 responded in kind.
Just as important as his yell was that Akinjo kept his focus on defense and helped force Seton Hall into two straight misses. That, Ewing said, was growth as well.
“Tonight was the proudest I’ve ever been of my team,” Ewing said. “Sometimes, as a coach, you want your team to take on your personality. Well, tonight, they took on my personality. We fought for everything, and I’m very proud of them.”
Govan was proud, too. He said he felt as if everything had come full circle for him at Georgetown, where he started his career with a loss to Radford . . . in double overtime.
“I just wanted to put the game away for my team,” he said. “I had a chance at the end of regulation to win it — missed that shot. I had a chance to extend it to three at the end of overtime — missed one free throw. And then the second overtime, I said, ‘All right, this is where great players make plays.’ ”