Howard let his teammates take care of the scoring, and they performed up to snuff. No. 15 Marquette proved too much for Georgetown to handle and beat the Hoyas, 74-71, in Georgetown’s first game against a ranked opponent this season.
The loss wasn’t for lack of fight from the Hoyas (12-6, 2-3 Big East), who are 0-5 against ranked opponents under Coach Patrick Ewing. Rather, Ewing saw the loss as a matter of poor decision-making late in the game.
With Georgetown trailing by one and four seconds left, freshman guard James Akinjo had the Hoyas’ best chance to win the game. But rather than kicking the ball out to wide-open senior big man Jessie Govan, he drove to the hoop. Marquette was prepared, and 6-foot-9 Theo John blocked the 6-foot Akinjo with ease — the second time in the game’s waning seconds that Akinjo was stuffed at the rim.
Hauser drew a foul on the other end after that and iced the game with a pair of free throws before Mac McClung missed a desperation three-point heave that he couldn’t get off in time at the buzzer.
“We just didn’t play smart enough at the right time, or share the ball at the right time,” Ewing said. “Twice James drove in there. Once they bailed him out, gave him the foul. . . . At the end of the game we ran a play for either Jessie or Mac or him to get the shot and he drove it and they came and blocked the shot. There were two people open. [Akinjo] has to play smarter. I know he’s a freshman, but it’s not time to be freshmen anymore. It’s the second half of his freshman year. We’re in the Big East, and these are games that you’re not going to get back.”
The Hoyas haven’t beaten a top-25 squad since taking down No. 11 Butler on Jan. 28, 2017.
For much of the night, McClung made it look as if Georgetown might pull off an upset.
The freshman led the Hoyas with 24 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the field, including 4 for 6 from three. He helped make up for Akinjo’s off night — the point guard was 1 for 10 from the field and finished with eight points — and Govan’s absence as the veteran struggled with Marquette’s tight defense.
“Just tried to be aggressive,” McClung said after. “Teammates were getting me the ball. They did a really good job, and I just tried to be aggressive.”
Govan eventually found a way to muster 14 points, 10 of which came in the second half, and a team-high nine rebounds. Senior Kaleb Johnson had his best game of the Big East slate with 12 points.
Locking in on Govan was a focal point for the Golden Eagles from the start, and it made Georgetown’s offense a one-man band in the first half. Joey Hauser, Sam’s younger brother, had the task of guarding Govan, who is one inch taller and 25 pounds heavier.
“To say he’s huge for their team is an understatement,” Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “. . . Govan is shooting 42 percent from the three-point line, he plays inside and out, and the way we play ball screens we thought that might give him a little too much space. So we asked our small guys to guard him and our bigger guys to provide help.”
Marquette (15-3, 4-1) used its size well all night. Other than the matchup with the 6-10 Govan, the Golden Eagles were bigger and more solid than Georgetown and bullied the Hoyas in the paint, outscoring them 34-22.
Their shooters rained jumpers from all over the court, from Sam Hauser’s game-leading 31 points including four three-pointers to John’s 14 points scored mainly at the rim.
Joey Hauser and Sacar Anim added 10 points each.
“We got contributions from everyone. This was a total team win,” Wojciechowski said. “For that, I’m really proud of my team.”
Howard, who averaged 25.8 points coming in, had been experiencing lower-back soreness before the game and missed his first two shots. He played just three minutes before Wojciechowski sat him.
Georgetown took advantage by shooting 14 for 27 in the first half, which helped make up for Govan’s absence as Johnson stepped up in his stead. The Hoyas led by eight with 17:01 to play and weathered a 14-0 Marquette run in the second half before Govan hit a game-tying three from the top of the key to knot the score at 60 with 7:49 to play.
The two teams scrapped for baskets after that, with neither finding purchase. Neither team led by more than four points the rest of the game before the Golden Eagles eked out the win.
“We need to do better. Our players need to do better,” Ewing said. “We’ve got to share the ball better. Mac played a great game. Jessie’s got to step up and do more than he did. But as a team, we did not play well enough to win the game. We had our opportunities, had our opportunities at the end, but we just didn’t play smart.”
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