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Georgetown Grinds Out Win at Illinois

Freshman class leads the way as Hoyas earn first win in Gavitt Games.

NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

The Georgetown Hoyas (3-0, Big East) defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini (1-1, Big Ten), 88-80, on Tuesday Evening at the State Farm Center. James Akinjo led the Hoyas with 19 points and seven assists and Josh LeBlanc added 14 points and seven rebounds off the bench. Illinois was paced by Ayo Dosunmu’s 25 points. Kipper Nichols and Andres Feliz added 13 points apiece.

This game was a track meet from the start as Illinois implemented coach Brad Underwood’s patented frantic pace, pressuring Georgetown from baseline to baseline immediately. The Hoyas’ freshman backcourt duo of Akinjo and Mac McClung struggled to handle the pressure early, each committing a turnover on Georgetown’s first two possessions of the night. The Fighting Illini rode this pressure to generate easy transition buckets, and they were hot from deep to open the game, converting on two attempts from behind the arc to open up a 12-6 lead at the first media timeout.

But Georgetown weathered the storm after gathering itself during the break, and LeBlanc’s energy off the bench galvanized the Hoyas. He scored four points within two minutes of entering the game. Jagan Mosely also provided sound minutes during this period, sinking a floater from the baseline to give Georgetown a one-point lead prior to the next media timeout.

From there, the team’s exchanged baskets as the game showed no signs of slowing down. Giorgi Bezhanishvili scored from inside the paint and from midrange, while Dosunmu hit a 3-pointer and used his athleticism to get to the rim. Both Bezhanishvili and Dosunmu finished the half with nine points. Jessie Govan attempted his first shot of the game with 5:42 remaining in the half, a made 3-point field goal that gave the Hoyas a short-lived lead before Da’Monte Williams splashed a 3-pointer of his own minutes later. Govan’s jumper late in the half put Georgetown in the drivers seat, 39-37, entering the intermission.

The Blue & Gray started the second half strong, using a 8-3 run to gain a 47-40 lead. But Illinois came storming back as Georgetown went cold, and Dosunmu’s 3-pointer erased the lead within two minutes. Dosunmu and Akinjo traded buckets in the game’s next sequence, with both demonstrating their offensive repertoire. LeBlanc’s putback dunk with 12:25 remaining in the half signified Georgetown’s unrelenting attitude and the Hoyas rode this new wave of energy to the finish line.

That’s not to say the Hoyas enjoyed smooth seas — Andres Feliz saw to that. He scored four points in six seconds midway through the half as Illinois began turning Georgetown over almost effortlessly. Georgetown found instant offense off the bench in the form of Jahvon Blair, who continued his strong first half performance by scoring five points in the second.

Illinois gained a four-point lead on the heels of a layup by Williams with 7:35 remaining, but LeBlanc countered with a layup before Greg Malinowski drilled a trey to give Georgetown a lead that they would not surrender for the remaining 4:57. McClung’s steal and reverse jam silenced the crowd, and Akinjo scored seven points in the final minutes — including an and-1 floater from the foul line when Georgetown held just a one-point lead at the 39 second mark — to seal the win.

Akinjo, McClung and LeBlanc combined for 10 turnovers, but head coach Patrick Ewing will be impressed with the composure his freshmen showed on the road in a tough environment. He left all three on the floor with the game in the balance, showing his desire to ride it out with his new guys.

Georgetown will travel to Ewing’s native Jamaica for the Jamaica Classic. They’ll take on Loyola Marymount (3-0, WCC) at 7:00 p.m. ET Friday.