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Georgetown Loses in Heartbreaking Fashion at Syracuse

Tyus Battle’s 21 second-half points helps Orange overcome 15-point deficit over Jessie Govan and the Hoyas.

NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Despite leading by as many as 15 points in the second half, the Georgetown Hoyas (7-2) fell to the Syracuse Orange (7-2) on Saturday afternoon at the Carrier Dome, 72-71. Tyus Battle led all scorers with 21 points, while Jessie Govan led the Hoyas with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Jim Boeheim has won his first two games against Patrick Ewing since the latter joined the collegiate coaching ranks.

The Game

The Hoyas started well early as Mac McClung drained a three-pointer on the tam’s first possession. Trey Mourning picked up two quick fouls, leading to Josh LeBlanc’s early insertion. LeBlanc quickly added four points off the bench before Govan hit a layup and McClung drained a jumper, forcing a Syracuse timeout with 14 minutes remaining in the half.

From there, both teams stalled offensively, with neither the Orange nor the Hoyas scoring a point in the ensuing two minutes. McClung broke the stalemate with a transition layup through contact, while LeBlanc added a layup shortly after. Battle stepped to the free-throw line with 8:36 remaining and hit his first attempt before missing, grabbing his own rebound and finishing an uncontested layup on his second attempt to bring Syracuse to within four. But the Orange went cold just as the Blue & Gray found their rhythm offensively. Georgetown demonstrated some of its best offensive patience and passing of the season, leading to open jumpers and driving lanes. McClung converted a hanging layup with 5:09 remaining to give Georgetown its first double-digit lead of the game, prompting a Syracuse timeout. Govan scored seven points in the final for minutes and the Hoyas enjoyed a 35-22 lead.

McClung scored 13 points in the first half, and Georgetown held Syracuse to just 25 percent shooting, including seven percent from deep. The Hoyas also held a 28-19 advantage in rebounding, but turned the ball over eight times, leading to nine points for the Orange. Battle and Oshae Brissett scored five points apiece in the half.

Syracuse opened the second half by pushing the pace, which paid immediate dividends. Battle hit a three-pointer just over a minute in to spur a 17-4 run, capped by a three-pointer from Brissett with 15:19 remaining. McClung responded with five points in quick succession, giving him a career-high 18 on the day, but it was the final time he would score. Syracuse responded with another run, this time at a margin of 13-2, over the next five minutes to open their largest lead of the day at 54-48 midway through the half.

Greg Malinowski provided valuable minutes off the bench, scoring three three-pointers to keep the Hoyas within striking distance. The Orange, however, remained hot, as Elijah Hughes matched two of Malinowski’s three-pointers to maintain the lead. Georgetown eventually drew even on a made free throw by LeBlanc with just under six minutes to play, setting the stage for a tight finish.

The lead changed five times after LeBlanc’s free throw. Battle hit two free throws, but Jahvon Blair hit a three-pointer ten seconds after, giving Georgetown a 63-62 lead. Jalen Carey’s three-point attempt two minutes later hit every part of the rim before falling through the cylinder, and Govan responded with a layup on the other end to restore the Hoyas’ lead. Battle and Govan traded three-pointers shortly after, and Georgetown maintained one-point lead with one minute to play.

The Hoyas got the crucial stop they needed by forcing a missed jumper by Battle with 37 seconds left. Jagan Mosely rebounded the miss and dribbled up the court with a six-second differential between the shot and game clocks. Syracuse refused to foul, and Mosely committed a charging foul driving towards the hoop with 10 seconds to play. After a Syracuse timeout, Battle dribbled off of a well-timed screen and drilled a pull-up jumper from the right elbow, catapulting the Orange into the lead and forcing a Georgetown timeout. Blair took the final shot of the game, a half-court attempt as the buzzer sounded, but his attempt was too strong.

The Talking Points

Senior Experience

The Hoyas struggled to get the ball to Jessie Govan through the long Syracuse zone. But when Govan did find space, he made the most of it. He shot an efficient 9-for-18 from the field, with many of his makes coming on contested post looks. He also grabbed five offensive rebounds, providing the Hoyas with extra possessions despite their offensive struggles in the second half. Greg Malinowski also turned in a positive performance, making all three of his three-point attempts when it appeared Georgetown had no lifeline. Govan and Malinowski posted the two highest efficiency ratings on the team. Their contributions were the biggest bright spot for Georgetown.

NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Failed Late Game Execution Hits Georgetown Again

Ewing found a lineup that he liked in the final minutes and stuck with it. Mosely, Blair, Malinowski, LeBlanc and Govan did well to grab the lead late, but there was some confusion among them about how to approach the penultimate possession. Syracuse not fouling with such a small difference between the clocks likely played a role, as did the fact that such a lineup has rarely, if ever, seen the floor this season. Ewing elected not to use his final timeout when Georgetown held the one-point lead, and Mosely’s charge gave Syracuse plenty of time to operate. The Hoyas have struggled to maintain late leads for the past several years, and that trend reasserted itself on Saturday.

Freshman Guard Duo Subbed Out Late

James Akinjo and Mac McClung, who have started every game for Georgetown this season, didn’t play in the final ten minutes of action. Despite McClung’s hefty scoring output, he often took quick, deep shots against the Syracuse zone, including an attempt from NBA range with 12:37 remaining that prompted his substitution. He made a career-high three three-pointers on the day, but took 11 in the process. Akinjo, on the other hand, struggled to score, making 2-of-7 field goal attempts while turning the ball over five times. Akinjo and McClung played down the stretch in the Hoyas’ other close road game this season, a win at Illinois, but weren’t on the floor in the deciding moments of this one. There’s going to be growing pains whenever freshmen play significant minutes, but removing the duo from the game entirely marks a distinct break from Ewing’s typical strategy of letting them learn on the fly.

… About the Nonconference Schedule

Everybody and their mother had an opinion about last season’s historically weak non-conference schedule. It’s impossible to know how much an improved schedule would have helped the Hoyas then, but they blew double-digit second-half leads to both Syracuse and Butler in their first two significant games last year after playing the likes of Coppin State and Maryland Eastern Shore for a month. In their first test against strong opposition this year, the same issues plagued the Blue & Gray. The Hoyas have the pieces—Govan being the most obvious—they need to compete, but would allow themselves more leeway in March for heartbreaking losses like this if they played a stronger nonconference schedule.