The Georgetown Hoyas (19-14) saw their season cut short on Wednesday evening as they fell to the Harvard Crimson (19-11), 71-68, in the first round of the NIT. Jessie Govan scored 25 points and James Akinjo added 15 points for the third-seeded Hoyas. Bryce Aiken led the sixth-seeded Crimson with 18 points, while Robert Baker, Noah Kirkwood and Chris Lewis each scored in double digits.
Harvard received a major boost from Weisner Perez early. Perez, starting for the first time this season after having played in just two games and scoring four total points prior, scored five points in the opening four minutes. The Crimson used his contribution to take a quick seven-point lead at the first media timeout, 13-6. Georgetown slowly clawed its way back into the game, though, with the freshman trio of James Akinjo, Josh LeBlanc and Mac McClung each scoring a basket as the Hoyas went on an 8-1 run to tie the game at the under-12 media timeout.
The teams exchanged baskets for the remainder of the half. Though the score reflected a close game, Georgetown was clearly the better of the sides, swarming Harvard on defense to force 10 turnovers in the half. But each time the Hoyas looked primed to break the game open, they went cold from the floor. Jamorko Pickett soared for a one-handed tomahawk dunk in transition with 4:42 remaining, sending the packed crowd inside McDonough Arena into a frenzy. This momentum didn’t translate into offensive success. Poor shot selection doomed the Hoyas, who were privy to taking contested pull up jumpers early in the shot clock throughout the half. Georgetown found a bit of luck when Akinjo converted on a jumper just before the buzzer to give his team a 36-35 lead at half.
Harvard played well out of the half, getting buckets from a variety of sources to grow its lead. But Govan quickly responded by drilling three-pointers on three consecutive possessions to tie the game at 45-45 with 17:08 to play. McClung finished a reverse layup through traffic to give Georgetown a lead at the under-16, and, again, the McDonough crowd was ready to go ballistic. After Harvard rebounded to take a slim lead, McClung, Akinjo and LeBlanc scored in quick succession, giving Georgetown its largest lead of the night at five points.
Robert Baker provided five points for Harvard as the Crimson unleashed an 8-0 run to take the lead. From there, they would play with a lead for the majority of the game’s duration, with Georgetown temporarily regaining the advantage with 3:03 remaining. Noah Kirkwood made a layup just 18 seconds later, while Aiken hit a pull-up jumper a minute later to give Harvard the lead for good. The Hoyas had a shot to send it into overtime when they trailed by three with 14 seconds left, but Govan missed his shot attempt and Malinowski, who grabbed the offensive rebound, couldn’t convert on his last second heave from the corner.
Georgetown heads into the offseason having improved from 15 to 19 wins in Patrick Ewing’s second season. Jessie Govan, Kaleb Johnson, Trey Mourning and Greg Malinowski will depart due to graduation, but the future remains bright as the team returns three All-Big East Freshman Team selections, including Akinjo, the Freshman of the Year. If the Hoyas can find a way to snag a small handful of additional wins next season, they might yet fight themselves back in the Big Dance.