It was another nerve-wracking game against a small-conference team Tuesday night, but the Georgetown men’s basketball team (7-5) managed to hang on for a tense 62-59 win over Charlotte (2-9) at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C. After losing its last two games to Monmouth (9-3) and North Carolina-Asheville (7-5), Georgetown needed a win to maintain its NCAA tournament hopes.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Charlotte Head Coach Mark Price said. “I thought from an intensity and effort level, we were great.”
The Hoyas started off slow once again, but after two straight three-pointers from sophomore guard Tre Campbell, who had six points and one assist, Georgetown started rolling and stretched its lead to 14 points.
But the 49ers would not go down easily; after a couple of three-pointers from junior guard Braxton Ogbueze, who had 13 first-half points on 4-of-6 shooting, Charlotte went on a run to close the gap to 32-29. Sophomore forward Trey Mourning fouled Charlotte senior center Joseph Uchebo on a rebound attempt off an Ogbueze miss with 0.7 seconds left in the game, which allowed the 49ers to trim the deficit even further.
“[Ogbueze] hitting those three threes, mid-to-late first half, is what got them going and got them energized,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said.
The Hoyas went on a five-minute stretch during the end of the first half during which they only scored one field goal, and the half ended with Georgetown up 32-29.
With the 49ers having control of the momentum entering the second half, the Hoyas needed to get off to a fast start in order to prevent the home team from also taking control of the lead. After a missed contested three-point shot from senior guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, and then a missed shot attempt from sophomore guard L.J. Peak, who was 1-of-9 from the field overall, the 49ers took the lead on a fast-break layup by sophomore guard Ridell Camidge.
“We just brought effort to the floor. We were playing hard,” Ogbueze said. “You always give yourself a chance when you play that hard and defend that well. That’s why we were right there.”
It was back and forth for the remainder of the second half, with the two teams changing leads 15 times. After Georgetown locked down Ogbueze, freshman guard Jon Davis took over for Charlotte in the second half, scoring 11 of his 13 points after halftime.
Ultimately, Charlotte’s poor performance at the free-throw line prevented the 49ers from increasing their lead whenever they had the chance. With ten minutes left, Peak bit on freshman guard Andrien White’s pump fake and fouled him, sending him to the free-throw line with the 49ers up 49-47. However, White missed both free throws, and the Hoyas regained the lead soon after, thanks to two free throws from Peak and a three-pointer from freshman forward Marcus Derrickson.
After a frenetic period, the Hoyas found themselves down one point when Thompson called timeout at the 2:23 mark. After the timeout, Peak hit his one shot of the night — a huge three-pointer to give his team the lead one final time. Peak then blocked Davis with 34 seconds remaining, and Smith-Rivera dove on the loose ball and called timeout to give Georgetown the ball back. Derrickson put the game out of reach at 60-56 after hitting one of two free throws, and the Hoyas managed to escape with a much-needed win.
Though the Hoyas never established a sizeable lead against the 49ers, their performance late in the second half was a departure from some earlier games; Georgetown has struggled to close out games so far this season.
“I think we made plays at the end that we haven’t been making. We got a couple big rebounds, came up with the loose ball, we hit some big shots which we haven’t been doing,” Thompson said.
Smith-Rivera believes that these types of close games can add to the team’s confidence.
“It definitely is [important]. It shows we can do it,” Smith-Rivera said.
Thompson and his team have room for improvement, especially after his Hoyas struggled to finish off the 49ers, a 2-9 team that lost 102-47 earlier this season to Michigan (10-3). Georgetown’s coaching staff has seven days to prepare its team to begin the most grueling part of its schedule — the Big East conference games. Georgetown will kick off the Big East portion of its schedule Wednesday, Dec. 30, when it travels to Chicago to face DePaul (6-6). The Blue Demons just knocked off the No. 20 George Washington Colonials (10-2) Tuesday by a score of 81-62.
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