It was a week of bad news for the Georgetown Hoyas — until they actually stepped onto a basketball court.
Georgetown was hit hard last week when starting point guard James Akinjo and forward Josh LeBlanc left the program to seek transfers, while two other current players plus LeBlanc were cited in restraining orders and multiple allegations involving burglary, harassment and sexual assault.
If the Hoyas were flustered by all that, they didn’t show it on the court. Georgetown hit the road and handed Oklahoma State and Southern Methodist their first losses, improving to 6-3 this season thanks to some of Mac McClung’s best scoring performances of the year.
Hoyas coach Patrick Ewing said his team was “in a good space” following the whirlwind week and entering Saturday’s rivalry game with former Big East foe Syracuse.
“Naturally it’s rough when you lose two integral parts of your team, two guys that helped you to be successful in the previous year,” Ewing said Wednesday. “But I thought that the guys stuck together, played together as a team and did everything that we needed to do to get two great wins.”
Ewing, the third-year coach and former Georgetown star, said he told his players they still have enough to keep playing well and winning games.
“Nothing to say negative about those guys that are leaving, because they did do some great things to help our program,” Ewing said. “They will be missed. But guys are just stepping up.”
Among them is Terrell Allen, who has been thrust into the starting point guard role. Allen is a graduate transfer from Central Florida, but hails from Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Ewing said Allen has been “outstanding” in the increased role after he put up 15 points and five assists against Oklahoma State and 10 assists against SMU.
The star of the show last week, though, was McClung. The sophomore guard dropped 33 points on Oklahoma State and 19 against SMU on his way to Big East Player of the Week honors.
“I think we just came together,” McClung said. “We played really well. Coach seemed pretty pleased. I’m just happy we’ve gotten those two road wins that were really big for us and hopefully give us some momentum going into this game and then the Big East.”
Being away from campus for a few days likely helped the players focus more on basketball and less about the transfers.
“I’m sure it was (helpful). It’s always good to regroup and focus, especially when adversity sets in,” Ewing said. “We were on the road. We were isolated. We were focused on just (playing).”
The turmoil may have died down now, but it’s not necessarily over. Myron Gardner and Galen Alexander are still being investigated by the university’s Office of Student Conduct over complaints filed against them in D.C. Superior Court. Among the accusations is that Gardner sexually assaulted and harassed a student.
Gardner and Alexander have been allowed to play while the investigation continues. Ewing said he hasn’t been given an estimated timetable for when the process will be complete, but cited legal reasons for declining further comment on the pair of players.
Ewing added that he believes the program has “a great culture.”
For now, the focus shifts to Syracuse (5-4). The longstanding rivalry between the two programs remains intense, even though the Orange left the Big East for the ACC. They’ve played annually since 2015, but the Hoyas haven’t beaten Syracuse under Ewing yet, with their last win coming in December 2016. The Orange won by one point last season and by seven points in overtime the year before.
Since taking care of SMU, the Hoyas have been practicing against a zone defense, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim’s strategy of choice.
“Syracuse-Georgetown, that’s something that you always think about,” McClung said. “It’s always the game you want to be in.”
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