American stormed back from a 16-point deficit to upset crosstown rival Georgetown, 74-70, beating the Hoyas for the first time since 1982, when Ewing was a sophomore star at Georgetown.
Now Ewing coaches the Hoyas (3-3), and the result — coupled with a loss last week to Loyola Marymount — will only fuel doubts about the state of the program in the wake of last season’s disastrous 6-25 campaign that ended with a 21-game losing streak.
For the Eagles (3-2), coming off a 10-22 season, the victory led Brennan’s players to douse him in a postgame celebration.
“Moments like that are few and far between for a lot of programs,” Brennan said. “So, hopefully, we can capitalize on it. I’m happy for the group. They’ve worked since they’ve gotten here. … They’ve stuck with it as a group, stuck together. So I’m glad that they’re able to celebrate a moment like this.”
American has had just one winning season since 2016.
For Ewing, who is 71-87 in his sixth season since he took over at his alma mater, the loss is the latest setback in a rocky start. Ewing remade his coaching staff during the offseason and brought in 10 newcomers to create a fresh start for a program seeking to return to national prominence. It hasn’t happened.
“Things are going to happen during a year,” Ewing said. “Hopefully by the end of the year, we’ll look back at these setbacks and laugh. But right now I’m not laughing.
“You can’t start abandoning ship. We have a lot more games to go. At some point everybody has to look at themselves and see what they’re doing right or wrong for the team to do better. We’ve had long conversations. Sometimes the conversation needs to stop. It’s about going out there and getting the job done.”
The Eagles were led by Johnny O’Neil’s game-high 16 points. Geoff Sprouse added 15 and Jaxon Knotek chipped in 14.
Primo Spears led Georgetown with 15 points and six assists, but the point guard also had five turnovers. Akok Akok posted 14 points and Jay Heath had 10.
Here’s what else to know about Georgetown’s loss:
Ewing’s angel sparks run
The uneasiness started early as Ewing’s fury echoed throughout the arena (announced crowd of 3,267) as he lambasted his team less than eight minutes into the game. The Hoyas trailed 11-10 at the time, and the coach ripped into his players during a timeout.
His anger appeared to reap benefits. The Hoyas came out of that timeout and went on a 19-2 run, sparked by Ryan Mutombo using his length advantage over the undersized Eagles with a hook and a layup before closing the run with a putback. Georgetown took a 40-30 lead into intermission.
American got back into the game by shooting 59.3 percent from the field in the second half. The Eagles not only found their range, but they got to the rim on back-cuts and dribble penetration. The Hoyas shot 25 percent after halftime and were undone by a 14-3 Eagles run that put Georgetown in a six-point hole at 61-55.
“We’ve been working all year for this, just getting these type of wins,” O’Neil said. “The energy from the bench and just everyone on the court was tremendous. And it just helped us build off it. Especially in the second half, we got a run going and having that support from the bench, it kind of just adds a little bit of motivation hearing those guys cheering and knowing that you’re not alone out there.”
Ewing was asked postgame about the pressure he is facing leading a program struggling to get off on the right foot after last season’s debacle.
“Pressure is life. You go through pressure every day in life,” Ewing said. “There are people out there living on the streets trying to find food. That’s pressure. Our parents getting up at 5 in the morning, getting to their jobs and trying to provide for you — that’s pressure. Yes, we talk about pressure in sports, but that’s not real pressure.
“We all have got to do what we need to do for us to be successful and, yes, to bring Georgetown back to where I think we need to be. But sometimes you’re going to have bumps in the road. Right now we have bumps in the road, and it’s all about how are we going to handle these bumps? Are we going to put our head down, or are we going to be like rats and run off the sinking ship? Or are we going to step up and get the job done? We brought in guys that are capable of stepping up and getting the job done. We just have to fix the things that we’re doing in the second half of games to be able to do what we need to do.”
Georgetown guard Brandon Murray missed the game with a lower-body injury. The 6-foot-5 sophomore from Germantown, Md., started each of the first five games, leads the team in assists (4.4) and is second in scoring (15.4).
American was without leading scorer Colin Smalls. The junior guard is averaging 11.7 points.