MEN'S BASKETBALL | After Home Opener, Questions Linger About Post Play
Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 02:11
Less than 48 hours after leaving the Slip ’n Slide that passed for a basketball court aboard the USS Bataan, the Georgetown men’s basketball team found itself locked in a pitched battle that it didn’t seem to expect 647 miles north at Verizon Center Sunday night.
From all appearances, the journey to play aboard a naval vessel did nothing to help the Blue and Gray gain their sea legs. At points against Duquesne, it seemed as if the Hoyas’ hands were as slippery as Friday night’s floor.
We don’t know what the box score would have looked like had Georgetown taken on Florida for a full 40 minutes. But with the benefit of a complete game Sunday, several trends have become apparent early in the season.
For starters, freshman guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera has made a statement faster than hardly anyone anticipated. Yes, the Oak Hill Academy product was highly touted and made quite the splash in Kenner League play this summer. But the rookie’s statistics Sunday were eye-popping, as Head Coach John Thompson III explained in his typical low-key manner.
“He was open, and he can shoot, and he can score and he’s a very good passer — it just so happened tonight that he was the recipient. We needed that. We were struggling a little bit, and he made shots,” Thompson III said.
Did he ever. The freshman went 6-for-7 from the floor, including 4-for-4 from beyond the arc. He also knocked down three of his four free throws, leading to a tally of 19 points.
One reason the freshmen guard stood out was the relative absence of junior Markel Starks in both the Jacksonville no-contest and in the early going against the Dukes.
Although he ignited as the game went on, Starks nevertheless finished a poor 3-for-11 overall. Georgetown’s starting point guard, who seemed early on to be more of a hardwood headache than a floor general, turned the ball over twice and only notched one assist. The only exception was a fast break in which Starks wisely dished the ball to Smith-Rivera for an easy lay-in. There again, however, the freshman got the credit.
Although he turned the ball over twice, that was not as bad as the total of sophomore center Mikael Hopkins, who recorded four turnovers playing in the post. That illuminated another trend, this one particularly disturbing: Georgetown’s question marks around the hoop.
Sophomore forward Otto Porter Jr. left the game early after a hit to the head, and it is a credit to his teammates — particularly sophomore Greg Whittington and junior Nate Lubick — that his absence didn’t sink the team.
Whittington was particularly aggressive on the glass — the sophomore notched 15 boards in his 40 minutes, 12 of which came on the defensive end. That limited shot opportunities for the Dukes, although they still finished with eight more field goal attempts than the Hoyas.
Lubick has shown a new dimension in both games, but it would be much more helpful for the Hoyas if he could finish the attempts he has been making. His 3-for-8 tally looks worse when you consider that four misses came around the rim.
What was perhaps most surprising was the small number of players in Georgetown’s rotation. Of the 14-member roster, only six saw more than six minutes of playing time.
One surprise entrant to the court was junior center Moses Ayegba. After sitting out last season with a torn ACL, he was painfully slow — and it seems that he has a ways to go before he can make a significant contribution to the Hoyas.
While the game was too close for comfort, the pitifully small crowd of 8,213 — including one half-empty student section — was never in much doubt that Georgetown would notch the victory.
It took clutch free throws to seal the deal, however, which raises the Hoyas’ final, eminently correctable problem: missed free throws, of which there were nine.
For a basketball team at a Catholic school, blown chances at the charity stripe might be the eighth deadly sin. But even worse, perhaps, is how few people attended Sunday night’s game.
Part of being a fan is watching a squad develop, and the Blue and Gray will certainly be doing a lot of that as they sort out sloppy guard play and roles in the post.
Fans cannot control whether that improvement will come against Liberty tomorrow or if Porter Jr. will make it onto the floor after his apparent injury Sunday night. What they control is ensuring that there are more than 8,123 people in the Phone Booth to watch.