MEN'S BASKETBALL | Hoyas Best Duquesne In Home Opener
Published: Monday, November 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 23:11
Everyone anticipated that the Georgetown men’s basketball team would face some challenges early in its nonconference schedule. Very few people anticipated it would be against Duquesne.
Freshman guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 19 points off the bench to lead the Hoyas (1-0) to a narrow 61-55 win over Duquesne (0-2) in the opening round of the Legends Classic Sunday night.
Head Coach John Thompson III’s young squad faced an unexpected obstacle in its home opener when sophomore forward Otto Porter Jr. left the game after taking an errant elbow to the face less than 2two minutes in. He returned to the court briefly and played several minutes before heading to the locker room for the remainder of the game.
Thompson III says the team has not diagnosed Porter Jr. with a concussion, but he kept his star out as a precaution and will see how he progresses this week.
“He’s being monitored,” Thompson III said. “We’ll see what happens tomorrow and as the week goes on.”
Forward Greg Whittington filled in admirably in his classmate’s absence, however. The lanky wing played all 40 minutes, scored eight points and pulled down 15 boards, including a huge rebound of guard Jabril Trawick’s missed free throw when the Hoyas were up three with 28 seconds to play.
“I knew I had to step up and get more when my teammate went down,” Whittington said. “I just went up to go get that rebound. There’s nothing to it, I — I just went and got it.”
Porter Jr.’s absence — as well as some possible early-season jitters — made for a painfully sloppy game for the Blue and Gray against a team picked to finish last in the Atlantic 10. The Dukes committed 16 turnovers but forced the Hoyas into 17, including four from sophomore center Mikael Hopkins. Georgetown struggled to break through Duquesne’s zone all game.
“I didn’t think they looked as comfortable running their offense as they normally do, maybe not knowing which was the right guy to take the shot,” Duquesne Head Coach Jim Ferry said of Georgetown.
Hopkins put up a bipolar performance in first full career start, dominating with polished post moves one possession and inexplicably losing grip on the ball the next.
“I thought he was OK,” Thompson III said of Hopkins, who scored 13 points. “We’re going to need him to be good, not just OK.”
Junior forward Nate Lubick struggled from the field as well, though he played an excellent defensive game and cleaned up on the glass. Add in the Georgetown starting backcourt’s inability to connect from long range, and the offense was in dire need of a savior.
The freshman sank all four of his three-point attempts and scored 14 points in the first half to help an anemic Georgetown offense maintain a slim four-point lead heading into the break. His 19 points were the most in a freshman debut since Mike Sweetney scored the same amount against Bethune-Cookman in 2000.
“He was open, and he can shoot, and he can score, and he’s a very good passer,” Thompson III said. “It just so happened tonight that he was the recipient. We needed that. We were struggling a little bit and he made shots.”
The Hoyas improved slightly on offense in the second half and even took a 10-point lead at one point, but Duquesne simply wouldn’t go away. Senior guard Sean Johnson and junior guard Jerry Jones kept the Dukes’ heads above water with clutch play after clutch play, including a late corner trey from Jones that brought his team within three points with under a minute left.
But when the going got tough, Georgetown got going. The defense forced the Dukes into costly turnovers, and Whittington and Smith-Rivera each hit crucial free throws in the closing seconds to deliver the win.
The Hoyas have overcome their first major challenge of the year in winning without their star player. Whether they’ll have him back for Wednesday’s game against Liberty remains to be seen. But if Smith-Rivera’s performance Sunday was any indication of things to come, the team’s in good hands.