MEN'S BASKETBALL | Hoyas Squeak By Tigers in Benimon's Return
Published: Saturday, December 8, 2012
Updated: Saturday, December 8, 2012 17:12
Georgetown continued its long and proud tradition of playing to the level of its competition Saturday afternoon, pulling out a too-close-for-comfort 46-40 win over Towson at Verizon Center.
Sophomore forward Greg Whittington scored 11 points to lead the No. 15 Hoyas (7-1), who came out unbelievably cold for the second straight home game and needed some clutch free-throw shooting to dispatch former Hoya Jerrelle Benimon and the visiting Tigers (4-5).
The junior transfer forward scored 11 points — including a big three-pointer in the second half — and pulled down 16 rebounds in his first game against his former team.
“He can be as good as any player we see on any given night,” Towson Head Coach Pat Skerry said of Benimon.
Towson is an interesting early-season story: The Tigers, who went 1-30 last season, had started 4-4 under Skerry, including a road upset of Vermont earlier this week. They came to Verizon Center as 19.5-point underdogs and forced the Blue and Gray into their second sub-50-point effort in three games.
While last weekend’s low-scoring game against the Vols was largely a result of bad bounces, today’s was due to flat-out bad shots. Georgetown settled for long jumpers on possession after possession in the first half and took off-balance, highly contested shots when they did get inside the arc.
“Our flow was not as good as it needed to be,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said. “They were giving us open shots, and they weren’t going in. We settled for them.”
The Hoyas scored nine points in the last five minutes of the half to take a 17-16 lead. They entered the break with a clear mandate: Get the ball in the paint, or fall to an inferior team on their home court.
They opted for the former.
Sophomore center Mikael Hopkins jostled and banged his way to 10 points, eight of which came at the free throw line. Whittington, sophomore forward Otto Porter Jr. and junior forward Nate Lubick got in on the act as well, and the Georgetown frontcourt began to take control early in the second half.
But the more aggressive post play wasn’t enough to compensate for some tough defense from Towson and a total no-show from the backcourt, which put up five total points. Benimon’s familiarity with Georgetown’s strategy allowed the Tigers to defend the Princeton offense better than most non-Big East teams, and the Hoyas’ cold night from beyond the arc meant that offensive options were more limited than usual.
“I could read stuff. I played in the offense, so it’s just a whole bunch of reads, so once you see one thing you can sniff it out,” Benimon said. “It helped a lot, especially in the first half.”
"He might know what we're trying to do better than some of the guys in our locker room,” Thompson III quipped. “He's a smart player, and he’s a tough player."
Georgetown, meanwhile, used its length to frustrate Towson into 22 turnovers and force several shot-clock violations.
"The pressure got to us for a stretch of time, and we had a couple of turnovers — especially me,” said Benimon, who had seven giveaways. “They’re real long, so it’s hard to make passes over the top or bounce passes back to the guards.”
Thanks to their strong defensive effort and a few timely threes from Jerome Hairston, the Tigers stuck with their hosts until late in the second half, when a series of off-ball fouls sent senior forward and former Providence Friar Bilal Dixon to the bench and a parade of Hoyas to the charity stripe. Georgetown converted just enough of its freebies to pull ahead, and a midrange jumper from junior guard Markel Starks sealed the victory.
Porter Jr., Hopkins and Lubick chipped in 10 points apiece for the Blue and Gray. Hairston added 10 for Towson.
The Hoyas will look to break out of their home-court offensive slump Monday, when they play host to Longwood (2-6). Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.