MEN'S BASKETBALL | Hoyas Start Strong, Claim Needed Win
Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Updated: Sunday, January 20, 2013 13:01
Despite a flashy first half, Georgetown’s 74-65 victory over Providence Wednesday night at Verizon Center was mostly about staying power.
Playing for the second straight game without sophomore forward Greg Whittington, whose academic eligibility issues were confirmed before the game, the Hoyas (12-3, 2-2 Big East) shot an astounding 66.7 percent in the first half.
“I think our guys, the last two games, have done a very good job of sharing the ball,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “They are doing a good job of searching for shots for their teammates instead of searching for shots for themselves.”
That figure — and the stifling defense that held the Friars (9-8, 1-4 Big East) to just 8-for-29 from the floor before the intermission — allowed Thompson III’s team to carry a 19-point lead into the locker room.
But unlike in its romp over St. John’s on Saturday, Georgetown faltered in the second half, allowing Providence to shoot 48.6 percent in the second half. At the same time, the Hoyas cooled off markedly, shooting just 39.1 percent and committing nine turnovers after the break.
“I think that they just decided to make the game ugly, and defensively — besides being more aggressive and just running and jumping and scrambling — that changed on their end,” Thompson III said. “Our transition defense was horrible. We’d miss a bunny, and they’d be off and running down to the other end.”
Those mistakes allowed the Friars to get within seven points with less than 90 seconds in the game, after sophomore forward Otto Porter Jr. sent Providence’s Bryce Cotton to the line on his fifth foul.
Cotton, who led the Friars with 21 points, nailed two free throws to cut the Hoyas’ advantage to 69-62. Providence would get no farther, however, with junior guard Markel Starks making three of his four free throws on the next two plays to stretch the lead back to 10 points.
Freshman guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera would miss both of his shots from the charity stripe, but an emphatic dunk from junior forward Aaron Bowen put any hopes of a Providence victory to bed.
“When you get down, everything has to go right for you to get back, and we are just not there yet,” Providence Head Coach Ed Cooley said after the game.
Although Porter Jr. fouled out in the game’s final moments, he had by far the biggest impact in the game, shooting 8-for-13 from the floor and leading the team with 20 points and eight rebounds.
Still, the Blue and Gray were badly outrebounded by the Friars, losing the battle 39-27, something that was perhaps attributable to missing the six-foot-eight Whittington’s presence on the backboards.
“Obviously, Greg is one of our better players, and we miss him,” Thompson III said. “What I’ve talked about more than anything with them is who is going to make up for Greg’s rebounding.”
While he grabbed no boards, Starks played nearly the entire game and in addition to his crunch-time free throws — part of Georgetown’s 19-for-25 effort from the line on the night — shot 5-for-9 from the floor, en route to 16 points.
Junior forward Nate Lubick, who also fouled out near the end of the game, was the third Hoya in double digits, with 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting from the floor.
Redshirt sophomore forward Aaron Bowen, meanwhile, scored a career-high eight points, playing 11 minutes filling a role usually played by Whittington.
“He’s doing his job. As someone goes down, we’ve got to have another guy ready to step up,” Thompson III said. “He’s getting the opportunity to play, he’s made some big plays and we expect him to make big plays.”
In his postgame press conference, Thompson III confirmed that academic ineligibility was the reason for Whittington’s suspension but also noted that it is possible the sophomore would return before the end of the season.
With a forecast of snow for the District, Georgetown will head for sunshine when they travel to South Florida (9-6, 0-3 Big East) this weekend. The Hoyas and Bulls will tip off at 6 p.m. in a game that will be televised on MASN.