MEN'S BASKETBALL | Lubick, Whittington Step Up for Hoyas
Published: Sunday, February 12, 2012
Updated: Sunday, February 12, 2012 21:02
Strange circumstances bred unlikely heroes for the No. 12 Hoyas (19-5, 9-4 Big East) Sunday afternoon, as Georgetown's best scorers struggled to make an impact against St. John's (10-15, 4-9 Big East). The Blue and Gray struggled to get any separation from the Johnnies — who are down to just six scholarship players and are missing Head Coach Steve Lavin as he recovers from prostate cancer surgery — and didn't get much of a boost from a small, mostly lifeless Verizon Center crowd. Into the breach stepped freshman forward Greg Whittington and sophomore forward Nate Lubick, frustrating the Red Storm with their typically stout defense and complementing that with surprisingly potent scoring.
Lubick, who played just seven minutes against Syracuse, came out of the gates so strong that Head Coach John Thompson III didn't remove him from the game until nearly eight minutes had passed. Freshman forward Otto Porter checked in about halfway through that stretch, but Thompson III had clearly noticed Lubick's impact on the game and elected to sub out senior center Henry Sims instead of Lubick, as he usually does. The sophomore rewarded his coach's belief by assisting on two of Georgetown's next three made shots and even threw in a block for good measure.
"Things obviously didn't go our way offensively in the first half," Lubick said. "We were a little sluggish coming out on both ends, so I wanted to come out and bring a bunch of energy."
Lubick ended up bringing a whole lot more than energy — by the time he sat down he had compiled five rebounds, three assists and two blocks to go along with two points and the crowd gave him a warm ovation in recognition of his strong play.
"He made the hustle plays. His effort was very good and we needed it," Thompson III said of Lubick. "At the offensive end [he was] strong with the ball [and] he got us second and third [shots]."
St. John's assistant coach Mike Dunlap, who is coaching in place of Lavin during his recovery, was similarly impressed by the Massachusetts native
"He's just one of those guys," Dunlap said. "He's a role player who gets the job done."
Lubick didn't let up after halftime, scoring four quick points at the beginning of the second half. He didn't score again, but once again found other ways to contribute — most notably with a huge block on star freshman forward Moe Harkless with 3:43 left. If Harkless, who was in the midst of a 14-point second half, had made that shot, the Georgetown lead would've been cut to four. Instead the Hoyas got the ball back, and after a tough offensive rebound by Lubick, basically sealed the game on a three-point play from senior guard Jason Clark.
All of Lubick's effort might have gone for naught, though, if one of his freshman teammates hadn't stepped up the way he did. Greg Whittington's defensive prowess was earning him, on average, just over 18 minutes per game before Sunday. His offense lagged behind, though, as he came into the game shooting just 31 percent from the field and 26 percent from long range.
All of those struggles were forgotten against the Red Storm, though, as Whittington was one of five Hoyas in double figures. The team-high 12-point performance was also a career-best for Whittington, who finished the game without turning the ball over once.
"They had a good game — both of them," Thompson III said of Lubick and Whittington. "Coming down the stretch they [normally] wouldn't be in there, but the group we had in there worked well on both ends of the floor so we stayed with it and these two were instrumental."
"I joke with Greg every single day about missing shots," Clark said with a smile after the game. "But today ... he went out there and made his shots."
Because of those shots, and because of Lubick's hustle, the Hoyas were able to avoid their second two-game losing streak of the season and will instead head to Providence on a positive note.
"We needed to bounce back fast," Lubick said. "That's how you do well in this league. To come back and grit out a big win was important."