After Tuesday night’s 18-point loss at Seton Hall, No. 9 Georgetown (21-6, 11-5 Big East) bounced back with a vengeance to blow out an overmatched Villanova team, 67-46. Although the Wildcats (11-17, 4-12 Big East) briefly made the game interesting with a 14-5 run at the end of the first half, they couldn’t sustain that level of play over the full 40 minutes.
The game started well for the Blue and Gray, although freshman forward Otto Porter paid quite the physical price. Starting in place of benched sophomore starting point guard Markel Starks, Porter caught an elbow in the mouth from Villanova junior forward Maurice Sutton on Georgetown’s first possession, which ended with a midrange jumper from junior forward Hollis Thompson.
“I really don’t remember,” Porter said when asked about the incident. “[I was] going after the ball and just got hit.”
While Porter was helped off the court to tend to his bleeding mouth, the referees consulted the video monitor and assessed Sutton a flagrant foul. Porter’s replacement, fellow freshman Greg Whittington, hit one of the resulting free throws before sophomore forward Nate Lubick hit a corner three. The Blue and Gray scored six points before the Wildcats even got the ball.
“I was fired up, and so were my teammates,” Porter said. “I think they read my mind.”
“We’re a family,” senior guard Jason Clark said of the team’s reaction to Porter’s injury. “We have each other’s backs.”
Propelled by the game-opening six-point outburst and helped by swarming defense, the Hoyas raced out to a huge lead. After a pair of Porter free throws with 5:30 left in the half, Georgetown had a 17-point cushion and the rout appeared to be on.
But the Wildcats, who were playing without freshman forward JayVaughn Pinkston after he rolled an ankle during warmups, battled back as the Hoyas’ offense suddenly went cold. One 15-2 Wildcat run later, it was a four-point game and the Villanova delegation made itself heard in a packed Verizon Center.
“We had some guys in foul trouble. We had a younger group on the court that looked like a younger group on the court,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “During that stretch… [junior guard Dominic] Cheek got open for a couple threes [and] on the offensive end we were just standing around. I think as a group they were out there like a drunken sailor just trying to think too much instead of just play.”
Indeed, it was a Cheek long bomb that ultimately cut the lead to four with 1:29 left in the half. Thompson III elected not to call a timeout, and Porter rewarded him for his confidence when he hit a long three with the shot clock ticking toward zero.
“My teammate was saying ‘clock,'” Porter said of his shot. “The clock was winding down, so I had to get it off.”
“That was a big play because it was the end of the shot clock and we had a good defensive possession and we let it go,” Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright said. “We just gave him a little too much space. … It was a big shot.”
Buoyed by Porter’s shot, the Hoyas came out in the second half looking much like the team that dominated the first 15 minutes of play. The Blue and Gray attacked the basket with a renewed sense of purpose after the break and were rewarded for their efforts. Just 6:02 into the second half theHoyas had shot more free throws (eight) than they had during the entire first half (seven).
Senior center Henry Sims hit one of those free throws to give the Hoyas an eight-point lead, but the defining moment of the second half came on the team’s next possession. Porter, Whittington and Sims combined for four offensive rebounds on a seemingly endless Georgetown possession before a Sims tip-in restored the double-digit Georgetown lead and brought Verizon Center to life. Freshman guard Jabril Trawick, who played 21 minutes in Starks’ absence, drew an offensive foul on the ensuing Wildcat possession, and the Georgetown lead wouldn’t dip below 10 points again.
“There was a lot of effort tonight going after the ball,” Thompson III said. “We have to continue doingthat.”
In a way, that possession was a microcosm of the game. The Blue and Gray went through long stretches of the game when there seemed to be a lid on the basket, but they dominated the Wildcats on the boards to the tune of a 41-24 rebounding edge. Five Hoyas — Thompson, Sims, Clark, Porter and Whittington — tied for the team lead with six rebounds apiece.
“I thought we were very good today,” Thompson III said. “They’re not healthy right now, but from our perspective … I thought we were 180 degrees from where we were the other day.”
Georgetown won’t have long to dwell on this victory, as No. 20 Notre Dame (20-9, 12-4 Big East) comes to the District on Monday. The Fighting Irish were upset by St. John’s today but remain a game ahead of the Hoyas in the conference standings. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Verizon Center.