When No. 18 Georgetown scored the first 17 points of the game, it looked like Howard would be in for a long afternoon as the Hoyas cruised to their eighth win of the year. The Bison (3-6), though, clawed their way back into the game, closing to within two points at one point in the second half before fading down the stretch in a 62-48 Georgetown win that was much closer than the final score indicates.

Freshman forward Otto Porter led the way for the Hoyas, scoring a team-high 13 points and throwing down two thunderous fast-break dunks that helped the Blue and Gray hold on in an otherwise pitiful shooting performance. The Hoyas shot an ugly 32.7 percent, including a 1-for-13 showing from behind the arc. The Bison were even worse, shooting just 32.6 percent from the floor, although much of that damage was done when they missed their first 11 attempts from the floor. Junior Dadrian Collins sank a three with 10:39 left in the first half to finally put the Bison on the board and earned a largely sarcastic roar from the crowd for his troubles. Georgetown eventually stretched the lead to 18, but Howard righted its ship and was only down 13 at halftime.

“We’ve done a good job of dealing with adversity all year,” Howard Head Coach Kevin Nickelberry said. “We’ve been able to come back and put ourselves into position every game and it really comes down to [if] we can … close the game out.”

The second half started poorly for the Blue and Gray, as Howard scored five quick points to cut the lead to eight. A pair of free throws by junior Hollis Thompson pushed the lead briefly back into double digits, but from there on the Bison inched closer and closer to the Hoyas’ point total. With 7:33 left in the game, junior Mike Phillips nailed a short jumper to bring the Bison with two, and the only sound that could be heard in Verizon Center was a faint “Let’s Go Howard” chant from the “traveling” fans.

“It would be easy to stand here and come up with a bunch of excuses,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said. “But I don’t want to take away from what Coach Nickelberry and his guys did. They outplayed us today. … They just scratched and clawed and got back in the game.”

“We knew they were going to compete with us, and they did,” senior guard Jason Clark said. “They just played harder than us.”

While Howard’s physical defense played a large role in derailing a Georgetown offense that could only muster 12 points in the first 14 minutes of the second half, the Blue and Gray didn’t help matters much by repeatedly missing makeable shots and struggling from the foul line, where they finished 29-of-42 after making 11 of 14 attempts from the charity stripe in the first half.

“We missed, I’d guess, during the course of that game, 10-15 layups,” Thompson III said. “[Then] we started missing our foul shots. If we make our layups and foul shots, it’s a different game.”

As the offense sputtered, Thompson III decided to change things up on the other end of the court, employing full-court pressure that surprised Nickelberry and the Bison.

“John did a great job when he went full-court press against us,” Nickelberry said. “We hadn’t really worked on that [and as] a young team we had to adjust. By the time we adjusted, it was too late.”

Freshman Otto Porter was the first to make the Bison pay for their surprise, throwing down a transition dunk following a steal to make it 46-40 with 6:13 left and igniting the Verizon Center crowd. Porter later put the finishing touches on the win, taking a nifty behind the back pass from sophomore guard Markel Starks and dunking with authority to extend the Georgetown lead back into double digits with just under three minutes left. The freshman also scored the team’s last points of the game on a short jumper with less than a minute left, and led the Hoyas with 13 points. Clark and Thompson were the only other Hoyas in double digits, scoring 12 points apiece and doing the majority of their damage from the foul line. Clark missed none of his ten foul shots, and Thompson went 8-for-11 on a day when the two combined to make just three of their 18 shots from the field.

Nickelberry, tongue planted firmly in cheek, noted that his team must be the “foulingest team in America,” but lauded the Hoyas for being able to finish off the game and make key plays down the stretch.

“Thompson came alive for three minutes, and it was a crucial three minutes,” he said.

Of more concern to Thompson III than his team’s uneven play, is the health status of freshman Tyler Adams. A pregame press release revealed that Adams was “undergoing a series of tests and evaluations regarding his heart,” and after the game Thompson III addressed the freshman’s health.

“It’s a huge level of concern [for us] because it’s his heart, it’s his health,” he said. “Him getting on the basketball court is irrelevant right now. When and if it happens, great. If it doesn’t happen we just want to make sure he’s okay. That’s first and foremost.”

The Hoyas return to the court next Saturday when they host American at Verizon Center. Tipoff is scheduled for noon.

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