Earlier this week the Hoyas showed they could hang with the best of the best. On Saturday - and for the third straight home game - Georgetown failed to demonstrate the same sense of urgency against a non-power conference program. Eventually John Thompson III's squad toned down the turnovers and put Mount St. Mary's away but only after allowing the undermanned Northeast Conference program to stick around.
Otto Porter and Greg Whittington each posted double doubles and the hot-shooting Hoyas closed the game with a 22-6 second run as Georgetown improved to 4-1 with a 72-50 win over Mount St. Mary's at the Verizon Center.
Porter finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds while Whittington played all 40 minutes, finishing with 17 and 11. The sophomore forward tandem shot a combined 14 of 21 as the Hoyas connected on over 60 percent of their attempts in both halves. Georgetown doubled up Mount St. Mary's on the glass 42-21.
While those are all great stats, as was the result, the in-game execution had the coach pondering who the guys were dressed in the home gray as Georgetown only led 50-44 with 8:04 remaining.
"It was intensity. They came out and played extremely aggressive and came after us. I don't know whether the guys didn't believe the coaches when we told them that's what's going to happen. We came out kind of going through the motions. I didn't recognize the team that was on the court.
Up six, Porter's layup sparked a run of eight straight points, which led to the decisive finish. Georgetown sank 9 of its final 12 attempts and shot 63.8 percent overall. The Mountaineers made 6 of 14 three-pointers in the first half, but as the Hoyas defensive intensity grew, the misses mounted. Mount St. Mary's missed 9 of 10 from beyond the arc after the break; went without a field goal over the final 3:01 and shot 25.8 percent (8 of 31) in the second half.
"In the second half we picked it up a little bit - a lot actually," the Hoyas coach said, who credited his team's offensive work against the Mountaineers pressure defense for the change after being "too casual as receivers, too casual as dribblers" early on.
When the Hoyas maintained possession, they found ways to score especially around the basket, finishing with a 48-20 points in the paint advantage. Avoiding turnovers early on proved problematic; Georgetown committed 11 of its 17 turnovers in the first half.
"It was a big concern. Do I think it’s systemic? No, but we were just too casual," Thompson said of the turnovers.
"One I didn’t recognize what we were doing in the first half. In the second half, I think we just executed our press offense and got open. I thought in the first half we were too casual as dribblers and too casual as receivers. So once we stopped being so casual out there it wasn’t as bad."
Asked about the difference in tone between facing Mount St. Mary's and the just completed two-game swing in Brooklyn against UCLA and top-ranked Indiana, Whittington said, "They’re a D1 school so they’re going to come and play as hard as any other school would and we knew we had to play them. It took us a while, but we picked up our energy and came out in the second half ready to get on our horses."
Georgetown's schedule veers back into notable opponent territory with Tennessee visiting on Friday in the Big East-SEC challenge. Human nature suggests the Hoyas concentration jumps up several notches for the nationally televised tilt as it did when they faced UCLA and Indiana early this week in Brooklyn. As for whether the flip side of the human nature angle contributed to his team's slow start against the Mountaineers, the Hoyas coach was not interested in such excuses.
"Yeah, but so what. That's easy to say. We have to get to the level, mentally focused where that does not happen. Where each and every time you step on the court it's special."
* Markel Starks continued his scoring surge, finishing with 15 points on 6 of 10 shooting. Over his last three games, the junior guard is averaging 19.3 points while knocking down 57.9 of his attempts.
* Forward Mikael Hopkins, the only Georgetown player to score in double figures all five games, had 13 points in 27 minutes, but only grabbed two rebounds.
* Because the game remained in doubt throughout, Thompson never dipped deep into his bench, using only seven players until making wholesale changes in the final minute. Four starters including played over 30 minutes with guards Jabril Trawick and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera picking up the rest.
"That is not how I want to be, that’s now how I wanted today to be," Thompson said. "We have some guys, from Moses [Ayegba], to Stephen Domigo, to Aaron Bowen to Bradley Hayes that we need to get ready. But it was an eight –point game with five or six minutes to go."
Having even his more established options still in learning their new role mode also contributed to the tighter rotation.
"Part of the growth of this team is that we have Mikael still growing, Markel is in a different role, Greg is in a different role from last year, Otto is Otto, and as much as we have to get past our first seven, those guys are still settling into new roles and totally new positions that they have to get accustomed to before league play starts, before eight, nine and ten get ready."