Georgetown exhibited crisp ball movement for a second straight game after opening Big East play with a pair of punchless offensive performances and did so once again without Greg Whittington. Considering the team's second-leading scorer and rebounder is no lock for a return this season, the Hoyas and their faithful must hope the improved play is more trend than blip.
Otto Porter scored 20 points and Markel Starks had as Georgetown reached .500 in conference play with a 74-65 win over the Providence Friars on Wednesday night.
Nate Lubick added 10 points in floor-burned laced effort for the Hoyas (12-3, 2-2), who shot 67 percent in the first half and scored their most points since mid-December. Georgetown led 38-19 at halftime and by as many as 22 points before fending off second-half surges as Providence (9-8, 1-4) twice pulled within single digits, but never truly threatened.
"I think our guys the last two games have done a very good job of sharing the ball," Hoyas coach John Thompson III said. "We're making the extra pass. We're cutting hard which is then opening up teammates. I think the guys are doing a good job of searching for shots for their teammates instead of searching for shots for themselves."
Before the game, Georgetown announced Whittington, who also sat out Saturday's win over St. John's, had been ruled academically ineligible. Previously the team vaguely referenced the sophomore's infraction as a breaking of team rules, but Thompson said, "we got a couple of results this morning where it became more definitive than it was yesterday or prior to that." The coach added there is a chance Whittington could play again for the team this season. The Columbia, Md. native was on hand, dressed in street clothes.
Regardless of the lengthy forward's status, the games continue.
"Obviously Greg is one of our better players and we miss him," the coach said. "That being said, you have to adjust, adapt a few things strategically as a coach. At the same time, players have to step up and play."
Georgetown shot over 60 percent in a half for the fifth time this season and had 11 assists on 16 made baskets before halftime. The Hoyas made only 13 field goals total in last week's 73-45 loss to Pittsburgh which followed a 48-point output in a loss at Marquette. Since then, two straight wins including Saturday's 67-51 romp at St. John's.
"Georgetown definitely seems to be playing a lot better the past couple of games," Providence coach Ed Cooley said. "There is a lot more synergy on the floor."
Credit the Hoyas playing at a quicker tempo, which also served them against the Red Storm.
"I think it's obvious that we're playing at a much faster pace than we have earlier in the season," said Starks, who had seven assists and three steals." I think that's just us as a unit playing more together, being more cohesive."
The game began on an ominous note for Georgetown. Its first shot, an airball by Mikael Hopkins, mirrored the start against Pittsburgh. Little else went haywire offensively for the Hoyas before halftime. Porter, who made 8 of 13 shots overall, reached 10 points before the Friars did. Seven Hoyas' scored in the opening half.
Twice in the second half Providence cut the deficit into single digit thanks to sloppy ball handling by the Hoyas against pressure defense. After Jabril Trawick's basket put Georgetown ahead 43-21 early in the second half, Providence went on a 21-7 run. The Hoyas countered with an 8-3 spurt, highlighted by Lubick's diving effort for a loose ball and Porter's buzzer-beating fadeaway jumper.
Bryce Cotton, the Big East's top scorer, led the Friars with 21 points, 16 coming in the second half. His two free throws with 1:29 left cut the to 69-62, but Providence would get no closer.
Thompson used eight players, though center Moses Ayegba played only three minutes. Freshman guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera played 29 minutes as the primary reserve and tallied seven points, five assists and four rebounds.
Aaron Bowen has gone from seldom used to productive reserve over the last two games. The junior drained two 3-pointers in the first half and finished with eight points in 11 minutes.
Asked about Smith-Rivera and Bowen's performances, Thompson said to the gathered media, "you guys might not be as familiar with what they’re doing or what they can do, but those guys stepped up."
Cooley certainly proved unfamiliar with Bowen's game. In praise of the swingman's effort, the coach referred to Bowen as, "number 23 or whatever his name was."
In fairness to Cooley, Bowen's limited minutes until recently put him in the "who is that guy" category. Compared to the way Georgetown is playing now versus how it opened conference action, the same could be said of the Hoyas.
*Up next: Georgetown plays at South Florida on Saturday, tip off at 6 p.m.