Whittington, Georgetown top Liberty

georgetown_whittington.png

Whittington, Georgetown top Liberty

One challenge presenting the Hoyas this season involved replacing their top three scorers from the previous campaign. No one said anything about getting by without All-American candidate Otto Porter. Through two games, that's been the task. Against Liberty, the burden was hardly a chore, though any sense of urgency disappeared early in the second half.

With the All-American candidate sidelined over concussion concerns, fellow sophomore Greg Whittington carried the scoring load as Georgetown moved past the visiting Big South program 68-59 on Wednesday night at the Verizon Center in the regional round of the Legends Classic.

Whittington scored 12 of his career-high 18 points in the first half and grabbed nine rebounds for the Hoyas, who led by 16 points at halftime and double digits throughout until the final minute.

Before tipoff, the school released a statement from Coach John Thompson III that Porter, the Hoyas (2-0) leading returning scorer and rebounder, would not play as he "exhibited symptoms indicative of a mild concussion," following Sunday's 61-55 win over Duquesne.

Porter played a scoreless six minutes against Duquesne, holding his head and wincing in pain as he left the game for good midway through the first half. The 6-foot-8 forward and Preseason All Big East first-team selection did not return to the bench, though he watched from the sideline against Liberty after playing in the first 34 games of his Georgetown career.

"I think he's coming along fine," Thompson said following the Hoyas final tune-up before facing No. 13 UCLA on Monday in Brooklyn. After the semifinal of the Legends Classic, Georgetown will meet either top-ranked Indiana or Georgia on Tuesday.

"I think he'll be available but that's up to our medical staff," Thompson said. "He's progressing. It's mild, it's not moderate, or it's not serious."

Against the undersized Flames (0-3), the black suit sporting Porter watched his gray-jersey wearing teammates handle their business, but also play down to their overmatched opponent in stretches. The Hoyas extended their lead to 55-32 with 13 minutes remaining, but took their foot of the gas and ultimately outscored 34-27 in the second half.

"With all due respect to Liberty, we've got some games coming up, we're preparing for some teams a little bit better than them," said junior Nate Lubick, who also set a career-high with 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds. "We use these games to find ourselves, to find what this team's identity is going to be...I think we've kind of struggled to do that the past two games. I don't think our sense of urgency has been there."

Liberty made its first two shots for a quick four-point lead only to see the Hoyas unleash an effective full court press that caused 11 first half turnovers and spark a 17-0 run.

Playing without three frontcourt options and with only one starter taller than 6-foot-5, the Flames found success from beyond the arc. Five first-half 3-pointers helped cut into the lead at 23-18, but the Hoyas closed the first half on 18-6 run.

Markel Starks' perfectly executed bounce pass to a streaking Whittington for a layup capped the first half scoring and gave Georgetown its largest lead of the half at 41-25. Whittington made 6 of 8 shots in the first half and the Hoyas finished 16 of 26 (61.5 percent).

"[Greg] has that responsibility slash burden to do a lot of different things," Thompson said of his other talented sophomore forward and the one who dominated the boards in Georgetown's season opener. "I don't think it's any surprise to see he scored points today no more than it was a surprise that he got 15 rebounds the last game."

Whittington's 3-point touch was not readily apparent, however, missing all five of his attempts. He was hardly an outlier from distance as Georgetown shot 2 of 15 overall from beyond the arc, missing eight of nine 3-pointers after halftime.

Defensively the Hoyas allowed Liberty to shoot 52.6 percent (10 of 19) from 3-point range. The Flames entered the contest making 27 percent of their 3-point attempts.

"They got Sunday, out at the park shots and they went in," Thompson said of the Flames from distance looks. "Our attention to detail at the defensive end, I don’t think was good all night. Our communication was not good all night, so regardless of the combinations coach has out there, we have to be better."

Casey Roberts led Liberty with 13 points.

"We probably caught Georgetown on a night that they weren't quite as inspired as they will be later in the year. It's understandable," Liberty coach Dale Layer said. "I thought we played our best that we've played, and it took every bit of our best just to kind of hang in there and not be a 30-point blowout."

Mikael Hopkins also tallied 13 points and freshman guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera had 11. On the boards, the taller Hoyas only finished with a 29-27 rebounding margin.

"[Liberty] fought and scrapped and that’s a credit to their coach," Thompson said. "From our perspective, we’re trying to get ready for the future. So sometimes, you have in different lineups that you want to see how they work and different combinations and people in different positions. It’s hard to go through that and say let’s not look at the scoreboard, let’s remember what we’re trying to accomplish right here."

Quick Links

Kelly Oubre, Ian Mahinmi stand at center of Wizards' defensive turnaround

Kelly Oubre, Ian Mahinmi stand at center of Wizards' defensive turnaround

LOS ANGELES -- Amid the joyful chaos in the locker room following the Wizards' first division title in four decades, a vital piece of Tuesday's accomplishment, Kelly Oubre, eased his way out of Staples Center wearing a tray of diamonds over his teeth. 

Ian Mahinmi did the same. Meaning, left the locker room virtually unnoticed. Minus the grill Oubre wore. 

If it weren't for those two second-unit players, there likely wouldn't have been a 16-point comeback to drop the L.A. Lakers 117-108 in the first game of a back-to-back. They helped make up for a first-quarter in which the first unit spotted them a 20-8 lead only to squander it. 

"Trash to cash. That's all it was," Oubre, who had nine of his 14 points in the fourth when the Wizards outscored them 37-13. "We weren't anything in the first quarter. Fourth quarter, we stepped it up. We know what our identity is. That's the difference. We know when we're not doing something right. We just streamlined it and got back to being ourselves." 

Mahinmi terrorized the Lakers in the paint. He had 10 points and five rebounds overall, but that doesn't even begin to explain his impact. He was a big reason why the Lakers shot just 5-for-21 in the fourth and committed five turnovers.

Oubre's first bucket of the fourth quarter came because of Mahinmi. He stole Tyler Ennis' pass which led to the dunk. Recognizing he was being defended by inferior post players, Mahinmi confidently isolated and went to work with a counter move at the rim to get the layup and the foul. After making the free throw, the Wizards' deficit was down to 101-97.

When he left the floor around the four-minute mark, the Wizards were even and the starters closed it out.  

"His defense, his presence as he finished around the basket, his deflections, his protecting the basket, his protecting the paint, it's huge," coach Scott Brooks said. "They were having their way inside with us. I think their first quarter they had nine or 10 layups it seems like. All the guys in the end of the third, fourth quarter played with their heart, played with their toughness and it gave us an opportunity to get stops and get out in transition where we are at our best."

Mahinmi had only played five games because of procedures on both knees entering All-Star break. He has played in 19 since then, and his field-goal shooting has gone from 37.5% to 60.3%; his rebounding from 2.6 to 5.1; his steals from 0.6 to 1.2; his free-throw shooting from 50% to 65.3%; and his on-court/off-court rating from minus-6.8 to plus-3.3.

"He's a great defender. He's what we've been missing in the paint," Oubre said. "I can't wait until he's dunking on people like he used to."

[RELATED: Division crown represents major step for Wizards]

Quick Links

Melo Trimble will forgo senior senior season, enter 2017 NBA Draft

Melo Trimble will forgo senior senior season, enter 2017 NBA Draft

BY TYLER BYRUM, @theTylerByrum

Maryland's leader for the past three years, has announced that he will forgo his senior season with the program to enter the 2017 NBA Draft. 

Ever since Melo Trimble was a freshman he was an instant impact for the Terrapins, helping guide the team to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in four seasons. Since then, the 6'3" guard has lead the team to two more NCAA appearances, making it three straight, as 79 wins.

In 2016, the team advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since the 2002-03 season. During that tournament run, Trimble brought in 18 points a contest, including 17 points against Kansas in a loss.

Despite much speculation to enter the draft following that season, Trimble returned for his junior year.

Throughout his Maryland career he averaged 15.9 points and earned AP All-American Honorable Mention the past two years. He is one of four Maryland players to record 1,600 points, 400 assists, and 150 steals.

If drafted, Trimble will be the 65th player in Maryland history to hear his named called per basketball-reference. The last Terp to be drafted was Alex Len to the Phoenix Suns in 2013.