Flames, Doused: Georgetown 68, Liberty 59

Sophomore center Mikael Hopkins was one of several Hoyas to set a career high in scoring in Georgetown's win over Liberty. - Rafael Suanes-US PRESSWIRE

Otto-less Hoyas build big lead, coast to win over Liberty

For the second straight game, Georgetown was a mixed bag against an inferior opponent, alternating impressive bursts with frustrating lapses in the absence of sophomore star Otto Porter. Ultimately, the Hoyas still got the right result, managing a 68-59 win over Liberty. Although neither the final margin nor much of the second half was particularly satisfying, the Hoyas did just enough to notch their second win of the season.

Sophomore Greg Whittington poured in a career-high 18 points while also submitting perhaps his best all-around performance, notching 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. The swingman did a lot of everything, particularly thriving in transition and in the mid-range, where his length and diverse sills caused problems for the undersized Flames wings. In one memorable stretch at the end of the first half, Whittington facilitated a fast break, feeding Nate Lubick for an easy finish, and finished another off a pass from Markel Starks. While the competition was not Big East-caliber, Whittington showed how he might be able to contribute on a nightly basis throughout the season. (Late in the second half, Whittington suffered an injury that appeared--and JTIII later reportedly described--to be "just a little cramp.")

Three other Hoyas also reached double figures, with Nate Lubick's line--which included a career-high 13 points to go with 8 rebounds--second only to Whittington's. After failing to reach double figures his entire sophomore season, Lubick looks much more comfortable this year, finishing in transition and facilitating the half-court offense. And he almost completed a buzzer-beating alley-oop to end the first half that, if successful, might have caused a riot in the Verizon Center, or at least my mother's basement.

Both players thrived in a first half. After giving up a pair of baskets to open the game, Georgetown rattled off 17 straight points thanks to contributions from four Hoya starters.Just as soon as a rout seemed to be on, the Flames whittled the lead to 5 on the strength of several threes. Just as quickly, the Hoyas began to push the pace, rattling off a 18-7 stretch that sent them into the locker room up 16. While the Hoyas were led by Whittington and Lubick, freshman Stephen Domingo (5 points) scored his first two buckets as a Hoya, while classmate D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (11 points) again showed a nose for the hoop.

Those who turned the game off with the Hoyas up 41-25 at intermission saved themselves plenty of aggravation. The second half was a jumble of inconsistent defense and lackadaisical offensive sets. Georgetown pushed the margin to 20 and beyond but then just as soon eased off the accelerator, eventually letting the Flames back within single digits in the final minute. To JTIII's credit, he gave extensive run to reserves and as a result probably deflated the final margin of victory.

There was plenty to like and just as much to criticize in the Hoyas' second game. It was nice to see plenty of transition offense in the first half--when the Hoyas made over 61 percent of their shots--but hard to sit through the occasional half-court stagnation of the second half, when Georgetown shot below 37 percent from the field. Georgetown has controlled the defensive boards and forced some turnovers with timely traps, but then failed to close out on perimeter shooters with any zeal, giving up 10 threes on 19 attempts. Lubick has looked very good in both games, and Smith-Rivera is exceeding expectations on offense. Whittington and Mikael Hopkins (13 points, tying a career high set against Duquesne, 4 rebounds, 3 steals) both look like solid contributors, though that probably isn't either player's ceiling. Domingo and Whittington each found their way to the seams in the middle of Liberty's zone, much like Porter will be able to do once healthy.

For that reason--Porter's absence--it feels like we haven't seen the real Hoyas yet. His symptoms were described as concussion-like but didn't seem likely to hold him out for more games as the competition stiffens. (After the game, JTIII reportedly said he expects Porter will be available for Monday's game against UCLA.)

Porter will have to be healthier, or his teammates much better, when the Hoyas face the Bruins in Brooklyn next week. In the meantime, another win is in the books, and your Hoyas remain an undefeated powerhouse.

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