Young Hoyas Take Hoosiers Down to the Wire but Make Too Many Mistakes to Prevail
Well, it didn't take long for your heart-attack Hoyas to reappear. One night after spoiling a freshman starlet's debut, Georgetown nearly spoiled Indiana's top ranking, mounting a thrilling last-minute comeback to force overtime. Otto Porter cemented himself as the team's star, and in fans' memories with his last-second brilliance. But despite playing their hearts out, the Hoyas' self-inflicted mistakes--sloppy turnovers, careless fouls--caught up with them in the extra session as the Hoosiers put the game away from the free throw line, 82-72.
This was a heated, electric game, fueled by the teams' fast pace and the wild, largely pro-IU crowd. Indiana's explosive offense always seemed to be on the verge of putting the game out of reach, whether thanks to the Hoosiers' Hyrda-headed three-point attack that managed 58 percent from three for the game, Victor Oladipo's slashes to the rim, or Cody Zeller's play around the basket. But the Hoyas hung around for the first half, building a 23-18 lead thanks to a number of (often deep) three-pointers.
One night after pounding the paint against UCLA, Georgetown struggled for much of the first half to crack the middle of Indiana's zone. Otto Porter's mid-range jumpers went uncharacteristically astray, and Nate Lubick was playing not very fast but very loose with the ball, leading to several Hoya turnovers. Thankfully, 8 of the Hoyas' 14 first-half deep balls went in, keeping Georgetown within four heading into intermission.
The second half began with much of the same as the Hoyas were close but not close enough. Georgetown climbed back into the game--closing within a point on a Mikael Hopkins drive against Zeller--but then Indiana's offense sprang to life, stretching the lead anew.
But, with the Hoyas trailing by five several minutes into the half, a familiar tactical change and an equally familiar offensive weapon seemed to turn the game in Georgetown's favor. A brief switch to the 2-3 zone generated four straight Hoya stops, while on the other end Porter, patrolling the high post, accounted for three straight baskets, a beautiful feed to Hopkins sandwiched around two Porter-patented mid-range jumpers. After Jabril Trawick made consecutive drives to the hoop, Georgetown had rattled off a 10-1 run to take a four-point lead.
Just when things were looking up, the tide turned again as the Hoosiers canned a pair of threes. After a Markel Starks lay-in tied the game at 51, the well went dry: Georgetown didn't score again for nearly six minutes. There were turnovers and careless jumpers, with very little going to the basket. Indiana, meanwhile, built a eight-point lead that seemed to be too much to overcome. Even a Hopkins and-one and a Whittington drive hardly dented the Indiana lead, which still stood at seven with 1:18 to play.
Then, the heart-attack Hoyas sprung into action. Whittington ran a nifty hand-off play with Starks (shades of Hollis in Alabama last year) that led to a canned Markel 3; after Hoosier freshman Yogi Ferrell missed a free throw, Porter buried another triple. All of a sudden, with 24.2 seconds remaining, Georgetown was down just one, with Ferrell again headed to the line. This time he made one of two, setting up a last-dash Hoya chance to tie or even win.
Porter got the call on an isolation play, waiting, waiting, waiting at half-court before driving down the right side of the lane. The sophomore forward plowed through contact by somewhere between 3 and 74 Hoosier defenders to finish, using the glass like they tell you not to do in AAU, with the ball dropping through the hoop to tie the game with 4.6 seconds remaining. That comeback, and that shot, compares with any thrill from the last several years--Hollywood's triples against Alabama and Marquette, Henry Sims's overtime-forcing plays against Cincinnati, Chris Wright's game-saving three against Missouri, and several others we remember all too well.
Unfortunately, that was about the last good news for Georgetown fans. A beautiful set Indiana play nearly stole the game in regulation, then a parade of free throws in overtime slowly beat the hope out of the Hoyas.
Despite the disappointing ending, there's a lot of good to take from this game, and this trip. Porter is back, following up a brilliant star-turn against UCLA with a solid 15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, and 2 steals. He orchestrates the offense, plays tenacious defense, and clearly will take this team as far as it can go this year. Aside from some nit-picking--a couple of careless turnovers and some errand mid-range jumpers in the first half--I could not be happier about Otto's performance.
Perhaps no one embodied Georgetown's trip more than Starks. After two middling games against subpar competition, Starks blew up in Brooklyn, following up a career-high 23 points against UCLA with 20 points and 4 three-pointers against Indiana. There was the bad Markel, too, including an insane jumper that bounced over the backboard, consecutive turnovers right as the Hoyas were trying scratch back into the game, and eventually fouling out in overtime. Still, as with the team as a whole, there's far more good than bad to take from Starks's performance in the Legends Classic. He created plays off the bounce, re-found his shooting stroke, and caused the occasional perimeter turnover.
Hopkins and Lubick both offered plenty of good with room for improvement. For Hopkins, there was a nice line of 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals, and often stout post defense, but also a collection of head-scratching fouls (in fairness, at least one was illusory, called by an out-of-position referee) and maddening jumpers. The latter should be taken out of his repertoire ASAP, while the former caught up to Georgetown in overtime, when Indiana took free-throws on seemingly every possession. Lubick had terrific court vision on some possessions and butterfingers on others, eventually finishing with 4 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists.
Greg Whittington didn't have his best performance Tuesday night, but seems to be maturing every game, scoring 12 and grabbing 4 rebounds against the Hoosiers. He's still got lots to learn, for example how to take advantage of a size mismatch against smaller guards like the pint-sized Hoosier Jordan Hulls, but he's getting there. And Trawick had a number of nice drives to the tin, further cementing his role as a spark plug.
It's late, and my computer's running out of battery, but I'll end by saying that we'll benefit from more than we regret this game in the days and months to come. The game was thrilling in its own right, the type of game that I would have stopped to watch had Georgetown not been involved. It was so exciting that I didn't even notice Dick Vitale's high-decibel inanity, and further affirmation of why we've come to love this group of players over the past year-plus. Victory would have been oh so sweet, but I'm willing to bet more good news is on its way. Hoya Saxa.