On a day when a week's worth of conference realignment rumors became official, Greg Whittington gave Hoya fans something to talk about on the court, breaking out of a recent shooting slump by netting a career-high 25 points to go with 11 rebounds, leading Georgetown to an up-and-down (but mostly up) 81-68 win over Western Carolina. Jabril Trawick joined his classmate Whittington at the career-high party, pouring in 14 points of his own, while Markel Starks and Otto Porter each turned in workman-like performances that helped blow the game open. A Georgetown offense that scored just 83 points combined in wins over Tennessee and Towson nearly matched that number for the second straight game, continuing to feast on lesser competition.
The 13-point final margin obscures what was a game of wild swings. The Catamounts came out scorching from three, scoring 13 points to start the game on the strength of 4 threes in as many minutes (plus one free-throw on the dreaded four-point play). The particular villain was Tom Tankelewicz, a sharp-shooting Western Carolina guard who made three of those four triples and finished with six made threes and 24 points overall. Tankelewicz was straight from central casting, to the point where I wouldn't have been surprised if he had been adopted by Barbara Hershey and had uttered pre-game, "I figure it's time for me to start playing ball. One thing: I play, coach stays; he goes, I go." Before the Hoyas knew it, the little guard was outscoring them by himself, with Georgetown down seven at the first timeout.
Even with Tankelewicz's deadly shooting, though, the Catamount offense couldn't make up for a lousy defense, one that Georgetown soon exploited. Beginning at the sixteen-minute mark, the Hoyas scored 60 points in under 25 minutes, turning a 7-point deficit into a 26-point lead over that span. Whittington was the primary threat, showing his versatile range of skills by scoring from behind the arc, on the offensive glass, in transition, and at the free-throw line. As tends to happen, the easier points around the rim and from the stripe seemed to build the sophomore's confidence, loosening up his stroke for long and contested shots. You knew it was his day when, having already set his career high, he bounced in a running, twisting one-handed twelve-footer that he had no business making. Whit found his three-point stroke last year near the beginning conference play, and here's hoping today's 3-of-5 performance from downtown was the beginning of better days ahead for the sophomore.
Of course, Georgetown didn't eclipse 80 points just by riding Whittington. As a team, the Hoyas shot well from the field but not exceptionally so, making about half of their attempts. Rather, Georgetown racked up points at the free-throw line, where the Hoyas made up for middling accuracy (under 70 percent) with exceptional volume (33 attempts). Leading the parade to the stripe were Whittington and Trawick. The latter was terrific, especially in the first half, when he netted 11 of his 14 points. 'Bril did what he does best, converting opportunities in transition and getting to the line, but also found his outside stroke, burying a pair of well-chosen three balls. While the deep ball certainly is welcome, Trawick's ability to create easy points by driving to the hole or converting feeds from Nate Lubick will be essential to a Hoya offense that has stagnated at times early this season.
The rest of the cast had its moments as well. Starks notched his fifth double-figure scoring outing of the season, converting two inbound feeds from Lubick early in the game and creating off the dribble late. Lubick had a quiet stat line, notching just four points, four rebounds, and two assists, but continues to be the Hoyas' glue guy, particularly on offense, where his dimes were limited by his teammates' inability to make a lay-up in the first half. And Porter had a typically solid game, tallying 12 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal and a block. Porter has now scored in double figures in six of the seven games he's finished, the lone exception being the Tennessee game in which no one scored at all.
The lead having ballooned to 26, JTIII gave some extra run to the reserves, who had some nice moments. Moses Ayegba fed Stephen Domingo for a back-door lay-up, their second such connection of the season, and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera converted from three and the free-throw line despite otherwise struggling from the field. Even so, in the waning minutes Georgetown relaxed a bit too much, giving up sloppy turnovers on offense and failing to close out on the Catamount shooters. The Hoya advantage dipped all the way down to 12 with under two minutes to play, but the Catamount run was too little, too late.
This week's two wins send the Hoyas off on the right note into an extended break caused by finals and the holidays. Georgetown plays just once more--next Saturday's home tilt against American--before heading to Milwaukee to start Big East play at Marquette on January 5. There will be areas of focus on the practice court--likely, closing out on three-point shooters, controlling the defensive boards--and many more questions off of it, where Georgetown will be addressing its conference future. But with all those issues swirling on Saturday, the Hoyas did the one thing they could, dispatching a lesser opponent with relative ease.